While I cannot recall what I was doing on this exact date, I know several things that were pertinent to my life at that time:
1. I was halfway through my first foray into graduate school;
2. I was one of a group of artists who started a live/work art space called Art Factory 417; and
3. I was about to fall down my studio stairs and break my left tibia right under the knee.
At Art Factory 417, the ceilings of the basement hung with gauzy, orange brewer’s yeast. It was absolutely haunting. And things were not what one would call “up to code”.
Brewers yeast and paint and dust and old beer have a particular sort of smell. Like someone left something kinda wet in grandma’s attic. It isn’t pleasant but I came to associate it with painting, so I didn’t mind it too much.
Being a soak stain painter who painted on the floor on raw, unstretched canvas, the basement was not the best place for me to have a studio. The paintings never really dried. They molded a little. But I was doing the thing. Living that creative artist life. Going to graduate classes in the day, waitressing at night, planning and working at events to pay the rent at AF417 later at night, and painting in my studios (one at school, one at AF417) later, later at night.
I had this sort of dreamy, bohemian idea of what I was and what I wanted to be. I would romanticize a projected future nostalgia in which all of us, the artists of AF417, would look back on these hot summer studio days as the launching point of spectacularly fulfilled artsy lives. Never mind the wheezing from the mold, the bug bites, the broken leg, and the perpetual rent backlog, we were the real deal, and we were going to make it. I think “making it” meant different things for each of us.
pictured above: m. rosen and coleman in the early days at the famed
art factory 417 which housed their studios (along with the studios of
h.e. croan, carlynn forst, b. of moore, jeremy mosher, rae ann, k atkinson
and jasmine jones) in the early 21st century. often tagged as the "cafe voltaire
of the new millennium," art factory 417 and its artists played a key role in
the development of post-post-post-post-modernism.
Looking back now, ten years later, I am grateful for that experience. I guess I have sort of “made it”. I wonder what my 26-year-old self’s assessment would be?
I finished two rounds of graduate school and earned an MA (studio art and theory) and an MFA in painting. I’ve shown art at various locations around the country (and abroad) including a few solo exhibitions. My visual arts work and critical art writing have both been featured in national publications, and I’ve presented at an academic conference. I opened my own commercial gallery and sold it. I’ve served on the board of multiple nonprofit arts entities. I have taught at four colleges, and teach or have taught studio art, arts administration, and art history classes. I sold enough paintings from my last show, that I actually made more painting than teaching this year. I’m in love. Happily married with a family. I have an enviable assortment of plants, books, art, and cats. Couldn’t all of this be considered making it?
I don’t exactly have the dreamy, bohemian artist life. But I still paint. And I teach people about art. Does having blue hair make adjuncting more bohemian?
I’ve grown a lot. My work is better. But I do miss having the studio community I had at AF417 and in graduate school (both times). I’m in a painting group, and I love those painters, but it isn’t really the same. There’s a magic in being 26 and looking forward that is a little lackluster when you’re a decade older and trying to figure out how to pay for health insurance on part-time teaching pay.
All in all, I don’t think my self from ten years past would be totally disappointed in my current self. I think she’d be pretty proud. I kind of did it.
And when I moved back to Missouri after California and after the residency in New York two years ago? I broke my other damn leg.
Meganne Rosen is a painter and an instructor who teaches art history and studio art classes in the Ozarks. She has an MFA in painting from California College of the Arts. She enjoys pub trivia, reading, art-making, and plants, and lives with her husband, kids, and cats in Springfield, Missouri. In December of 2019, her solo exhibition Transparency & Toxicity was featured at ArtLink in Fort Wayne, IN. Her "home" gallery, Obelisk, hosted her solo show Bathymetry in March, 2020. She's also recently been in group shows in St. Louis, San Francisco, and Kansas City. Her full CV and selections from her portfolio are available at megannerosen.com.
She'd like you to check out the Black Hills Legal Defense Fund.