One man's exploration in finding himself and his search for light, beauty, desire and art.
Saturday, February 19, 2011
The Struggle of It All...
I woke up in a bit of a panic this morning. This time of year tends to create a lot of anxiety in me as I struggle with personal issues. It’s that time of the year when finances get tight as things slow down and we are still shut indoors due to yet another day of snow. Four years ago, this time of year, I was diagnosed with Lymphoma and had to spend a summer in chemotherapy. So every year, about this time, a remembrance of that fear begins to grip me and I am overwhelmed by my fear of some unforeseen impending doom as I am reminded of my mortality. Often life feels like it is too much of a struggle. I have always marveled at why it has to be so complicated. When I was younger I tried to live a simpler life; a life without possessions. Becoming a wandering vagabond of sorts, never quite settling into one particular thing. Of course working in theatre you are constantly in motion. But life was a struggle then too. Years later: now I have a studio, equipment, and talent and it still all feels like a struggle. Is life in general a struggle for everyone? Is it just the nature of our existence? I had a dear friend named Gilbert, who was my friend, mentor, and a patron of me as an emerging artist. In fact I owe my life of photography to him. Some time earlier, I had reached a point where I was at wits end with my life and lost direction. (Which seems to happen to me frequently.) I was at a crossroads; I knew I wanted to settle back in Montana and I came to stay with my friend Gilbert. I had met Gilbert many years earlier when I was a young student at the University of Montana and had rented the guesthouse in the back of his estate. Gilbert and I had so much in common, being gay, a passion for the arts, a love of gardening, and a mutual fascination with movies. He owned a big Victorian House and was obsessively consumed with collecting art, paintings, drawings, sculpture, and movie memorabilia. Come to think of it, there wasn’t much Gilbert didn’t collect. Gilbert was a man of great resources; his family had invested in real estate and he inherited many rental properties; but his real love for movies got him into the video rental market during its peak. Gilbert was not an artist but had a deep fascination with it. So when I returned home from one of my adventures I visited or stayed with Gilbert and would help him in his gardens, organize and catalog his massive collections, or just spend a Saturday afternoon at the movies. At one particular crossroad I recognized my intense passion toward photography but didn’t really think I had neither the talent nor resources to become a photographer. But Gilbert somehow saw this within me and helped me realize it within myself. He helped me through photography school and helped me obtain equipment in exchange for helping him with all his “little projects”. Gilbert did nothing little. He was generous and extremely active in all the various factions of his life giving to and cultivating the arts for Western Montana. I will talk about his amazing influence on me in more detail throughout this project because there is so much I have learned from him and need to share. But the point that I was really trying to make is that even a man who has all these resources, talents, friends, spent his entire life in struggle. One fall when he announced his intentions of retirement was shortly thereafter diagnosed with a brain tumor and was gone by early summer. I was there and nurtured him to the end and now it has been eight years since his passing. It took me two years to clean out and find homes for all of those collections and in the end the bulk of his multi-million dollar estate was divided amongst four art’s organizations within our region. I now see I am so much like Gilbert. I still don’t always recognize the talents within myself but help to cultivate others. Perhaps, at this moment, I am meant to struggle so desperately. Perhaps these struggles become the markers in our journeys. I am beginning to see my images through the eyes of others and am seeing remarkable things emerge that I have only felt. This is the legacy we leave behind; because in the end nobody recognizes the struggle, they only see the beauty that remains.