It was June 2016 in Tucson, Arizona, which means that it was about a bizzilion degrees outside or at least 110. I’d worked all week, and just made it home from my commute. It took twenty minutes for the car air conditioner to start spitting out a little cool breath. That was just about the time that I pulled into the parking lot of my local Circle K to buy a Mexican Coke. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, tastes better than a Mexican Coke on a hot day. They say it’s the pure cane sugar instead of that poisonous corn syrup, but some urban myths say that the Mexican Coke still contains trace cocaine. Whatever it is, it feels great, especially after working in the middle of summer in Tucson.
Because Tucson is a college town and a winter resort town, only the hardcore people who work regular jobs year round stay here during the summer months. That’s me and the people I meet at store like Circle K. I know the woman who sold me my Mexican Coke. When I go into the local stores where I shop, I don’t just pay and leave. I talk to the people. We shoot the shit, which in the summer months is normally about how fucking hot it is outside but also how quiet it is since all professors, students and snowbirds are gone.
It was on that day in June 2016 that I went home and painted the first painting of my series Facing Work. It’s a self-portrait that documents a working mom, hot, tired and surviving the desert months. That working mom is me, and for the next year I filled a large Moleskine with paintings of other workers, people I encountered in my everyday life. Walmart clerks, Sprouts cashiers, and Circle K workers. The waitress at the diner, the guy who wraps my burrito.
I finished the paintings in the time that I had to paint as a working mom which is about equal to one album length of music. All of these paintings were painted while I listened to vinyl on my portable record player. I painted fast and furious filling the pages margin to margin with the faces of the people I saw daily.
I limited the color and time to face the limits I faced as a working mom. I bought seven tubes of cheap acrylic and never deviated from the palette. I listened to Pink Floyd, Townes Van Zandt, Joan Baez, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, and Joy Division. Always for the duration of both album sides. Then the painting was done, and I’d go about doing things like laundry and getting ready for work the next day.
The project is a tribute to the workers and to the life of a working mom. It documents the places I shop out of necessity and convenience. It de-glamourizes what it means to be an artist and gives credence to people who live largely unseen. It gives faces to invisible workers. I know these people. I respect these people, and this is my acknowledgement of their lives and mine.
In my life, I have about an hour a day to do something creative. For a year, I spent a lot of those hours painting these people.