Saturday, February 23, 2013

Mayne Reid

I think Mayne Reid looks a bit roughed up here.  He was good friends with Edgar Allen Poe and they both got roughed up.  Mayne had got shot in the hip during the Mexican War and it never healed.  It was always oozing pus and he couldn't walk much without crutches.

They both seem a bit like fops in their dress and manner, but their writing is forceful and hallucinatory.

Mayne Reid I think was the first person I think to talk about Judge Holden, though maybe not, I read a book from 1848 (in great condition mind you) and he is given a startled description in that book.

Well Mayne was a great looking guy when he just got here from Ireland.  Always a bit fanciful but still a handsome young man.

Time and life and living definitely have a a way  of chewing us up before they spit us out.

I would guess you expect me to list my favorite of his books, but I won't cause I suspect you don't care.
What I will do is just give you one of my favorite quotes, this one from The Scalp Hunters.  I used it in one of my paintings so it stands out for me:

page 317

As I walked to the parapet, there was a scene below that filled me with apprehension.  A cloud seemed to fall over my heart.
The impression was sudden, and at the moment, indefinite as to it's cause. Was it the sight (for I saw it) of blood? No. It could not be that, and I had become accustomed to its wanton shedding.  It may have been partially the cause, but there were other sights and sounds, hardly affecting the eye and ear, yet sufficiently definite to impress my mind with fear and foreboding.
There was a bad electricity in the air -not the natural, but the moral atmosphere -that reached me through those mysterious channels not yet traced by philosophy.
Look back upon your experience.  Have you not often felt sensible that wrath or other bad passions existed in the minds of men before you could perceive it by any definite look, word, or action?
As the wild animal foretells the hurricane when the atmosphere is tranquil, I instinctively felt that a dark scene was approaching.

He was an enormously popular in Victorian times and was a favorite world wide of such later notable men as the youthful Arthur Conan Doyle, Vladimir Nabakov and Theodore Roosevelt.

You gotta wonder why talk about him at all.  Well I like him.  And I 
think there are those of you out there who might also like him.  That's all really.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

om gum shreem maha lakshmi yea swaha

So I was trying to look around Chicago at the Art Galleries and artsy events online and well, just in those five minutes I found nothing of interest for me.  Now I know it is one of the important ways to get connected and to meet collectors and artists and gallery owners and stuff. You know, go to openings, show up. But I don't like meeting people and I don't even like looking at art. That's not true! Well I mean art that I don't want to see because it is in the middle of an art party.

It's not that I don't like looking at it online or in a cool show but party events, oh no not for me.  Maybe I could hire my son to be me.  He is so much more handsome and he doesn't like talking and stuff.  He'd be a better artist.  In fact he is a better artist.  But I know he won't do it.  It ain't gonna happen.

What I like though and I recommend  is doing a whole bunch of mantras. -And if you are very very lucky get someone who adores you to do them with and for you.  I got one of those and they can't be beat.  The problem is they are rare of course.  The one sitting in a chair next to one of my small paintings is meditating right there with her cup of coffee while we hang the show.

Oh yea I see two of my larger pieces sitting next to her and still in their wrappings.

Now what do these wacko mantras do for you anyway? You might ask but not of me.  I don't know.  I like em cause I forget my mind after a bit.  And when I paint I don't invite my mind into the room.  And I feel sure while she is doing them that I'm getting good vibes, man.  I feel a sense of great protection at the minimum. And I feel love. And that's good enough for me.

So here I am.  I wish I was back in the Palisades.  I understood art there.  I dug it.  And everybody was an artist and everybody bought paintings.   Ahh, those were the days down in rustic canyon.   That's done.  Andy Warhol and John Beldassari have finished it.  Though in those days it was Mark Tobey who I loved.  In fact more than loved.  I doubt I could explain it no

Of course Tobey was living in Basel by then, but I was way to young to know that.  I only knew who he was because my dentist had his stuff hanging everywhere.  And I loved it.  And Andy's show was the talk in our house at least. In fact I think my dad took me to that show.  But everyone was an artist as far as I knew.  Even my mom made cool copper ashtrays, my dad painted, everyone I knew who was a grownup did something.  I think you'd like it there...and then.

Also hey, excuse me,  what do these paintings say?  What are they about?

They say nothing.  They are not a narrative.  They have no message.  All they can do, when I'm lucky, is unlock my own mind's thinking so it is no longer chained to a narrative someone else wrote.   Painter's do not usually write narratives. Not anymore.  They are often not even images in a traditional way.  And if there is a message, some political-social something, well they are something else -like next week's trash.

If you can look through some of them and in doing so find one that helps you think about some time or place in your life, that helps you to remember something you've forgotten, and then helps you think more about it while you are looking at the painting.  Then the painting has done all I can hope for it.  With some of the great ones, by I don't know Mark Rothko or Jackson Pollack, you can stand there in a trance while you feel the space around you, or you think something like, I wonder what is on the back of that.  They can be real nutty things. Odd strange things that pop in your head. And they can, maybe, set your mind free for an instant.

Hey how did we get here?  Well I gotta go.
Om eim sara swat yei swaha

Sunday, February 17, 2013

kathy acker

Hi Kathy.  I miss you.  When I first saw you this was about your age.  Yea you looked like this.  Your reading was the best I ever heard.  The absolute best.  Downtown in Detroit I think maybe at the DIA.  Or was it in New York?  I know I bought one of your small xeroxed books from you that had to be in New York.  And I bought The Adult Life of the Black Tarantula at The Strand I think, the day I was in there looking for a rare book of Stanislaw Lem.  I got a bunch of copies of Rodrigo Rey Rosa that day all signed.

Your reading got me totally spaced out.  I heard what I thought I would never hear.  The sincere confessions of a completely free woman.  A completely free person.  I was shocked I was thrilled I thought you should be and never could be utterly famous.  Almost every sentence spoken in that sonorous comforting voice made me trust and believe.  I admired you as my honest to god big sister  I thought your books to be diamonds thrown on seas of shit.

Ah here's what you looked like that first time.  I felt inspired by you to say anything to say everything to be unabashed honest gentle and careful.  I wanted to write like you.  Funny to say I felt proud of you.  I wanted to enlist I was fit I was ready shoulder to shoulder.  We would march down the yellow brick road though I of course was the Cowardly Lion.  I would follow you anywhere.  Let's go.

But then, just then everything crashed.  You were sick. You went to Mexico.  You were gone and then so horrible to believe you were gone forever.

And now you are ensconced in the memories of all sorts of pc new age feminist non-feminists.
Young kids.  Well that's a good thing. We needed you and you gave us a new life.  Or at least opened a path we could take if we trusted love and had courage.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

should I unstopper that?

   My first guitar was a 1958 telecaster 022025 and when it was new it was whiter than this one but later it looked quite a bit like this one.  I miss it as much as one can miss an object.  Now it wasn't brand new.  My dad bought it used in 1958 and he brought it home and played some nice George Van Eps on it.  We had several tenor gibsons around that I didn't care about and one six string small body gibson which I liked a lot.  But they all disappeared.  But this one touched me deeply.  

You know I wasn't surprised to hear my dad play.  It seemed as natural as swimming was.  He just got in and swam I thought.  And so later on after hearing Bert Jansch and John Lennon, I thought I would play.  And the first thing I learned was you only need two strings most of the time.  And it was a bit harder than I thought it would be to hear something and then play it.

Of course I admired this guy and I was a bit daunted.  Here was a superb songwriter and singer.
Virtually everything I had heard was brilliant.  But he had fallen off a bit after they broke up.  At least it seemed to me.  I was inspired although I worried I would never reach his lyric ability.  And his intuitive sense.  Where did he get that?

But I got it after a bit and I found that if I did nothing at all but play I could get pretty good.  And then my brother grew taller and he was a natural drummer.  Suddenly I had a band.  And after a few years I finally met Kenny Myers, and then I had a great band.

Kenny was an outstanding guitarist a great songwriter and a great singer.  My brother was the best drummer I ever knew.  I wrote songs and I could sing cause I had to.  We had two singers.  Actually three.  All we would need was a good bass player and we would be there.

But out of nowhere and for no conceivable reason I got scared.  I don't know if that's what it was.  I got stoppered for sure.  What was I thinking?  I don't know.  But I saw the cliff and I wouldn't jump.  I got a job. A stupid job that I loved and I wasted twenty five years at it.  I can't find my old telecaster now and I can't find Kenny.  Not that it matters anymore I guess. Why couldn't I just unstopper that?  But it seems a bit shameful though doesn't it?

This is really an old old story.   I used to go to the Center for Creative studies at the end of the year.  The students would be selling their old stuff.  It was cheap and it was great.  I think it was cheap because most of them all ready knew this was the end of their art careers, not the beginning.  They hadn't even graduated yet

Did I think back?  Yes I did.  Did I try to find Kenny?  I don't think so.  It was over I guessed.  But it was strange.  I never thought we would be big, in fact I didn't even care.  But I knew we were good.  And I let it go.  Strangest thing I ever did maybe.  Oh I don't know. Like most people I've met, I've seemed to be enamored of throwing away good things in my life.  And I bet I'm not the only one either. 

When you try to figure out what your parents want.  Well you make a mistake.   When you try to figure anything out.  That's a mistake too.  When you try to change.  Another.  Really.  The only thing you can do is relax and float downstream. 

The other thing me and Kenny and Guilbert did was constantly make art.  We didn't call it that.  We just made things.  wax on silk.  The xr-1, ahh, that was a cool rocket launcher.  And it's funny how many painters have this close relationship with music.  Motherwell of course. Picasso all those instruments. Picabia.  It seems to me that creativity, when it's flowing flows in all directions, or many.  Most writers and musicans seem to paint too, or have other creative things that interest them.

I guess that's the thing.  When you are young you can unstopper things.  In fact if you are lucky they won't get stoppered in the first place.  My dad said you should always have one or two more things in the fire than you can handle.  He had a job. And he painted.  And he played guitar.

It's an odd thing how I often meet painters who simply do not paint.  And a few of them have come over to sort of learn how to paint, well how to get in the habit or process of painting.  And pretty much every one of them is better than I am.  Except they just don't keep at it.  Sort of like they don't care.  Except they do.  I thought maybe I could help.  But I guess I can't.  No surprise there.

Things just have to get unstoppered and sometimes when you pull out the cork you find the bottle is empty.  I think the earlier the better. While it's still full.   If you want to be creative.

You might wonder why I offered to help them at all.  Was I getting off by their failures?  No.  I was in fact completely surprised that nothing could stick.  I loved that they came over because each was a great artist, studied at the Art Institute downtown, could produce outstanding work on demand with no apparent effort.  They taught me a lot and they were good company. But they didn't stick around.  They made this great stuff and they left it here.

It was just weird.  And I appreciated their friendship and consideration.  Funny though.  I just don't understand.

Yeah, we all shine on, like the moon and the stars and the sun.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

the artful dodger

Art is never finished, only abandoned. -Leonardo da Vinci

I've always felt like one of that crew maybe even the one oliver reed played, these irish overly clever half finished half baked thieves of nothing, just enough to get by, and me with my skinny yet always flabby body skin so pale and thin as to be that of an ancient, what my sister calls our frog bodies, no hair (ah what's for anyway) and broken missing teeth like the lead singer of the pogues, yet relieved of any talent, simply endlessly putting out xeroxes of others inspired work, copying others sincere and breath takingly  inspired and totally open confessions.

And I,  I lean against the muddy lamppost waiting for them to come by, and in quick undisturbed movements taking the notes from their pockets and calling them mine, there's no signature on them, why not, you can say anythin' that you want I won't confess, I was standin' there waitin' on a friend that's all.

An I've got my eyes open for new threads,  like when jonathan stroud has bartimeaus confused by a three-legged stool thinking it's another demon in a very clever disguise,

 what an outstanding scene, brilliant beyond me of course, but not for long  -I'm watching for him to walk by on his way to the studio.

And it was because of Jonathan talking that I found out about Grettir and I bought the book too, a story beyond belief, a time in the distant past that exists in the future and you may think he made it up I don't.

And in that book is a wee bit at the end about his cousin an it was strange because instead of being in iceland where the book takes place it is in turkey where it's hot and then (a thousand years ago it was written even) it's the center of the world and all good icelandic thugs went there to guard the king, and me too, and he cuts off a man's head an has to explain himself to the king which he does in grand style.

And this is what we do today, endlessly, take a man who lived a long life and used delicate dentist like care, phrased confessed his inner self to the world. Then we get some great new writer with a chip on her shoulder and an AGENDA, and get her to chop his reputation to bits, that takes care of that, and we will crush you again if somehow you stick your head up again, even though you've been dead for 30 years already.

My god, look at the idiot agendas of the new SMART professors,  -artists as translators, writers in the digital universe, blah blah blah does blsh blsh blsh, christ it never ends, know nothing no nothin, stick our heads under the blanket and don't put it out again ever.

Yet there are always us out there, eatin thin mustard soup, but always lookin for a whale to beach, and we will get there, and strip it to the bone, and we'll take the bones too, we know this from melville and grettir, all parts of the whale have value, and I can use them for painting, and I will too.

Upon seeing the painting "The Monk by the Sea," Heinrich von Kleist, a contemporary of Friedrich's, wasn't thinking about peace of mind or romantic ecstasy. It reminded him more of an apocalypse "in its uniformity and endlessness, as if one's eyelid were cut off."

“When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.” -- Mark Twain

Monday, February 4, 2013

planting trees

Of course the first thing to do when getting a new yard is to plant some trees.  Even before weeding.  Just look around and scope it out imagining the entire plan first.  Then put some trees in the points that you need them like blocking a neighbor's garage or blocking a view into your other neighbor's living room.

Now what trees shall we plant?  The first one I put in was a kousa dogwood.  I love it's form, I love the flowers and the leaves, the color, the way it looks in the winter.

And then got hold of a large acer griseum, paperback maple for the front yard, removed the grass around it to make a bed, and planted a row of boxwood to make a hedge along the path to the front door.

And since I had a large front yard I planted two amelachier, June berry my mom used to call them, serviceberry they're called now, the tamer size (heck now you can get them in almost any size ever thought of, "growing to six feet"  or eight feet or ten feet or twenty, it is amazing how fast the stuff is changing now and it's just getting started.

Now those are my three favorite trees though I love maples and japanese maples in particular and I love the Ash trees RIP, and I love the crategus hawhtorn,  and the new elm like trees of all types except the zelkova, and oh my god don't get me started on the new grasses how extraordinary, and I mean all types.

You make a little hedge of those and put roses on the sunny side!

Now you come back and put a hedge of boxwood on the front side of your patio back there and behind it and fill in with every beautiful plant ever invented.  And you are in heaven I think.

And did I have taller trees. Oh yes.  I had a grove of Norway smiling trees towering to the far side of the front yard,  and a backyard way down back filled with maples and trillium and may flowers.

You know as things change in the future I bet nothing will change as fast as yards will.  We will all have grass that grows two inches tall and each of us will have a different color yellow, green of course, turquoise, lavender, hip new colors too.  All our trees will need no watering, there will be every conceivable shape and color stems color leaves and branches, the flowers and grasses will be electric in their shades and hues, their ability to change color, the most outlandish Japanese maples ever dreamed of, oh to have a traditional mid twenty-first century yard  !!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

the process

The process of painting usually takes a little bit of time and sometimes a lot of time.  I know I usually start at about 8 am and I get finished with four of them at about 2 pm...odd that is about six hours. Hmmm, I don't really get it.  But anyway, there is this sometimes long drying time, and with watercolors it is often the most important time for me anyway.  I can go back in as I look at it in various stages of drying and I can add small details which I imagine make the painting. You know like finish it.  Period.

And a lot of the time at the beginning I have to work with the brush a bit to get it just dry enough. And for sure I'm constantly working with the paints to get the right transparency.  I also hate to have the paints too well blended.  I want not to work with good colors but naughty not blended not cooperating colors.

Now—the thing I really wanted to say is.  I think this process time, the blending the drying all of it, going back to get a look at, all of it.  Well I think each step has a weird way of building energy, getting me to surrender, of building my energy somehow.

Except of course, when I get done I'm always exhausted ain't it funny. What the heck am I saying then?

I'm saying you need no intent, no message to give, no belief in yourself as an artist, no movement, no agenda, nothing, none of it, you don't have to have a full belly or an empty belly a drink or a morning shower, a run along the lake, a good book, nothing nothing nothing,  though I do believe a certain emptiness is best.  I used to do thousands of mantras to empty my mind, but even that I have abandoned, I have no hopes or aspirations, I am just painting in my own way good or bad I have no idea, it is just a painting that is all.

And I believe these small paintings give back to me via the process, via standing there staring at it wondering whether it is dry enough yet, watching the colors change, I know it is filling me with aspirations, with community, with belief, with love for the few members of my circle.  It satisfies me and it says yes, we are alright, let us continue again tomorrow.