Bonnie Brenda Scott
Member, Space 1026
After my first significant art show opened, I received a kind, congratulatory email about it from my estranged father. I was not completely suspicious of it, but still wanted to confirm that it was really him. So, I rode my bike up to the gallery in the middle of the night and used my exhibitor’s key to check for his handwriting in the guestbook.
There it was. It is very like my own.
For someone who has as much difficulty making decisions as I do, opening a “cyber” relationship with this man whom I hadn’t seen or spoken to in fourteen years was curiously easy and joyful. It helped that he was very sensitive to issues surrounding art and art-making. I actually described him to my friends as being “the exact parent we all wished we had during art school.”
After a few months of online conversation, we met in person and had coffee. It was my suggestion that we move from a virtual relationship into reality. Into really, really real reality, the kind that chokes you up and stops your brain from functioning. Having a Dad was immediately too much for me. I saw a tidal wave of possibility, and I panicked, filled with fear and self-doubt, and self-pity, and self-loathing.
I stopped talking to him, and I was briefly rained on with emails, most of which I opened, but some of which I didn’t. Time passed this way, in a silence on my end that was comfortable to me; my second art show opened and I told my father nothing about it.
It was towards the closing of this exhibition when it became my responsibility to unlock and monitor the gallery for a day. I walked in and had a look at the guestbook. Dad’s name was already all over it, with many messages of encouragement. He’d been to see the show four times.
So I sat there, at a desk behind a low wall that masked me from immediate view. My father walked in. Of course he would; why wouldn’t he? This is the silly, sitcom-ish way that reality operates. My father came to visit my art show for the fifth time, and I behaved the only way I know how, which is strangely. I panicked and hid under the desk. My heart pounded wildly as I tried to strike a pose that I hoped would look natural if I were found, grabbing a nearby stack of brochures and beginning to count them, hoping that he would just leave quickly.
Trouble began when I was found – by this girl who had been working on an installation in the hallway outside. She came to my desk with the idea of borrowing a screwdriver. I did my best to keep up a quiet, pathetic conversation with her while still squatting under the tabletop – all while my head was racing with explanations for the situation that I was in, and how I was going to have to admit to being a terrible person and deal with my Dad’s feelings.
Losing my ability to stall for time, I pulled the girl into the storage room. My last view of my father is of him jogging after me across the gallery, with an expression I perceived as neediness. And maybe he is needy, and my vision of a parent is that he shouldn’t be needy, particularly when I have needed so little from him all this time. And so I quickly shut the door behind me.
“Listen,” I said to the girl, “There’s this guy in the gallery who’s been bugging me today. When you go back out there, if he asks you whether or not there’s someone else in this room, just tell him no, okay?”
And she went. And he asked. And she told him what I told her to say. I stood there, in this closet, while my father quietly knocked on the door. I stood completely still, feeling the panic rushing through my body–for an hour, until I was certain he was gone. I counted paintbrushes to pass the time, and sent him a psychic message that said this: “Picture me underground, far below you in a basement somewhere. That’s where I went; I am not standing still, breathing quietly in a supply closet. I’ve become busy with things that are important, and I can’t hear you. Or better yet, imagine that I’m not me, that I was never here, that all of this is only an illusion.” And, “I’msorryI’msorryI’msorryI’msorry.”
There are issues you don’t consider (or at least I didn’t) when pursuing a career in art. Creating things allows one to communicate with the world while keeping it at arm’s length. But while you’re putting all this stuff into the universe, begging it to understand you, you can’t tell the universe what to think or how to respond. I would even go so far as to say that you can dictate even less what to expect from yourself.
My Dad continues to write emails to me sometimes. I am almost certain that I have never deleted any. He sends me YouTube videos and emails me whenever he sees something about Robert Crumb on the internet, and I heard from him when they canceled the “Little Orphan Annie” comic strip. There are currently 95 messages in my inbox from him – our catalog, the sum total of our adult child/parent relationship.