James Cassell

I’m a creature accustomed to, if not dependent on, routine. In part, I suppose, it’s my nature. It’s how I obtain some stability.
I think of myself as high-strung, and I seek a steadiness and a certain predictability and control in some of the basic areas of my life. I make the bed each morning. I have my cinnamon toast followed by my oatmeal and black tea, and I read The Washington Post. After working in my studio, I walk most afternoons along the creek near my house. In the hot weather I go outside and garden late in the day when the sun has died back a bit, grunting and sweating and happily wearing myself out.
As an artist I consider routine and structure necessities. It’s the scaffolding that surrounds the creative process. In making art you want to be a little unhinged, I think. As you walk into the void to create something from nothing, you let go. There are no constants, except a necessary amorphousness. But outside the studio, you want to know there’s something recognizable you can grasp hold of.
This rhythm seems to have worked fairly well for me during the pandemic. I’ve gone more inward, become more insular. In any case, to be an artist is, by definition, to be inward-oriented (there may be exceptions. One thinks of Andy Warhol). You can feel a tinge of guilt, though, a sense of being privileged, as you inhabit your own world, your own reality. I sometimes worry that the pandemic has made me further removed from the world in an unhealthy way. Is there a danger in that? Will I face a heightened timidity when in-person socializing resumes?
I miss my friends to be sure. I’m frustrated that I can’t seem to get vaccinated, angry that there are still significant shortages all over the country. I feel equally angry and depressed living in the dark and toxic climate that the actions and inactions of Trump et al have largely brought about. Like so many, I suffer from pandemic fatigue.
But I know I’m lucky. I have a wife whose company I enjoy, and who doesn’t seem to tire of conversation and my companionship. I have my work and the absorption of the artistic process. It’s a world I can enter whenever I want. An alternative world, but one no less compelling, I like to think, than the one that bears down hard on me each day.

Volume 35 no 4 March – April 2021

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