Sunday, July 5, 2009

One Year in Buenos Aires

Exactly one year ago from July 5th I left the United States to give this whole 'living abroad thing' a shot. I can't say at the time I really knew all that I was getting into but I guess at heart of it all that was kind of the point. To enter the abyss of the unknown. To attempt to see the world from a different perspective. To immerse myself into the art world of Buenos Aires. To learn.

When I look back it doesn't seem like a year. More like 2 or 3. It hasn't always been easy either. In fact there were times, like when we were living amidst the concrete dust of a never-ending remodel, that I'd climb atop the water tower on our rooftop, lie on my back despondent, and wonder what the fuck we were doing here. As Winston Churchill said though,"If you're going through hell, keep going." And we did.

Living here has given me a new appreciation for the word immigrant, and how difficult it can be to be one. I look at my Grandparents and Great Grandparents, who moved to the U.S. from Poland and Slovakia before the time of internet, email and Skype, and marvel at the spirit they must have held to be able to leave their homeland, venture out across the Atlantic into a big unknown world, all while knowing their were most likely on a one way trip. If they were around today a million questions I would have for them. They spoke little or no English, yet just like countless other immigrants, each played their own small part in making America, a country of immigrants, what it is today.

During my year in Buenos Aires I have also learned to live without certain things. DVD's and books have taken the place of cable TV. Email and Skype are my cell phone. Buses, taxis, the subway, my bike and my feet have taken the place of driving a car. I still find it hard to believe though that I haven't driven in over a year, especially with how much I love a good roadtrip. Eventually, I know one day I'll have these things back again in varying degrees, but I imagine I'll hold them in a different light next time around.

Definitely the high-water mark of our year here came this past Friday, July 3rd. After 9 months of remodeling the place we bought, followed by 2 straight months of me sitting in front of my easels, we opened the doors to our home/gallery, Gallery 24B. It was a special night, one I will not soon forget. The perfect culmination to one year of living here. We figure around 100 people came through our doors, many to see my art, some to see our home, and a few who had no idea why they were there, but were willing to celebrate anyway. I think of it as the pinnacle of our time here thus far, but for me, it was the realization of a vision that's lived a life that's extended much longer than one year's time. I think back to when I was a kid. There were two things that made sense to me more than anything else - creating and exploring. I loved getting lost in my ice cream bucket of crayons as much I liked getting lost in the corn fields that surrounded my childhood home. That desire for exploration, both creatively and geographically, grew more with each passing year. Thus to be on the top a building in the Southern Hemisphere, standing in a room filled with my art and people who had come to see it, was indeed a surreal moment. I tried to talk to each person that made it out that night, and lost much of my voice in the process.

the calm before the storm | see more pics from opening night at Gallery 24B here.

photo by Beatrice Murch | see more pics from opening night at Gallery 24B here.

What now? I know Buenos Aires is not my train's last stop and I have a longing to be back in the States, but I don't feel like I've done everything I've set out to do yet in Argentina either. I do feel like the most difficult part of my time here is behind me though, and that's a good feeling. There are still many parts of the culture I want to see and experience, and my Spanish definitely still needs quite a bit of work. More than anything though, I want to keep painting and getting work out into the world, and I know this is a good place to do it. A close friend of mine congratulated me yesterday for climbing this mountain, a mountain that's taunted me for so many years. I told him that indeed the mountain has long laughed at me, however somewhere along the way I learned to laugh back, and once I did it's power over me shrank with each passing day. What I've also come to learn though is that it is not a single mountain, but a range, and none in that range I climb alone. When someone where's my shirt, hangs my work in there home, or merely passes on words of advice or support to me, they climb it with me. Right now my eyes are on the next mountain - making a living off of this stuff...and yes, I'm doing my best to laugh at this mountain too.

Staring at the city from atop the water tower above our apartment.

A big shout out to Annie, my partner in crime through all this here in B.A.
No one deserves my thanks more than you babe.

Currently Reading:
Interviews with American Artists by David Sylvester

Currently Listening To:
Song: Fuck Was I
Artist: Jenny Owen Young (myspace) (itunes)



Withers Davis said...

Congrats on your opening and on your year. The initiative you all took with your gallery is inspiring. A beautiful space and beautiful work.

Jimmy Danko said...

Thanks Withers. It was a long road, but it felt awesome to share the culmination of that journey with everyone. Thanks for making it out.