During my last two weeks in Lewes, while various members of my family were visiting me to see the shows, I took two tours of the Charleston house – the home of the painters Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, and the summer home of the Bloomsbury Group. The house and the grounds are stunning – sculpture protrudes seemingly from every plant in the garden, and the walls, furniture, doorways all served as canvases for these artists' creative output throughout the house. Objects as simple as lampshades provided ample opportunity for not only painting and upholstery, but even pottery and sculpture. As I walked from room to room , I was awed at the sheer abundance of color, design, and beauty – it was as if these people were so overflowing with creativity, they could scarcely find enough surfaces to paint.
As our guide took us on a tour through the house, she spent a little time in each room relating anecdotes about the group and their various relationships, friendships, and affairs. Later, in the gift shop, I perused the many books about the various members of the group that they were selling, many of which contained letters they wrote to each other – their fierce commitment to their art and to each other was not only astounding but inspiring. While the Bloomsbury group were not a formal society of any sort and their association, it seems, was purely social for the most part, I couldn't help but think that the huge creative output by each member of the group (which included incredibly accomplished artists and intellectuals like Virginia and Leonard Woolf, E.M. Forster, Lytton Strachey, Duncan Grant, and John Maynard Keynes) must have been spurred on by the great sense of community they obviously had. I imagined their lazy summers spent lounging together, idly discussing literature, politics, and their love affairs, and I felt a twinge of envy.
I've been working at a snail's pace through Finding Water, Julia Cameron's latest Artist's Way book, and a lot of the exercises pose the question: who defines one's own artistic community. I always find that when I think about those people who are closest to me, I am lucky – I find that I repeatedly count the same 10 or 15 people among those people that I trust. It's a rather large number of people who have been and continue to be there through thick and thin. But when I consider where each of these people live – I am saddened by how spread out across the map they are. They live in Washington DC, San Francisco, Chicago, Cologne, Atlanta, Portland, Ann Arbor, Concord, Lexington, and New York – not to count the couple who are musicians and live out of their suitcases, like me. Compound on this my transitory life and a move across country not too long ago, and I realize that I've been feeling a bit groundless for the past couple of years. On the one hand, I am grateful for the travel, as it allows me to get face time with everyone. But it's the regular contact and the sense of home that one finds in loved ones that I long for. It makes me anxious to get home so I can start getting settled into my brand new place that I moved into at the end of the summer (and haven't seen since then) and throw a housewarming party.