Art and My Fear of Vacuum Cleaners

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” – Ecclesiastes 3:11
Once upon a time my job was to create art, and I was paid in grades and critiques.
My fear was found in housewife-y, mother-ish stuff. I thought the end of art was found at the end of a toilet scrubber. I especially feared vacuum cleaners. Who likes them? Not I.

My art process was messy, full of chemicals and ink, and ironically Mr. Clean factored heavily into my life. He didn’t do domestic work, he dissolved images of imagination. I was supposed to wear rubber gloves because Mr. Clean is dangerous.
It’s funny that I spent my art years making art about my fear of domesticity.
I’ve come full circle and now I don’t need a rubber squeegee or a pen to create an image that involves hand mixers and brooms. My life is hand mixers and brooms…and so much more.
Sometimes, when I’m in the kitchen making eggs or cake or whatever, everything aligns. The house is clean, the children are happy, the sun is shining and it smells like baking. Do you know that moment? The holiday feeling of peace and harmony and complimentary color? All is beautiful. All is art…but only sometimes.
Discord visits far too often but I am learning to embrace it, as a means to an end. I try to remember that when one is making art, there is a process. There is a mess first. There are ink smudges and misprints and proofs and sketches gone bad. The everything does not align all at once…it takes work and practice and mess to make things beautiful; to make art.
I never wore nice jeans to the studio. I wasn’t afraid to get my hands dirty, in fact I expected it. I was fine with grime and chemicals because I had a hope. An expectation that my mess would make something beautiful.
I no longer work in the studio. I don’t even doodle. I don’t make the time, I don’t feel the need.
I am busy here, making messes, and masterpieces of existence. Some days you will find me in the kitchen, with a fresh batch of cookies and fresh happy children gathered around my legs.
Art in life.
Some days, you will find me with piles of socks and dishes and grubby sweats.
Art in process.
And so when I tear up over carpet disasters, temper tantrums, or half painted bathrooms, when I hate the process of it, I try to remember that I am working towards something beautiful, something that I catch glimpses of here and there…
What I am doing is very good, and the end result will be beautiful if I persevere…more lasting than a print or painting, farther reaching than a gallery show.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of our faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2-4

34 thoughts on “Art and My Fear of Vacuum Cleaners

  1. JOANNE!!!!! Are you kidding me? I love that drawing, that piece of art. It has an Alice in Wonderland quality about it. But you are right; the loving home, those babies, and your marriage–that's lasting art. Fruit that lasts. So glad to be your friend.


  2. Jodi, funny you should say that, Alice is my muse. I did a series of prints using the original illustrations. It's a print, with watercolor and pen and ink over it. I was a printmaking major in college. 🙂


  3. JoANN!
    This is amazing. I just made a joke two days ago, wondering what it means that both my children and my dog are terrified of my vacuum.
    And OH…those fears of domesticity.
    And OHHHHh the messsssss.
    AND YESSSS! Those moments when things align… Doesn't the mess makes those sweet moments even better.
    Thank you for this!!!!


  4. “when i hate the process of it”
    oh, sister, yes. there are days i think i'll be undone from the babys hanging on and the piles climbing higher, and yet.
    and yet.
    art in life, in process.
    the metaphor is impeccable.
    and at last creation is creator, is artist. yes.


  5. Joann, personally I love my vacuum cleaner because it keeps the mess at bay.
    Some days I feel like an etropy fighter. And that's a losing battle. I need to embrace more. Think of the art more. It's a LOOONNGGG term art work.
    love your writing and your thoughts.


  6. I have just recently started following your blog and have been having a rough time with the “art in process” in my life as you so elequently put it. This post puts such a great perspective on my life with a 10 month old and 2 year old.


  7. i want this print. how can i get it?

    you do such beautiful art… it's painted in the smiles of your boys, friend… i needed to hear this, and it's such a perfectly imperfect link… i am so glad you posted.

    artist-mama, you bless.


  8. JoAnn,
    You write of such a beautiful thing. Making art from living, out of children and its messy at first, your right. Awesome imagery!
    I can't tell you how much I love this post and your art and you.


  9. Oh i love this. so true. so beautiful. i have often struggled with the mundane, hidden nature of raising the children, but am frequently reminded of the masterpieces that we are pouring into. well written. very beautiful.


  10. You are making lasting footprints. I want to, as well. And how I am striving…yes, striving, to be a more balanced person. Not all work. Not all that is tedious and unimportant to relationships. More about creating beauty and enjoying loved ones. Oh, and showing that in the mundane. Thank you for your inspiration!


  11. Such a hard thing to know in my head that life is messy–another to live it. I think, as parents trying to live faithfully and raise godly children, we need to be reminded that parenting is more art than science and that it is messy, requiring wisdom, grace, and forgiveness. So glad you posted some of your Art-art. Now I'm thoroughly intimidated by you…but in a good way.


  12. I REALLY like this! “The everything does not align all at once…it takes work and practice and mess to make things beautiful; to make art.” I'm in the middle of “mess” right now, and your post helps me see its potential. What a paradigm shift. Thank you.


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