BY PATRICIA DUFF
March 14, 2014
Lately I’ve been charged with paying close attention to the work of other artists. I work part-time these days at Rob Schouten Gallery at Greenbank Farm where I spend time talking to patrons about 30 or so fine artists whose works and processes I’ve come to know fairly well. It’s a happy job, selling art. It’s kind of like selling the best spirit of someone else, selling a product that brings joy and beauty into the lives of others. It’s a positive pursuit, and when I sell a piece of art I feel somewhat as if I’ve done a good deed for the day—something that adds to making the world a better place. I know, kind of schmaltzy, but true for me.
I also continue to write part-time about artists. Currently I am writing a story for the first print edition of WLM about a handful of young artists who grew up on Whidbey Island, all extremely talented and each an inspiration to me as I follow the trajectory of their artistic careers. When I write about artists, I absorb a bit of vicarious satisfaction from knowing that here is still a segment of the population that will go out into the world with music, art, entertainment─all those things that come back to beauty and truth, things that add alacrity and grace to the world. Don’t worry, I tell myself as I turn away from yet another disconcerting story in the news, here are more of the saviors coming up in the world, those who will push back against a culture somewhat overwhelmed by technology, climate-change, poverty, wars and extinction. Here are the positive ones, the “interestings,” the non-cubicled, the beauty-makers. I thank my lucky stars every day for them and those like them.
All this focus on other artists makes me pine for the days when my life was focused on a purely artistic career. I spent about 12 years after college seriously pursuing a life as a working actor. I miss the days of marginal living, when memorizing scripts, rehearsing late into the evening and pounding the pavement for that next part were the focus of my youthful self. Although I must admit, my memory is selective and romantic, and if I force myself to remember the whole picture, much of it was drudgery. Eventually, I realized I couldn’t hack such a life and I went back to school for writing. But the memory of the pleasure of being preoccupied by a pure artistic pursuit remains.
I’m happy to bring back some of that happy countenance when I plunge myself into a play at a local community theater, as I do now with a part in David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Good People” for OutCast Productions in Langley. I often tell my friends that I’m happiest when I’m creating something; acting is my anti-depressant of sorts and I’m grateful to playwrights who give women such juicy parts. I play Margie Walsh, a blue-collar, middle-aged woman who has lived all her life in South Boston, and who has lost yet another job and now faces eviction. There’s more to it than that, but for now my main goal is to memorize, get the dialect right and think about how a woman who has spent her entire life trying to stay one step ahead of debt collectors would walk, sit, laugh, stave off misery and endure. Oh joy, oh process!
Hopefully I will add my own bit of positive artistic something to the world as do those I admire most.
(“Good People” opens May 9 at the Black Box Theater at the fairgrounds. Visit www.outcastproductions.net for more info.)
Patricia Duff is a freelance writer and journalist, seller of art and sometime actor.
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