While I don’t “officially” have ADHD (I’ve been tested, and it was borderline), living inside my brain is a source of constant distraction. My friends have noticed this on hikes, where every bit of minutia — the way the light hits a stone, and “what kind of bug was that, anyway?” — slows us down considerably. My brain is pretty much on constant overload. I’ve likened it before to a pile of three-second jump-cuts tape-spliced together on a rickety projector that is set too fast. It makes sense that I so often mediate the world through a camera (or these days, phone) lens: It helps me focus.
From high school to grad school, I was constantly being told to “focus,” and my lack of focus has been a regular criticism from gallery owners (who shall remain nameless) in the past as well, with my rapidly changing approaches and styles. I’ve always maintained that the need to stick to one thing is a need geared more for the market than for artists, and as I view art as largely an intellectual pursuit, I see the thread running through my work as one that is mostly thematic, as opposed to stylistic.
But I’ve always argued that “this is what focus looks like for me,” and up until fairly recently, it has worked.…I followed the muse where she led, and when she led me there, because my circumstances allowed it. Living in a north Denver bungalow at 1997 prices and sharing expenses with a husband allowed me to be an artist mostly full time and work a lot less on jobs and more on art, and I happily jumped from project to project and followed interests from writing to curation.
This propensity to do many things at once has always been with me. Directly after high school, I was singing in Colorado Chorale, playing in punk bands that never went anywhere, acting in German existentialist plays, drawing comics as part of a collective, writing, painting and designing jewelry. My focus eventually narrowed to the general realms of “art” and “writing,” with the two closely linked, but even within just art I have been a painter, a sculptor, a photographer, a printmaker, a jeweler and a bio-artist. I’ve made installations, costumes and videos, worked with everything from bees to resin, iron to fiberglass, wool to glass…I even did some performance art way back when. According to the “rules” of being an artist, I look massively flaky, jumping all over the place — but in my mind, it is always a logical progression from point A to point B while I am in the midst of it. Since I’ve been told by others that all of my work looks like it was made by me, I haven’t spent a lot of time worrying about focus (aside from when I was trying to torture a master’s thesis out of my head). And though it has been a struggle to complete it, The Mayday Experiment has seemed the next logical step in my work, though this series has become as much “the thing” of late, and as such is very creatively satisfying.
Making art has always been sanity for me…how I quiet the world. I need it like breathing, and though I have largely seen the tiny house as an “art project,” it doesn’t feed me in the same ways: building it has never been the “art” for me, the conversations around it have been. The art happens collaboratively either way, but in terms of aesthetic satisfaction, sawing and hammering are simply a means to an end.
But for the first time in my life, I’m realizing that I can’t do as much as I have been and ever get this house done. My days are carved up by classes, meetings, putting in applications, writing these stories, creating stock for the I Heart Denver Store, and helping out my mom. There’s little time for making art, and even less for the tiny house, which makes me realize: Focus has value.
I am, most of the time, my own worst enemy. Though following that squirre….I mean, muse, is satisfying and feels natural, it isn’t getting the job done, and there simply isn’t much time built into my life for living that way. But the short-term sacrifice of not doing what comes naturally and focusing on getting this project on the road will be rewarded by the long-term satisfaction of creating conditions within which I CAN go on adventures and play with bugs and follow that muse and have those conversations…I just have to remember that. I have to stop letting life, and art, distract me from keeping my eyes on this prize.
So, what needs to happen to get the tiny house done? I finally have enough saved up to do the siding, so that’s next, and I am working on lining up a situation where we can do it indoors, figuring out where we can play with a flame-thrower and a stack of siding safely, and putting ducks in a row. Much time needs to be spent in the wood shop making precision cuts for the stairs/storage and assembling them. After that, I need to work on sponsorships, and to that end, I am building a website. Little by little, step by step, this will become a reality...if I don’t let myself get so distracted.
This is my New Year’s resolution: to maintain focus. To set up a schedule for working on tiny and stick to it, come hell or high water…to finally get sponsorships lined up (if you are interested in being a sponsor, please contact me!), and to stop letting myself get distracted by muses and squirrels.
There will be plenty of time for that later. Time to saw some wood.
Lauri Lynnxe Murphy, a 2005 Westword MasterMind winner, is blogging out her tiny house project, The Mayday Experiment, on Show and Tell. If you'd like to support her journey, you can pledge here or here. See more of her work at lynnxe.com.