The Cost of a Breath

20131014_075111 20131014_075323 20131014_075406 20131014_075530 20131014_075634 20131014_075729 20131014_075754 20131014_075811 20131014_080009 20131014_080031 20131014_080128 20131014_080140 20131014_080810Breathe Freely,



Mommy for Money

I am a nanny. I have some mixed feelings on the subject of motherhood in general. On one hand I have a way with children, and I think caring for them as a parent or nanny is an important and political act. As a feminist, I think it is amazing to help mold a little person into a strong, compassionate adult. On the other hand, I have always been somewhat resistant towards participating in motherhood. Partly because one image I have of my ideal life involves a two income, zero dependents kind of life style, a swanky NY apartment, academic dinner parties, and travel.  But, I do admit that part of my resistance is pure rebelliousness and refusal to submit to societies expectations.  Motherhood is a milestone in straight time and I would rather live in queer time.

It’s moments like when I have to pull myself away from typing my paper on lesbian vampires to get the just awoken baby out of her crib, and said baby, in a wave of nostalgia for her breast feeding days, ever so quickly slides her toddler hand into my blouse and grazes over my freshly pierced nipple that I wonder if I’m really the Mary Poppins type.  It’s so easy to get sucked into your job, especially when it’s caring for a child. It can be such a full time job that you start to lose sight of what you really want to be doing.  It’s difficult to apply for PhD programs and theartre internships with a toddler clinging onto your skirt. Lately the closest thing I’ve seen to theatre was a baby puppet show in which the words to “You are my Sunshine” were bahhhhed like a sheep… Goddess help me.      

There are moments when I recognize the irony of my current employment situation.  I “disobeyed” my father, spent seventy thousand dollars on a masters degree and here I stand, hands raw from washing dishes, toddler on my hip, and Cheerios in my hair; the image of domestic femininity, what my father wanted all along. Well, shit!

Nannying puts you in a weird position somewhere between family and the help and bourgeoisie parents can be a pain in the ass. (On a side note, I think it’s a bit funny how upper middle class, white parents try to seem interesting by giving their children weird names. Really, hang out at a sand box in Park Slop or Cobble Hill and you will hear things like, “Otis give Honor her doll back” or “Fabian don’t throw sand”). 

But anyways, I guess nannying is really not that bad of a gig. I get to go on long walks in the families’ nice neighborhoods, yes with a clunky stroller or baby harness attached to me, but still it can be pleasant.  Also, all that baby lifting is doing great things for my biceps. And as irksome as their codependence may sometimes be, let’s face it… babies are super cute. It is rewarding.  I may have no interest in being the next Mrs. Beaver or Fraulein Maria, but I’m not cold hearted. When a ten month old falls asleep in my arms and I try to lie her down but she holds onto me, her little fist clinging to my sweatshirt, I get that warm, fuzzy feeling.  And, when the uncannily intelligent and precious two year old who I have grown to love recites the first stanza of the Emily Dickinson poem I taught her all by herself, I’m proud.  When I put her to bed and caress her head as I give her a little feminist affirmation, “You are smart. You are strong. You are a very special person”, I feel like I’m doing something important. Besides, I remind myself that at the end of the day, I still have my freedom. I get to hand over the little rug rats to their real parents. I can go to a baby crying free home, change out of my spit up splattered dress and, if I choose to do so, make my way to the nearest bar and buy a whisky ginger with my mothering money.  Life could be worse.



500 Things an Artist Doesn’t Do

I am an artist.
I don’t do anything.

I don’t work.
I don’t look for employment.
I don’t contribute to society.
I don’t help anyone.
I don’t feed any mouths.
I don’t nourish any minds.
I don’t move.
I don’t clean up.
I don’t make anyone laugh.
I don’t ease anyone’s pain.
I don’t take care of anything.
I don’t listen.
I don’t talk.
I don’t offer anyone friendship.
I don’t try.
I don’t do everything.
I don’t solve problems.
I don’t change the world.
I don’t save the world.
I don’t know anything.
I don’t produce anything.
I don’t do it your way.
I don’t care.
I don’t get it to work.
I don’t make it work.
I don’t know.
I don’t have a project.
I don’t have a goal.
I don’t write.
I don’t read.
I don’t research.
I don’t watch.
I don’t see.
I don’t have courage.
I don’t encourage.
I don’t plan.
I don’t produce.
I don’t pay.
I don’t earn.
I don’t consume.
I don’t learn.
I don’t teach.
I don’t share.
I don’t run.
I don’t stay.
I don’t contribute.
I don’t make it easy.
I don’t make it clear.
I don’t communicate.
I don’t say.
I don’t speak up.
I don’t show.
I don’t tell.
I don’t turn bad situations into good ones.
I don’t matter.
I don’t give up.
I don’t compromise.
I don’t promise.
I don’t appreciate.
I don’t dream.
I don’t aspire.
I don’t settle.
I don’t settle down.
I don’t understand.
I don’t create.
I don’t fulfill.
I don’t promise.
I don’t reach.
I don’t make an effort.
I don’t make a thing.
I don’t make you think.
I don’t make you ask.
I don’t make you wonder.
I don’t make you cry.
I don’t build.
I don’t practice.
I don’t prepare.
I don’t take care.
I don’t help.
I don’t lend a hand.
I don’t have respect.
I don’t have perspective.
I don’t break through.
I don’t break down.
I don’t figure it out.
I don’t cry.
I don’t struggle.
I don’t let go.
I don’t protest.
I don’t raise my voice.
I don’t use my voice.
I don’t feel good.
I don’t feel bad.
I don’t feel.
I don’t sigh.
I don’t get tired.
I don’t meditate.
I don’t pray.
I don’t think.
I don’t participate.
I don’t appreciate.
I don’t ask.
I don’t answer.
I don’t have a choice.
I don’t make the right decisions.
I don’t move on.
I don’t win.
I don’t get better.
I don’t do the right thing.
I don’t deserve it.
I don’t work for it.
I don’t want it.
I don’t buy it.
I don’t fix it.
I don’t improvise.
I don’t improve.
I don’t take the lead.
I don’t follow.
I don’t get it.
I don’t get out.
I don’t look out.
I don’t connect.
I don’t hesitate.
I don’t get scared.
I don’t lie to myself.
I don’t tell the truth.
I don’t breathe.
I don’t remember.
I don’t use what I have.
I don’t connect.
I don’t feel weak.
I don’t feel strong.
I don’t feel better.
I don’t feel up to it.
I don’t take my time.
I don’t make time.
I don’t do enough.
I don’t do too much.
I don’t look.
I don’t look forward.
I don’t look back.
I don’t look inward.
I don’t look around.
I don’t get lost.
I don’t find anything.
I don’t take the easy way out.
I don’t make my own way.
I don’t take advantage.
I don’t have an advantage.
I don’t doubt.
I don’t trust.
I don’t own it.
I don’t own up to it.
I don’t question it.
I don’t put up with it.
I don’t regret it.
I don’t love it.
I don’t add up.
I don’t pretend.
I don’t know who I am.
I don’t know what’s coming.
I don’t know what I’m doing.
I don’t see it.
I don’t believe in it.
I don’t believe in me.
I don’t believe in what I’m doing.
I don’t accept it.
I don’t push through it.
I don’t wake up.
I don’t think it will happen.
I don’t think it’s fair.
I don’t need help.
I don’t need a hand.
I don’t need someone to fix it for me.
I don’t need someone to believe me.
I don’t need someone to believe in me.
I don’t need to talk.
I don’t need that life.
I don’t need standards.
I don’t use metaphors.
I don’t use sarcasm.
I don’t draw attention to myself.
I don’t make lists.
I don’t hide.
I don’t scream.
I don’t count.
I don’t measure up.
I don’t miss it.
I don’t miss the mark.
I don’t misjudge.
I don’t rewrite.
I don’t erase.
I don’t make mistakes.
I don’t forgive.
I don’t think you understand.
I don’t mean that in a mean way.
I don’t see things in black and white.
I don’t give enough.
I don’t give a fuck.
I don’t have anything to fear.
I don’t give my all.
I don’t open up.
I don’t fail.
I don’t succeed.
I don’t change.
I don’t finish my
I don’t check my work.
I don’t wish I was there.
I don’t think I’ll ever get there.
I don’t do my best.
I don’t have a career.
I don’t want a career.
I don’t know how to get a career.
I don’t apologize.
I don’t feel guilty.
I don’t feel innocent.
I don’t come clean.
I don’t tell you everything.
I don’t keep secrets.
I don’t beat myself up.
I don’t ask why.
I don’t wish it was easier.
I don’t think it’s that hard.
I don’t act my age.
I don’t grow up.
I don’t grow out of it.
I don’t grow into it.
I don’t grow.
I don’t change.
I don’t adjust.
I don’t edit.
I don’t worry about you.
I don’t do this for you.
I don’t know what you see.
I don’t care what you think.
I don’t hear you.
I don’t see the point.
I don’t see the end.
I don’t want to know.
I don’t have any faith.
I don’t know what it’s like to be happy.
I don’t know what I want to do.
I don’t know what I want.
I don’t want.
I don’t dive in.
I don’t talk myself out of it.
I don’t stop.
I don’t go.
I don’t think this is a good idea.
I don’t think this is a bad idea.
I don’t have any ideas.
I don’t think you have any idea.
I don’t think you’re reading all of this.
I don’t need you to read all of this.
I don’t care if you read all of this.
I don’t care if you never read this.
I don’t care if you read this a thousand times.
I don’t expect you to read this once.
I don’t expect anything.
I don’t expect you to understand.
I don’t understand your expectations.
I don’t care about your expectations.
I don’t think this is very good.
I don’t think you mean well.
I don’t think you’re mean.
I don’t think this means anything.
I don’t think any artists knows what s/he means.
I don’t want to make something meaningful.
I don’t know how this started.
I don’t know how it will end.
I don’t know what’s in the middle.
I don’t know what’s inside.
I don’t know how to continue.
I don’t think I ever stopped.
I don’t know how much more of this I can take.
I don’t know how this will turn out.
I don’t want to be turned out.
I don’t have a turn out.
I don’t dance.
I don’t laugh.
I don’t make jokes.
I don’t like jokes.
I don’t think I’m a joke.
I don’t think I’m brilliant.
I don’t think I’m capable.
I don’t think I’ll ever stop thinking.
I don’t think I can think anymore.
I don’t know what to do with this.
I don’t want anything to do with this.
I don’t want you to have anything to do with this.
I don’t want you.
I don’t want to be like you.
I don’t want to like you.
I don’t want to be you.
I don’t want you to see this.
I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before.
I don’t know what I’ll think of next.
I don’t know how long it will take.
I don’t know how long I can take it.
I don’t know why it took me so long.
I don’t want to put myself in a box.
I don’t want to go back.
I don’t want things to change.
I don’t want things to be how they were.
I don’t want things.
I don’t want to feel so tired.
I don’t want to sleep.
I don’t want to talk.
I don’t want a hug.
I don’t want peace and quiet.
I don’t want busy city streets.
I don’t want lights.
I don’t want cameras.
I don’t want action.
I don’t take action.
I don’t take pictures.
I don’t see the light.
I don’t like crossing busy city streets.
I don’t like being crossed.
I don’t put myself up on a cross.
I don’t repeat myself.
I don’t repeat myself.
I don’t make sense.
I don’t make rash decisions.
I don’t think this is going anywhere.
I don’t know if anyone’s still with me.
I don’t know if anyone’s against me.
I don’t get intimidated.
I don’t back off.
I don’t leave things unfinished.
I don’t polish things.
I don’t complete things.
I don’t worry.
I don’t try anything new.
I don’t like anything old.
I don’t like this anymore.
I don’t have it anymore.
I don’t lose it.
I don’t keep it.
I don’t keep up.
I don’t have that much left.
I don’t have the energy.
I don’t have the creativity.
I don’t have the brain.
I don’t have the talent.
I don’t have the stamina.
I don’t have the drive.
I don’t drive.
I don’t go out of my way.
I don’t keep going.
I don’t pass go.
I don’t collect $200.
I don’t collect any dollars.
I don’t want pounds.
I don’t want yen.
I don’t want zen.
I don’t want to rhyme.
I don’t think it’s poetic.
I don’t like poetry.
I don’t write poetry.
I don’t think this is poetry.
I don’t think this is pretty.
I don’t think I’m pretty.
I don’t think that’s true.
I don’t know if I have enough.
I don’t know what enough is.
I don’t make enough.
I don’t make up.
I don’t think I’ll make it.
I don’t make things to please you.
I don’t please you.
I don’t say please.
I don’t say thank you.I don’t want to know.
I don’t want any of this.
I don’t know why I asked for it.
I don’t think this is what I asked for.
I don’t know what I asked for.
I don’t want to ask for more.
I don’t know if I need more.
I don’t think anyone needs more.
I don’t think I need anyone anymore.
I don’t think I need anyone more.
I don’t think anymore.
I don’t care anymore.
I don’t reinvent.
I don’t reinvigorate.
I don’t get back up.
I don’t hit back.
I don’t stumble.
I don’t trip.
I don’t fall.
I don’t climb.
I don’t submit.
I don’t smile.
I don’t feel confident.
I don’t confide.
I don’t change my mind.
I don’t quit.
I don’t run.
I don’t look before I leap.
I don’t look down.
I don’t feel down.
I don’t cheer myself up.
I don’t straighten my shoulders.
I don’t push myself.
I don’t push you away.
I don’t run away.
I don’t run out of ideas.
I don’t run out of time.
I don’t run out of money.
I don’t run in circles.
I don’t start over.
I don’t surprise myself.
I don’t surprise you.
I don’t interest you.
I don’t interest me.
I don’t know what interests me.
I don’t stray.
I don’t let my mind wander.
I don’t wander.
I don’t wonder.
I don’t see the horizon.
I don’t feel relieved.
I don’t know what will happen.
I don’t think it’ll happen.
I don’t know what it is.
I don’t judge.
I don’t wait and see.
I don’t make it up as I go.
I don’t make up for it.
I don’t keep count.
I don’t keep track.
I don’t lose track.
I don’t lose sight.
I don’t lose faith.
I don’t lose my way.
I don’t lose myself.
I don’t shed my skin.
I don’t transform.
I don’t translate.
I don’t transfer.
I don’t stick to my guns.
I don’t have guns.
I don’t shoot straight.
I don’t aim high.
I don’t aim.
I don’t miss.
I don’t make excuses.
I don’t tell the truth.
I don’t face the truth.
I don’t face the music.
I don’t make music.
I don’t pause.
I don’t play.
I don’t rest.
I don’t resist.
I don’t rush.
I don’t rise.
I don’t shine.
I don’t fly.
I don’t leave it behind.
I don’t fall behind.
I don’t get ahead.
I don’t lose my head.
I don’t lose my stride.
I don’t lose it.
I don’t know what I lost.
I don’t know what I’ll find.
I don’t mind.
I don’t pay it any mind.
I don’t pay attention.
I don’t want attention.
I don’t want tension.
I don’t get tense.
I don’t take offense.
I don’t take the day off.
I don’t take it off.
I don’t take off.
I don’t think I’ll ever take off.
I don’t think I’ll ever land.
I don’t believe in Neverland.
I don’t believe in never.
I don’t think this will ever be.
I don’t think this will ever end.
I don’t want it to end.
I don’t have an ending.
I don’t like endings.
I don’t think it’s the end.
I don’t think it’s the end of the world.
I don’t live at the end of the world.
I don’t live in another world.
I don’t believe in other worlds.
I don’t travel to other worlds.
I don’t dream of other worlds.
I don’t create other worlds.
I don’t create my own dreams.
I don’t dream of my own creations.
I don’t create anything.
I don’t do anything creative.

I don’t do anything.
I am an artist.


In the belly of the beast

Another artist and I somehow got on the topic of female sterilization. Don’t ask me how we got into that particular conversation, but it led to my research and the beginning of a play. Our art works to bring about change to society. So lets open the floor for some heated ethical discussion. These are the first two scenes I have drafted, the material is graphic and may not be suitable for everyone to read. This is my performance post:


Celena, the mother

Darien, her boyfriend

Jay, her drug dealer cousin

Scene 1

Lights up on stage. 

We hear a baby crying in the other room. It is ignored.

A young woman, the mother, tears the house apart looking for her crack pipe.


Where is it?! Where the fuck is it?! I left it right here on the table! Darien where the hell did you put my pipe.

Goddamn it I can’t leave the room for two seconds without shit goin missing


Darien enters


D: What are you looking for?

C: Nigga where the hell did you put my pipe.

D: haven’t touched it, don’t blame me for your carelessness

C: Don’t you lie to me. I know you’re hiding it.

D: Alright tell me, where was the last place you saw it?

C: Right here on the fucking table!! I was outta the room 20 min to breastfeed the baby and I come back and its gone. So where’d ya put it.

D: Baby didn’t finish, you’re leaking all over your shirt.

C: Aaahhhh shit. (wipes at her shirt with a rag, or napkins)

D: And if you just fed him, why’s hes still screaming his head off.

C: Because he’s a BABY dumbass, they cry cuz that’s their job. Not like I ever see you holding him though, you know comforting him, like a father.

D: Hey! I’m the best father that kid’s got, not like the deadbeat nigga that knocked you up in the first place!

C: So go act like one and make him shut up! You know show him how much love him! I gotta keep looking out here, shit I know it’s out here.

D: Fine, fine! He’ll quiet right down for me, you’ll see, I even get him to smile sometimes.

C: Oh is that right?! Well the faster you make him stop crying the sooner we can get high.

D: Better find that pipe before I get back.

C: Yeah we’ll see who wins this one mothafucka.


Celena tears apart the room some more while Darien deals with the baby. We hear him whimper and then silence.

Darien returns triumphantly with the pipe in his hand.


D: Who’s YO DADDY! Found it right next to crib on the dresser. Who were calling a dumbass?!

C: What do you want, father of the year on a gold medal, gimme that!

D: Now don’t tell me you lost the crack.

C: Course not. It’s right here in my bag. How stupid do you think I am.

D: Baby you lose your shit all the time. I can’t believe the baby’s still in his crib every night.

C: I got my shit together! Did you get those diapers like I asked you to??

D: Yeah! Got that whole box from Emily. Don’t fit her little girl, she grew too fast before she could use em all.

C: Swear shes feeding that kid steroids. Shit that’s in that fake milk aint good for them.

D: You think breastfeeding while smoking crack is better?

C: Hey! I smoked only a few times while I was pregnant and he came out just fine. So what if I light up sometimes, I gotta stay sane, especially with him crying all the time.

I know he hurts, I can feel a little tooth coming through, hurts me too.

D: He’s teething?? My boy’s growing teeth already!

C: Damn right. Maybe I will switch to the bottle soon, I don’t want him biting my tit off.

D: Maybe we should stop smoking so much too.

C: You sayin you wanna get clean.

D: Maybe just off the crack. I can’t give up my weed.

C: That’s just plants, can’t hurt no one. But the crack…

D: It’s not good. It’s not good for Julian.  You said you were gonna stop, remember.

C: I know what I said! You gonna stop if I stop?

D: Yeah, yeah I will.

C: Yeah?

D: Yeah.

—They consider the pipe in Celena’s hand.

C: I can live without it.

D: For the baby.

C: For the family. We’ll finish what we already got and call it quits.

D: Deal. You’re a good mom

C: You’re a good dad.  

D: I mean it’s not so hard, all you gotta do is love him right?


Scene two:

Two months later:


Celena buys crack from her cousin, Jay, at the playground


Jay: Yo what took you so long? I was thinkin you weren’t goin to show.

C: Sorry I got held up, I’m here now aint I. Ya missed me?

Jay: You missed me!! Girl I know you need your fix bad just by lookin at you. How much you need?

C: Just enough for me.

Jay: That’s all. It’s been a while since I seen you last. I was almost thinkin you didn’t use anymore.

C: J, you know you got the best stuff. I couldn’t stay away if I tried.

Jay: Yeah I got you. You seriously feening. I mean, you look like you never even been pregnant, but your eyes look sunken—come here lemme look at you.

C: Get off me. I’m fine.

Jay: Hey hey take it easy. I know you’re a little on edge, but I got concern for you, we family and all.

C: Jus cuz I didn’t get dolled up to buy drugs from my cousin-

Jay: Celena shut up, you know you’re beautiful. How much you been usin lately

C: Not much – that’s the problem. I was tryin to get clean, you know for the baby. It was Darien’s idea.

Jay: He stop usin too?

C: Yeah he only smokes weed. But he caught me a few times. He said I shouldn’t use because it wasn’t good to be feeding the baby if I was usin.

Jay: No man can tell you what to do. You’re the mom you know how to take of your kid.

C: (looking around at the playground) I was just here with him.  Darien had him on the swings for the first time. We brought lunch with us and sat on the bench right over there. He’s such a good dad. Even though Julian isn’t his blood, they smile exactly the same. He told me he was gonna do right by me and the baby. His own dad was such a fuck, but somehow Darien turned out good. It was gonna be perfect. And now I can’t find him! He told me he’d kill me if I saw him again. They’re both gone! J, J, they took Julian. I lost him. Social services came and took him away.  And next day, Darien bounced too.

Jay: Celena no! But you weren’t usin that much!

C: They told me I was an unfit mother! But I had diapers, I was feeding him everyday!

Jay: Damn you musta done something real bad, I know crackhead Marina down the street got 4 kids and the state aint take none of them away yet.

C: I..I.. (Celena breaks down)

Jay: C, you what did you do? What happened? Look at me!

C: I missed a doctor’s appointment. And he wasn’t gaining weight right.  They got a bad impression of me! Darien and I had promised each other we would finish our stash and quit- cold turkey. If they had come one day later they woulda seen I was a good mom!

Jay: So you were high as hell and the state show up and take your baby away?

(Celena breaks down)

C: please J I gotta go, just gimme what I came for!

Jay: C what are you gonna do to get him back?

C: J I don’t want to talk to you about this anymore, just gimme my stuff.

Jay: If you want your baby back you gotta get clean, you know that, right?

C: J don’t give me your advice, just give me the drugs.

Jay: Hey, I love you and I was happy for you to have little Julian. I wanna see you get better. I can’t sell you this. 

C: No, don’t you play me like that. You don’t know what I’m feeling. I need a hit bad. I haven’t had anything in two weeks. Hook a sista up.

Jay: Celena I am not going help you on this one. You know this aint right.

C: Listen you mothafucker, family or not, you got what I need right now. If you don’t hook me up you know I’m gonna go see Mista John and I’ll do whateve it take to put some sanity back into my head. Aint no way Im gonna make it through the night like this.

Jay: Alright Alright,I see your pain. And I do know your pain! …its 150 for what I got. It’s your special price.

C: Ok okay! Thanks baby! …(searches in her purse) But J I only got 75 on me.

Jay: Bitch what the fuck you want from me!? I didn’t even want to sell it to you in the first place. You don’t need this shit you gotta get clean!

C: NO I do! Listen J, this is the last hit ill buy from you ever- from anyone! I swear. I want my baby back and I want to be the best mom for him. Who knows where hes living right now. I gotta get clean you’re right, but please don’t make look elsewhere for it. Just sell me the last piece and that’ll be it. I’ll get Darien back- he’s clean!- and I’ll put my family back together.

Jay: You know what I want you to do?

C: What anything—

Jay: SSSHH. Hear me out. I want this to be your last. I wanna see you get clean and healthy. I’m not giving you a cut price, you’re gonna pay in full. But I’m a give it to you tonight.

C: Thank you-

Jay: SSH woman listen to me. You’re gonna make this right. You’re gonna go to a clinic who’s gonna pay you $300. In exchange you’re gonna have this procedure that ties your tubes, ok? I heard about this from Dominique. Her sister had it done. You know her meth smoking sister who had 6 kids? You go to the clinic and they help you from making this mistake again.

C: Three hundred dollars?

Jay: Yeah 300.

C: And they tie my tubes.

Jay: Yeah. They pay you for it. Cuz you on fucked up on drugs and can’t be a decent parent. It’s a good deal, you should take it. And I’m a give you this hit tonight, so that when you’re feeling better I’ll take you to the clinic and you’ll give me the cash. Deal?

C; Julian is the only baby I need. Deal.

Jay: damn straight. I shoulda never sold this to you in the first place. If I ever see you here again you’re gonna be pushing your baby on the swings ya hear?




In progress,








Lesson of the Day: Learn to Value Yourself

Do artists and academics undervalue themselves? Somehow this topic has been a running theme in my life this week, and everywhere I turn someone is telling me, yes, we undervalue ourselves and are therefore undervalued by everyone around us. Is it really that simple? I have to admit that I do undervalue my work, but only monetarily. Why is that quality and compensation don’t match?

One of my idols, Amanda Palmer, was recently interviewed in New York Magazine for their “Boom Brands” series. The lesson of the article, which may be written for business/branding types rather than artists, is listed as, “artists should be shameless.” Amanda requested $100,000 dollars on Kickstarter to fund her 2012 album, but received $1.2 million. The article seems to suggest that she received money simply because she asked for it. Amanda knows it’s not that cut and dry, but she also doesn’t make any apologies about her success. If you don’t read the whole article, at least read this quote:

“AP: Crowdfunding isn’t charity. It’s about the supply and demand of art. A lot of artists are terrified to put a value on their own work. They’re more than happy to let others do it, because the idea of putting a value on their own work feels somehow unholy.
NYMAG: And how do you get past that?
AP: You fucking deal with it. No—I take that back. But the more you actually communicate with the people who are benefiting from your art, the less guilty you feel about asking for the help you need. With crowdfunding, you can really start to feel your job as an artist is a service position. You don’t see yourself as some special, exempt human being, you see yourself as being someone who has something concrete to offer.”

Her advice hits me to the core. Yes, we do have something concrete to offer! But I already know that. The question is really, how do you get others to see that?

Amanda’s use of the word, “service” caught my eye here, because I also happened upon an article by Michelle A. Massé entitled “‘All Things Visible and Invisible’: Believing in Higher Education” in The Critical Pulse, edited by Jeffrey J. Williams and Heather Steffen. Michelle’s article discusses the ever-growing problems in higher education, but specifically, the amount of service that is requested (but really required—it’s more of an order) of professors. Her complaint is not the service itself, which she sees as worthwhile work and an integral part of the university system, but that the service is often relegated to the women of the department, assuming that they are somehow more caring and motherly, which then gets in the way of their research, which then gets in the way of their promotions. Somehow, service is not seen as real work. These female professors, then, are expected to “donate” their time to an array of extremely time-consuming duties. She leaves two questions unanswered, but swimming in the heads of her readers: Why aren’t these activities respected as the jobs they actually are? And why are we willing to donate our time in the first place?

Finally, a third article found its way to me, but this one is about Jim Henson’s uncanny knack at making money and art coexist, as researched in Elizabeth Hyde Stevens’s Make Art Make Money: Lessons from Jim Henson Fueling Your Creative Career. I give you a quote from the article:

“The dance involves art and money, but not at the same time. In the first stage, it is paramount that the artist ‘reserves a protected gift-sphere in which the art is created.’ He keeps money out of it. But in the next two phases, they can dance. The way I see it, Hyde’s dance steps go a little something like this:

  1. Make art.
  2. Make art make money.
  3. Make money make art.

It is the last step that turns this dance into a waltz — something cyclical so that the money is not the real end. Truly, for Jim Henson, money was a fuel that fed art.”

The real inspiration in this article is the thought that “the concept of ‘selling out’ is just as oppressive as the very commercial ideology which it purports to defy.” Jim Henson only began working on the muppets after he had made his money working on TV commercials for years. He was therefore living comfortably with money to spare before venturing into the artistic unknown, but it’s only because he “sold out” originally that the art could come into being down the line. Jim Henson’s experience seems to say that you need the money before the art can take place, raising the problematic but persistent issue of privilege. That you need money to make art isn’t new information, but a candid discussion about the honor in selling out first to meet your goals later is a little less common. I’m still unsure about this one.

Ultimately, the universe was trying to tell me something this week. Namely, suck it up. Artists and academics are service professions, which deserve pay like anything else. But the only way to get that pay is to ask for it, which you have to do—making money is the only sustainable way to go on making art. We’ll see how successful I am at internalizing this new manifesto.

OK, enough money talk. I leave you with this Jim Henson gem, “Art is for Your Heart” by the Muppet Babies.