Tuesday, September 16, 2008

San Francisco Art Institute

Back before God was a child, I went here. I haven't been back in years and I wasn't prepared for the flood of memories and feelings that my visit last week called up. I remember my first time here. I was with my parents who did not approve at all. But then, they didn't approve of me anyway so that was nothing new. A woman came out of one of the corridors; she was dressed in paint splattered jeans and smelled of turpentine. I knew immediately that this was the life for me- that was the look and smell of freedom. I loved the place, worked nights to attend classes in the day and have always regretted that I never found any advice or direction from any of my teachers. It was certainly a pre-feminist place where women, if they couldn't be decorative or subordinate, weren't very important. And I wasn't very important. These were the days of art for art's sake and making a living from art - if you were a woman - was something that few did. Some did, of course - the mega talented like Jay De Feo and Joan Brown. But they also had men who supported and helped them. I didn't fall into that category. It's funny to come back to a place that meant so much to me and yet, gave me so little. Of course, I was young and ignorant but not so ignorant that I didn't see the traps laid out for women. I avoided some of them, not all. The one trap that I couldn't get around was lack of money. When I first started at school, the tuition was $50 a semester! But the Board of Directors hired a fancy and expensive Italian architect who had big and expensive plans for the place. I don't remember what the tuition was during my last semester. All I remember is that I could no longer afford it. If SFAI had a counseling department then as it does now, I might have been pointed in the direction of SF State and gotten my teaching credential. I always wanted to be a teacher but by the time I got all my classes in - many years and a life time later -- it was too late. It wasn't too late in 1969 but no body told me that. Sometimes trips down memory lane are bitter sweet. I think that this one is more bitter than sweet.

But I am still painting. I never gave up.

1 comment:

Zoomie said...

You were there while it was still some artists' idea of paying their own rent while still making their own art - not easy for any artist, any era. It has never been so much a place to be taught as a place to experiment more or less on your own in as close to complete freedom as the world allows. Because of that, some of the work is crap but also because of that, some of it sings.