Editor’s note: I am thrilled to have feminist icons Margie Adam and Jewelle Gomez on Epochalips. These two have influenced our generation by paving the way as feminists and out lesbians in the early days to continuing to share their gifts with the world today. The following is the second of several excerpts from their recent conversation.
On the challenges of being and artist/activist with a full-time job.
Margie: Was it hard to shed the “Giovannian” atmosphere that surrounded you at the theatre every night in order to come back into the ordinary world?
Jewelle: Very hard. And sometimes I would arrive in the morning at work and ask myself: Why am I here? Sometimes I would have to print out my calendar and list out what I was going to do for the eight hours to make sure I did anything but think about the script, answer questions from the director or the actors. If I hadn’t made those lists I would have probably done my own work, cheating my job out of my labor. But if I could make a list, I knew I had to accomplish x, y and z and I was able to do that. My mind was totally out there.
Margie: You are really describing the history of women artists. So many of us have had to multi-task, working full-time at something other than just our art. Unlike the classic paradigm of the male artist who is somehow able to sleep on couches and move from place to place, and able to do his art full-time, the story of women in art is about putting aside our artistic endeavors until the end of a day filled with child-rearing, home-making and/or business-related work.
Jewelle: That’s been my entire career. I’ve always had a day job. I haven’t regretted that. I feel like I’ve been able to contribute to the arts community and the LGBT community so I feel privileged in that I had a day job that was NOT making widgets but rather doing something I felt was important.
Margie: Also, that’s part of your activist commitment and must call upon a whole other part of you. One of the things that is fascinating to me about you is that you are a 360˚ artist and a 360˚ activist and they overlap like crazy. Your effectiveness as an activist is not somehow ancillary to a more important artists role. They are two complete realities. It is interesting to be able to meet your commitments and intentions in both arenas.
Jewelle: One of the big things I’ve discovered in this period of working on “Waiting For Giovanni” is I wasn’t able to give enough of my attention to the foundation work and that was disappointing to me. There were things going on, things that did need my attention and I felt like I never gave it as much attention as I would have if I weren’t working on that project.
That also said something to me about how I should think about my life shifting to focus more on my writing. I don’t like to do things halfway.
Margie: Do you think that has to do with an energy shift or diminution that is age-related? Or that you were so gripped by “Giovanni” that—too bad —nothing was going to get in the way!
Jewelle: I think the lack of attention for the foundation was certainly about age. When I wrote the Gilda Stories in the 80s, I worked a full-time job, I would have a meeting after work or cocktails and dinner, and then I would go home and write from 10pm-2am every night and I did not burn out. I was at work at 10am.
Margie: It’s interesting, the energetic trajectory of an artist. I remember sometime in 1975, writing “Would You Like To Tapdance On The Moon?” on the back of a California map, driving down the freeway at 80 miles an hour. I was on fire! And I don’t experience you being any less on fire now – nor do I feel like I am. But the idea that I would be able to gather all those molecules in one place in that kind of context today, is unimaginable. The last time I wrote music I had to rent a cottage in Bodega Bay and separate myself entirely from my daily life for a month’s retreat in order to even hear the artistic impulse that was screaming at me when I was in my twenties.
Jewelle: I don’t know what I would do if I were trying to write at 10pm now. There’s less energy now and you need to shepherd it through. That’s fine with me but it does mean I have to make room for it.
© 2012 Jewelle Gomez-Margie Adam Interview. All rights reserved.
Margie Adam is currently fully engaged in her “third act.” Having completed a PhD Program in Psychology, she has entered private practice as an integrative counselor. She is also a singer-songwriter-pianist and one of the early organizers of Women’s Music, a Second Wave feminist cultural initiative fueled by lesbian passion. Her song, “We Shall Go Forth!” resides in the Smithsonian’s Political History Division. She is associate producer of two films, Radical Harmonies: A History of Women’s Music and No Secret Anymore! The Times of Del Martin & Phyllis Lyon. Margie’s counseling practice is based in the San Francisco-Bay Area, and extends world-wide with telephone technology. Her focus is on creating a safe, empowering, and joyful environment for women in transition to explore esp. sexuality, recovery, aging, and/or completion of projects. firstname.lastname@example.org