Category Archives: Career

A Midsummer Night’s Dream Come True

Back in the Pleistocene Era, when I first started blogging, there was a cute convention used to explain extended absences. The structure was a vague apology acknowledging the unusual reticence, then reassuring readers the author was back and had a good reason for being otherwise occupied, followed by an image of an ultrasound, a brand new baby, a new pet, a surprise wedding photo, or in less optimistic cases, a broken appendage / natural disaster.

So let’s see if I remember how it’s done.

Hello, lovely blog readers. I’m sorry I’ve been away so long, but I am back! You see, I had a pretty good reason for my absence…



I was just having one of my all-time greatest dreams come true.

Last month my first solo exhibition of paintings opened in Manhattan, The Nature of Being, presented by chashama in a pop-up gallery on Madison Avenue. Despite being in the gallery every day for the run of the show, I still can’t believe this is an actual reality and not just some elaborate, exquisitely beautiful dream.



Chashama is an amazing non-profit organization that partners with the building owners of unused or under-used spaces to give artists places to create and present new work. I am the second artist to show in the storefront gallery on Madison Avenue, which I believe used to be a men’s suit store that moved across town. I love the initiative of inserting art into publicly-accessible places, bringing art to the community, and giving artists the freedom to present their work however they’d like. It has been incredible to work with such a nurturing, supportive organization, and I am simply thrilled to have had this opportunity.



I will be writing more here or on my studio blog about the overall process, conceiving and proposing the exhibit, what I learned about myself as an artist and a person through this experience, and what an encouraging and wonderful time it has been meeting people, getting feedback on my work, and letting my paintings finally communicate with the public the way I want them to. Spoiler alert: pretty much dream come true across the board.



One of the biggest things I want to keep in my heart is what it has meant to have such astronomically supportive friends and family throughout this process. I literally never could have made the paintings, trusted myself enough as an artist to even apply, gotten through the exhibit planning, organized the opening reception, or honestly, even tried to share my art with the world without such extraordinary people believing in me and doing everything they could to help me, push me along, and come by to see the exhibit and say hello. I have a tendency to retreat from the world and into my own mind, where it’s easy to feel alone and isolated from other people, and the past few months have shown me with abundant clarity how important it is to reach out, trust people, and share experiences with an open heart.



This whole experience has made me so optimistic about the future and so confident in the path I am setting on it’s a little overwhelming. I keep tearing up with gratitude.

We’ll talk much more about all these things soon, but in the meantime there are still three more days of the exhibit if you’d like to come by to see what I’m talking about in person. And I have the drafts of about a hundred other posts going in my mind, so we’ll get to sorting out the rest of the world too.

(View more opening and exhibition photos here on Flickr).

Choose your hustle

I recently read a gorgeous book of Hermann Hesse’s poetry, The Seasons of the Soul, and here I’m going to interrupt myself to say seriously, go read this right now. It felt like the first time I read Rumi and wanted to quote every line to everyone I know. Treat yourself to an afternoon with one of the most beautiful minds that’s ever wrapped itself around life on earth, and I promise you will enjoy it.



In this wonderful book, the poems are grouped by themes, with short introductory essays by the translator and Hesse scholar, Ludwig Max Fischer, that include biographical details and passages from Hesse’s other writing to help elucidate the poems. These brilliant little insights were profound and sometimes as striking to me as the poems themselves. After World War I and the publication of Hesse’s novel Demian, he moved to a small, unheated apartment in the Casa Camuzzi in Switzerland, and it turned out he had no money because, “the royalties from Germany were worthless pieces of paper due to the extreme inflation and miserable economic conditions in 1919.” The next line actually took my breath away:

The starving poet foraged for food in the forest: walnuts, chestnuts, and berries helped him survive and, of course, he wrote.

I reread that line so many times, trying to wrap my head around the philosopher and writer who had just successfully published a brilliant Bildungsroman, rendered financially worthless by politics and the economy, choosing to rent an apartment in a palace in Switzerland and staying there, foraging for food in the woods, so that he could have the freedom and safety to write. He later described this time as, “the fullest, most prolific, most industrious and most passionate time of my life.” I stopped reading and looked at my reflection in the train window, aghast. Have I ever worked that hard for anything, let alone the ability to make my art? Is it even possible to forage in the Bronx??



As I mentioned in my last post, September is typically a time of transition for me, the season of my soul where everything goes topsy-turvy. One year ago (give or take a few days) I left the job I’d been at for 3.5 years and had to scramble to figure out how I would put my life back together. In 2014, I was hyperventilating on the balcony of an apartment on La rue de Ponthieu in Paris looking at the Eiffel Tower, that great symbol of industry and optimism, equally exhilarated and terrified at everything I had to do for work and overwhelmed with the possibilities in life. In 2013, I was trying to reconcile my heart with the reality that my beautiful Smokey would probably not make it through the year (he did not), and in 2012, I was trying to accept that I’d had to give up on my chemistry degree and properly make a go of it at my new job, while simultaneously realizing the kind-hearted man I was seriously considering marrying and starting a family with was not truly right for me. And so on. It’s the month of sea change and wake-up calls, of facing harsh realities that necessitate those scary late night real-talk moments with myself, and an existential panic that time is not limitless and whatever I decide, for better or worse, is how my life is passing.

This year is no different, but I’ve managed to slip out of the constraints of time a bit. Talking with a friend the other day, I realized I’d forgotten that it was Labor Day weekend, and he asked if I forgot a lot of holidays now that I am self-employed. I admitted that not only do I forget holidays, but weekends are practically meaningless, as too are the limits of 24-hour days. The lines between things I do for leisure and those I do for inspiration or my career have been blurred past recognition, so it is all a continuum of just living and experiencing and being in each moment as fully as I can. I paint, draw, write, research, and (occasionally) work on the marketing and back-end stuff (least favorite part by far) in long, sometimes multi-day stretches, taking oddly-timed breaks for meals and showers, only wondering once in a while if I should be concerned about my sanity.

That part is glorious, like a fugue where the only thing that matters is exactly what’s in front of me and my time is entirely my own. It fits my natural sleep and energy cycles, and it feels like precisely how I’ve always wanted my life to be, if I weren’t pinned down by a traditional job, relationships that required my semi-regular appearance, or maintaining some illusion of normalcy. But I also fear this time is fleeting, that I will run out of money and be staring down some tough choices. How willing am I to trade my time and energy for money now? What is my equivalent of foraging for nuts and berries in a Swiss forest, and am I willing to do it, or will I panic and give up?



I have always found the contemporary style of labor fairly distasteful and unnatural. I have had some really amazing part-time and contract jobs, but my experience of traditional 9-to-5 Monday-to-Friday corporate, retail, and office jobs has mostly been one of frustration, feeling that I was wasting my life, knowing that I could get everything significant I had to do accomplished in the first hour or two of the day and wishing I could clock out and get on with something more important and fulfilling. I was constantly willing my mind to shut off, but then finding myself too tired and worn out at the end of the day to pursue the things I actually cared about when I got home. I may have been financially comfortable (or at least not destitute) but I was miserable and felt hopeless at a soul level.

I know some people genuinely like their jobs, and even when I thought I was one of them, I see now how inaccurate that was. I have never seen a reason why I was required to be present somewhere for 8-9 hours a day or more, no matter how nice the weather was outside, if it took me substantially less time to get my work done and I had all the meetings I needed to have done. I hate the way some people are treated as fundamentally replaceable and insignificant, and I am disgusted by the power imbalances where it’s somehow acceptable to treat someone as lesser because they are at a different point in their lives or careers, or to put money above absolutely everything else, even ethics and morals. And I’ve mostly had pretty cushy jobs and great employers – the dehumanization is just a by-product of bottom lines and corporate structures. I get that that’s how American capitalism works, but I don’t believe that’s how it should be, and I defy anyone to make a real case for why technology can’t help shorten the workday or why a more enlightened, human approach to management couldn’t improve people’s lives every single day.



I used to fantasize about quitting my jobs somewhat regularly, as I suppose many office workers do, but I would abandon those daydreams when I started to ask myself, “Well then what would you do?” It wasn’t a choice of dropping out and being free, as I was still trapped by having to pay rent and utilities on my apartment, I still had student loan payments the size of some friends’ mortgages, and however much I may wish it to be otherwise, I am still stuck in a capitalist society that wouldn’t even let me forage if I tried. It isn’t just a question of trading comfort for freedom, but exchanging one hamster wheel for another, much more difficult one, with no cushioning if I faltered. I spent more than a decade afraid to even try. I still bought into the misguided notion that because someone paid me, my job gave me worth, instead of recognizing that the only real value I have in the world is what I do creatively, how I treat others, and who I am as a person. It’s been a massive existential project to redefine my worldview to one where art is actually important – essential really – and where my existence is more than a ledger of debts and repayment. Despite all the philosophy and Marxist manifestoes I read in college, it was surprisingly difficult to reverse the materialistic brainwashing that I’d considered “becoming an adult.”

So I have extricated myself from the money-based grind and would like to stay free for as long as I can, if not indefinitely. In exchange, I have to hustle and sacrifice. I am working a lot harder than I ever have before, but it is vastly more rewarding to work for myself and know that my energy and time is adding up to something I believe in and care about. I know that my company and my work reflects my values, that I’m taking care not to harm anyone or the environment in my practices, and that the way I spend my time has meaning to me and, I hope, adds something positive to the world. That means so much more than my paychecks and 401k did, though I still have to ask somewhat regularly and with great trepidation, exactly how sustainable this life is. Because now it would irreparably shatter my heart to give it up.



Hermann Hesse found his way. He may have foraged in Switzerland, but he eventually wrote Siddhartha and Steppenwolf, he took work when he needed money, and he figured out how to spend as much time in nature as possible. He demonstrated such a braveness and boldness of spirit it’s staggering, as every real artist and writer has done. I know that my distaste for 9-to-5s wasn’t just generational malaise or an entitlement complex (despite what some fairly critical friends suggested) but because I knew I could be doing more, better things in the world. If Hermann Hesse had chickened out and taken a low-paying job as a clerk in an accounting firm, the world would not have his extraordinarily inspiring, life-changing writing, and who can say what a lesser place it would be for that? As Hesse reminds me:

Even the hottest, toughest days
end in the evening cool and calm
and quiet, gentle mother night
embraces every one of them.

It feels a bit like seeing through the Matrix and realizing I have been free all this time, no matter how trapped I’ve felt. No one was ever going to give me permission to be free, but now that I see I am, I need to fight my hardest to stay that way. Just like when I was looking out the window in Paris, my life right now is equally exhilarating and terrifying with what feels like infinite possibilities. But unlike any time before, I am facing it with open eyes because I’ve chosen this, I’ve made it real, and I am free.

Open for Business!

I’ve completely redesigned and relaunched my art website, and the Shop is now open for business, selling paintings, photos, and prints.

I wrote a post over on my Studio Blog that describes the moment I knew I needed to pursue art full-time, as well as a bit about what this launch means to me. I still have a really, really lot of work to do in the coming days and weeks, but I am so happy to finally share what I’ve been working on and where my heart’s at.

Much more to come!

So Be It

An invocation at the Greek society where I belonged in college (is that mysterious enough?) includes the phrase, “So be it,” purportedly in the Jean-Luc Picard sense of “Make it so.” As I’ve never been able to take simple phrases at face value (c.f. my double-reading of Jenny Holzer) nor, I suspect, was this one intended as a single-entendre, I always interpreted it as, “Go and be what you mean to be.”

I keep thinking about how remarkably simple an idea it is, to respond to desire with action, and yet that seems to be one of the biggest challenges many people face. I’m fond of overusing a saying that my friend Kevin had as his senior yearbook quote, “A problem well-stated is a problem half-solved.” (I only just learned the source is Charles Kettering when I checked to make sure that Kevin was accurate and that I haven’t been vicariously quoting David Duke or Hitler or something all these years.) This idea is beautifully straightforward, in that most of the time when we express desires they contain intents, or at least the kernel of the solution in the initial expression.

Here is a fun (maybe?) game – see if you can state the immediate and obvious solution to the following wishes:

I wish I were better at communicating with my friends and family.
I wish I exercised more often.
I wish I spent more time in nature.
I wish I could speak French.
I wish I made time to meditate more regularly.
I wish I took more photos of my neighborhood.

Easy, right? It’s just, “So go…[blank].” Aren’t other people’s wishes simple?

Over time, and with the help of several art and chemistry professors who taught me to ask better questions, I’ve gotten pretty good at phrasing my problems so I can jump straight to the, “So go…” phase of taking action. Instead of making lists of wishes, I now have the habit of making prescriptive to-do lists. And as long as my wishes are reasonable, it’s just a question of focusing time and energy on the changes I want to make or the new habits I want to develop.

Where it is slightly more complex are those amorphous wishes like, “I wish I supported myself fully as an artist” (in progress, more on that soon) or the particularly troubling, “I wish I could meet my soulmate and start a family.”

The HR consultant at my last job was a big proponent of “Strategic Attraction,” sometimes phrased as “The Science of Positive Attraction,” and which I think is related to Law of Attraction meditation. The idea is that by focusing your energy and visualizing the specifics of who or what you’d like to attract, the Universe draws you toward it. I’m paraphrasing, but the example she gave me was when I was looking for a new apartment. She suggested I write out all the specifics of what I wanted in terms of location, size, light, noise level, neighborhood, and so on, and then move beyond the basics and non-negotiables to how I wanted my life to be in this new apartment, “I am looking for a home where I sleep peacefully,” or “I’d like a home where I enjoy being creative in my free time.” The more detailed my description, the better prepared I would be in apartment-hunting and the more clearly I could find exactly the right apartment to match what I’d envisioned. Not surprisingly, she was totally right, and I found the absolutely ideal home in the Bronx, which only continues to get better now that I’m making my life closer to how I want it.

When I think about the soulmate thing, it’s not as easy as making a list of “must enjoy hiking,” “preferably likes Italian food,” or “ideally willing to go sailing and loves it.” I may be muddling the sentiment with too many drinks, but at dinner with my beloved cousin, she shared her husband’s belief that love is about three factors coming together just so: the right person, the right place, and the right time. You can compromise on it a little, but there is a sweet spot of those three for both people that makes for a lifetime of happiness together.

At times I think I may have found the right person at the wrong time, or been in the right place with the wrong person, but if only through tautology, it can’t have been the love of my life if we didn’t, in fact, fall in love for life. Another double reading, which may be part of the “time” factor, is that you have to be the right person yourself, in a place in your life when you are open and ready for your love as you are. I don’t know how many genuinely good-hearted, awesome people I’ve met over the years when I was so across-the-board miserable that I didn’t truly consider happiness an option. I wouldn’t even want my soulmate to have been attracted to the person I’ve been, and in some ways I’m relieved I didn’t have someone to cheer me up most of the time because it allowed me to be honest about the big things in my life I needed to change. So I am focusing on becoming the person I mean to be, making my life the way I want it, and I’ll leave it to the Universe to blindside me with the right person when I’m ready, if that’s in the cards. Of course if someone kind and outdoorsy with soulful eyes wants to fall in love with me now, I suppose that’s okay too.

The biggest of the things I’ve been focused on is switching from working for other people to working for myself. I promise I will have a lot more to say about all that soon, but I had been treating it as a mysterious, secret process, like the Underpants Gnomes from South Park:



(By the way, I think I have sung the Underpants Gnomes song in my head pretty much every day I’ve ever left my home to go to work, and I sing it out loud now whenever I walk into my studio. This is but one of my many attractive qualities.)

So the project is:

  1. Be an artist. Make art and make it available for sale.
  2. ???
  3. Profit / happy life

I suspect the secret is that there is no secret. You state the thing you want to do, and then you keep doing it. You treat yourself kindly, with a generosity of spirit and gratitude, but also with perseverance. You don’t give up or stop trying until you’ve achieved the first thing you mean to, but you don’t beat yourself up if it takes a long time or makes you stretch beyond what you thought you were capable of doing. You take Anaïs Nin’s line to heart, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom,” and you unfurl your petals.

Or more succinctly, you know what you want to be, “so be it.”

When you’re ready to change your life, it can happen anywhere

Two weeks ago I accepted a spontaneous invitation to meet a friend for a long weekend in Chicago. Whether intentionally or not (I don’t want to accuse him of anything) the invitation as communicated was quite different from the situation I found when I arrived. On the first night I was texting a friend back home about the weirdness, and I felt myself falling into the same negative thought traps I usually do.

This is all my fault – I am so stupid and naïve for believing a guy would just want to spend time with me as a friend.
– I always do this kind of thing, where I only see the best in people and then end up in super awkward and potentially dangerous situations.
– Way to go, Bridget, you’ve gotten yourself into an after-school special at age 34, have you honestly learned nothing about life?!

And so on. My friend back home talked me off the ledge (thank God for true friends), and we reviewed some of the discussions and precautions I’d taken before leaving. I was incredibly relieved that in what little last-minute planning I did the night I was packing to leave, I connected with a few friends on Facebook, whom I’d forgotten or never knew lived in Chicago. Everyone gave great suggestions for things to see and do, and a few friends said they’d be in town. It immediately became clear that I would need to plan another trip soon, and I was intent to salvage this one.

I met up with a very dear friend whom I’ve known since I was in high school (who happens to have dated my brother for several years when they were kids). We had lunch and drinks, and she very generously showed me around downtown Chicago. I joked with her, as she repeated the offer of a safe place to stay if things kept getting weirder with my host, that I was genuinely glad I made such a foolish and impulsive trip because it gave me the chance to catch up with her. There aren’t many people in the world who have known both my grandmothers and my aunt Elise, who knows the goofy guys I sometimes ate lunch with in high school (when my boyfriend and I were on-again) on a first-name basis, or who has been a friend to me and my brother for so long. She’s also just an all-around awesome, good-hearted person and great company, so it was a real treat.

I was incredibly grateful to get to know such a wonderful new city because it turns out, I seriously love Chicago. The architecture and art is amazing, the way the city is laid out is extraordinarily pedestrian-friendly with loads of things to see and do, I finally experienced true Midwestern manners and kindness, the food was delightful, I fell head over heels in love with Lake Michigan (seriously, I am certain the color will haunt my dreams all my life), and I discovered a lot about myself on this trip (more on that in a moment). I met up with a friend from college whom I haven’t seen in 15 years and his spectacularly lovely fiancée for deep dish pizza and sundaes on my last night, and I admitted that I felt like I was babbling about a new crush with how much I loved Chicago and my time with them. From what I understand, it’s pretty common to fall in love with Chicago, even – or especially – if you’re a New Yorker.

One of the most profound things that happened for me was at the Art Institute of Chicago, which is one of the loveliest museums I’ve ever visited and the place I most wanted to see besides Lake Michigan. I have a sometimes embarrassing tendency to burst into tears when I see works of art that are particularly meaningful to me (Michelangelo’s David, the Monets at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris, van Gogh’s Wheat Field with Cypresses etc.). Sometimes I’m able to keep it together in an academic sense, as in the Sistine Chapel, when I was able to take a step back and really look at the imagery that I’d written about for a semester in a Michelangelo seminar, but as an artist who has been in love with painting as long as I can remember, my heart usually takes over.

This little painting by Georgia O’Keeffe called Blue and Green Music has been one of my favorites my whole life. It is one of the pivotal works that opened my eyes to abstraction as a child thumbing through books, and it has remained a touchstone in my mind for the power of what simple painting can do emotionally. Seeing it in person was more intense than I even would have predicted (a real tear-sprayer, honestly) and it was deeply significant to me because I saw, yet again, there was not any particular wizardry going on, even in what I consider one of the most magical paintings in the world. O’Keeffe is one of my all-time favorite artists because she captures the elegance and simplicity of nature in her painting without gimmickry, pretense, or affectation. It is her own style, but it is faithful to nature’s style, and it may be the most perfect organic abstraction yet achieved. I also saw this painting was not made through any esoteric inaccessible technical skill or method beyond my grasp – it was her clarity of thought and vision made tangible, and that’s exactly why it was so beautiful and powerful.

Later that afternoon, walking along the lakefront in intermittent rain, I realized that all my life, whether I wanted it or not, I’ve been an artist and I can’t stop being one. I can paint with the same clarity and emotions as O’Keeffe, and maybe if I handle my career the right way, my work can have the same genuine, emotional impact on other people that this painting made on me. I also had this rush of exhilaration that finally, I am pursuing art for real, setting up my business full-time instead of wishing that someday I could get it going, and I am putting my whole heart into it. I truly believe it is the right time, and my experience in Chicago showed me that repeatedly.

A few years ago, I would have succumbed to the part of myself that apologizes too much, allows myself to be mistreated and literally shoved around for my lack of assertiveness, lets my time get wasted, watches people try to manipulate me and stays silent, and generally, acts as my own worst enemy. On this trip, I found myself able to speak up, assert myself while remaining pleasant and keeping things friendly, change plans when they were not okay, and make sure that I got to have the experience I wanted out of Chicago. I saw so many incredible things, spent so much time walking around the city and being outside in alternating sunshine and sideways snow, proved Frank Sinatra correct that the El is a piece of cake after NYC subways, saw species of birds I’ve never seen in person before, and reconnected with beautiful, kind people in wonderful ways. In the past, I probably would have been too shy to accept their invitations or felt obliged to stay with my host when he kept turning his nose up at plans. I’m so happy I’m not that person anymore, and that I trusted myself enough to be myself instead.

By the time my early-morning flight home got cancelled and I accidentally bought a ticket out of Milwaukee, I wasn’t even flustered. The gate agent assured me that I had time to take a bus and check in for my flight, and I trusted her, even though it meant running at a full-sprint through the Chicago airport because I misheard the departure time as 6:25 instead of 6:45 (whoops). The Milwaukee airport was unbelievably pleasant (it’s a toss-up for most charming details: the sign after security for the Recombobulation Area or the dishes of candy at the gates), I had the incomparable pleasure of hearing a TSA agent say in a thick Midwestern accent, “Hey look, there’s a piece of pizza in this bag!” about my Lou Malnati’s leftovers, and I took the sign from the universe that I was supposed to use the opportunity to buy a wheel of Wisconsin Cheddar as a souvenir.

I was intent on getting back in time to meet with my beloved cousin Desireé for dinner and drinks on her last night in New York, and we stayed out talking and laughing late enough to shut down a speakeasy on a Monday night. I kept thinking how much more accurately this version of my life fit with what I truly care about and value than previous times when I had to cut things short to get home to fret about work, or when I’d say I loved my job (because I thought I did) and friends knew I was just putting a good face on a situation that was making me deeply unhappy. I am done with regrets now, I am spending my time with kind people who have beautiful hearts, and I am already planning my next trip(s).

The wonderful thing about travel is that beyond experiencing a new place, it lets us see our daily lives through a fresh lens. I stepped out of my patterns and tendencies and acted spontaneously and flexibly instead. I stopped making decisions out of fear or insecurity and just did what I wanted to do. I remembered the joy of living life the way I mean to, instead of the way I think I’m supposed to, and I came back to New York refreshed, empowered, and excited for all the big things coming up this spring. I didn’t need to go all the way back to India for another life-changing experience, just a few hours away in my own country. For a long weekend, that’s quite a lot to be thankful for.

Chicago

My photos are in my Chicago album on Flickr and art pics are in My Museum Habit.