I had a two-day teaching gig downtown San Francisco last week. As I
walked around, I noticed the beautiful art in the lobbies Financial District
buildings. Some of the art is crappy commercial, but much of the art is absolutely
In my early working career in San Francisco, I worked in many, many
of those buildings. As a freelance temp, I was all over the place: three days
here, five days there. I worked on about five floors in the Bank of America
building alone. I remember seeing a series of priceless Henry Moore etchings in
a conference room on an upper floor. It seemed like the higher you got in those
buildings, the better the art got. (And the higher the floor, the easier the
job, the better the coffee—but that’s another story.) This large conference room
was always empty. I wonder if anyone appreciated the etchings.
Anyway, last week I was overcome with a strong memory—a feeling—how
I used to feel trapped at work rather than be an artist. Passing the art in
those buildings, with a bleeding heartache that I worked at some dumb job. It
was like a physical pain, every day. I felt that I should be painting while I
was young. I felt my art should be in those buildings, in every one of them.
I always painted on the weekends. Sometimes I made art or went to a
drawing group in the evening. I fulfilled a quota of paintings per month. I'd mail my slides and SASE to art competitions at lunchtime.
Being an office temp allowed me days off between jobs. Sometimes the
agency would call me, say, on a Wednesday, and I’d book a job for Monday. Then,
I’d dive into painting, knowing that some money was coming in. Other times, I’d
get stuck at a job for too long.
I was never able to create art when I didn't feel financial secure. And
I never expected someone to support me. So I worked. Eventually the jobs got
better and more creative.
But I still painted on the weekends.
Labels: Bank of America, Financial District, Henry Moore, office temp, slide competitions