Museums On Sundays

Most of the time, I post a rather lengthy written piece to accompany my finished images. I started doing it over a year ago, and they have only grown lengthier and more personal ever since. For some reason, on this piece, which was completed a few months ago, I felt the need to hold some stuff back, due to the nature of the piece, its meaning, and how some people reading may take offense. I wrote some information on the artistic choices and the approach to construction, but chose to leave out the personal part of it. With its enigmatic, and seemingly nonsensical title coupled with the rather abstract imagery, it didn’t do as well in terms of viewership as other pieces, which made me a little sad, given it was a special one for me.

So, here is the full skinny, what I should have written at the time, and what it all means…

The title comes from a song by Karen Peris of the band the Innocence Mission, called “Notebook.” It’s a song that meant a lot to me and still does, because it is about one of the biggest cruxes in my life – the balance of the “real life” and the artistic pursuits. In it, she writes:

Museums on Sundays, whenever we can we both go
And stay there for hours, feeding our spirits
And beauty is there free, and beauty is not exclusive
And beauty is ours to touch and to know…

I write in my notebook, with feelings that take me by surprise
With feelings I don’t know I have
They’re hidden by useless facts that I compile at the office where I work
Where there is no time for feeling anything…
You see I just work there, to finance my real life that begins with scribbles on pages
And thoughts of how and why…

I think it is one of the most eloquently depicted expressions of this bane of the artistically inclined. Twenty plus years in, it is wearing on me now. I have been chasing my muse in various mediums for over two decades while putting my 40 hours in at offices, and the push and pull of that is getting tiresome, and more than a little difficult to maintain. The weeks leave you tired, and you have a small window of freedom of the weekend to bring your fading embers of art back to a fire. And before you know it, it’s time to start the drudgery again. This is what this piece is about – that Sunday night, late, past-bedtime push to finish something that feeds your soul and satisfies your desire to create, before you are forced to push it back under, under all that commuting, under all those useless meetings, under all those interminable hours of tasks you don’t want to do.

The hats are the commuters, the drones, and this is the part I did not want to be interpreted as mean-spirited or judgmental. I don’t think that people that go to work in offices are all drones, it just seems that way to me. Everyone seems to deal with it with a lot less emotion than I do. They get through it and accept it as part of life, and I still rail against it and get overly distraught over it. They are faceless, bodiless, just hats in a line on the way to work. They are dull in color, they are an orderly bunch, keys to their days at work at the ready. Contrasted against this is the artist, central in the image, who appears somewhat rushed or in a flourish of movement, the red fabric a nod to fighting the bulls, the brutal work week ahead, the strings trailing behind the tendrils of the art he’s leaving behind, and his elaborate headpiece is bombastic and grand, compared to those of his fellow commuters. Instead of the key tucked into the hats like the others, his pierces through the mind, it hurts the head, the work week and the office. The key he clutches, golden and shiny, the key that means the most to him, that unlocks the life he’s putting away again for the week. In this parade of commuters, he is out of place, overly visible and colorful, unable to blend in, despite his efforts to keep up.

And this is why it is special to me – it was completed on a Sunday night, well past a sensible hour to start the work week alert and rested, and the meaning fit the circumstances perfectly. Rather than paint others going to work in a negative light, the point of view is all from the artist, who can’t just get through the week, who knows he can’t exist well in that world, who wishes there was more time for the things that matter. In the office world, the 9 to 5, it is best to be the faceless person, the quiet, reliable, procedural and logical drone.

It is getting hard to overcome the contrast for me, and my current office job is ending. I am being let go, and as much as I am happy for the break from the monotony and undercurrent of brutality of the office, I know it is likely I have to return to it soon, to “finance my real life.” Despite the uncertainty of the future in the financial sense, I have a small window of time where I am free to be myself for a full day, a few weeks, and hopefully this respite will produce some great pieces that will help fuel me as I start to face the strong possibility of returning to that office world again, and try to pretend I am someone I am not.

Such is life, for now, until I can make the desired one the only one.

The original notes of “Museums on Sundays” can be found on my Flickr or here on my website:

Michael Bilotta

October 4, 2013