Wednesday, May 28, 2014

thinking about Cezanne

A work of art that did not begin in emotion is not art. -Paul Cezanne

The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution.  - Paul Cezanne

If I think, everything is lost. -Paul Cezanne

Whatever your life's work is, do it well.  A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better. -Martin Luther King

I've found a place that would amaze you.  People used to live there, but now it's all overgrown and no one goes there.  Absolutely no one-only me...Just a little house and a garden.  And two dogs.  -Karel Capek

Monday, May 26, 2014

water, water everywhere

Water is the driving force of all nature. -Leonardo DaVinci

To have faith is to trust yourself to the water.  When you swim you don't grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown.  Instead you relax, and float. -Alan Watts

Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it. -Lao Tzu

Here lies one who's name is writ in water. - John Keats epitaph for himself

Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.  The very deep did rot: O Christ! That ever this should be!  Yes, slimy things did crawl with legs Upon the slimy sea. -Samuel Taylor Coleridge 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner', pt.2

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

transform: afterword

The Dream Keeper.   
Bring me all of your dreams, 
You dreamer, 
Bring me all your 
Heart Melodies
That I may wrap them
In a blue cloud-cloth
Away from the too-rough fingers
Of the world.
-Langston Hughes

I'm sorry.  There appeared to be some questions left that I did not address.  But all of them can be answered with one simple response.  No one alters.  No one becomes someone different.  They remain the same person.  But new things are saddled to them.  And the older they get the more they reflect these bizarre additions on the look on their faces, the stranger their gait becomes, until, finally they topple over, and cannot get up again.

And so, within a week of the events I described,  Ralph became narrow and his prejudices returned, though now he had nowhere to fasten them.  He took me out that week and demanded that I spread the sand throughout the hill and work it into the soil.  I tried my best in my eight year old way.  I couldn't get the shovel, which was taller than I, to go into that hard pack he called soil.  

The glass jar and the candy disappeared. We went to a bingo game which I, unbelievably, won.  I looked at all the stuff of which I could take any piece I wanted, and Ralph walked by and said, find something for your mom.  I tried, I felt sure there would be something, but he and my grandma were walking out the door,  I felt afraid, I ran to catch them, and he said let's go.

I fell into my usual self-destructive behavior, knocking down a hornet's nest, walking into a quick sand pit, and throwing a king snake at a rattlesnake to see what might happen.  And Ralph kept thinking, the glabella vanished.  The end.  I was left with a cognitive depression, a feeling of being caught between sleep and waking.  I was no longer allowed to watch Gorgeous George.  I moped and sulked.  And then I got sent home.  That's all.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

dormiveglia part 2

Ralph was a little startled but he was trying to know what was going on.  He was happy his girl was married but something was a little off.  Who was that guy after all?

But no sooner was the war over than Ralph was shipped overseas.  Halfway around the world.  And here he met the gentlest kindest spirits he would ever know.  As my grandmother would say, they were such nice people, and it seemed practically all of them were artists.  And generous too.   One great painter there, upon seeing my grandfather's utter disbelief at the quality of his work, insisted on giving him a painting.  It now hangs above my son's bed where I hope it spreads good will.

Meanwhile Anne, my grandmother, chose to take the train to the far north to see the Frenchman who lived there.  And while at Paul Jacoulet's studio she bought the cheapest piece she could find, which is now dumped upside down at my sister's begging to be restored.

Finally, after six years they returned to the states, to Atlanta of all places.   And finally, I met him, as I was sent out on the first jet to make that journey.  I was as I always have been -afraid- of everyone. But Ralph had bought several hundred white candy hearts with words on them and filled a giant glass with them in my room.  I ate two or three of them but was careful to read the words first.  The next day a truck drove in to the hilly backyard and dumped a load of sand.  Ralph brought out a load of green army men and I played all day, carefully, not to disperse too much sand.  And at night we did the one thing allowed.  We watched Gorgeous George on television.  I wasn't allowed in the living room, nor in any other room really.

I was in heaven, I guess.  But Ralph was doing a lot of thinking.  You had only to watch him to see that.  Something had happened.  I knew that.  And Anne sat in the living room reading. -And on Sundays.  I knew they were Catholic.  But they didn't go to Mass.  And I, wisely, -cause I hated going, didn't ask about it.

Friday, May 16, 2014

the transformation part 1

The transformation of my grandfather started off when Ralph, as an Irishman in Grand Rapids -a one dirt road town -proudly full of all the ugly prejudices of his kind, set up with his accounting degree, as narrow as one could be.

He made my mother put every penny she had in the bank.  Each week she took her nickel allowance with her to the bank.  She had done this as long as she could remember maybe eight years straight.  But then -in 1932 -the bank closed, all the money was gone.

For my mother it was a lesson, the lesson, in saving money.  For Ralph it was even more dramatic.
The bank was closed, all his lifetime of savings was gone, his job was gone.  And then the bank, still closed demanded he pay his property tax and when he couldn't they took the house.  This happened all over western Michigan, and all the Irishmen were now renters or homeless.  They were all out of home, job, and money.  But not out of children...

Ralph, still prejudiced and narrow, ended up in Massachusetts with the family.  He was back in the army which I'm sure he felt he had seen the last of in 1918.  He insisted that my mother go to a close by Catholic girls school, not Amherst where she wished to go, which was 15 miles away. 

Her older brother brought a friend home from Berkeley, a very tall and very very thin man in a bright green silk suit and yellow sunglasses.  This was not a man Ralph had ever seen the likes of.  He had a degree that Ralph had never heard of.  This man asked my mother to marry him and she said yes.

The war had just ended and apparently this man had been important in it...but how?  It didn't make sense to Ralph. This man wasn't in the army.  He had been threatened by them when he tried to join. My mother moved with this man, who she didn't really know, 2500 miles away.  Life was not done with Ralph.  We will talk more about the man in the bright green suit.  And of the artists who "came out of the ground", and of Ralph's transformation  -next time.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

don't bend

Don't bend; don't water it down; don't try to make it logical; don't edit your own soul according to fashion.  Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly. -Franz Kafka

A room hung with pictures is a room hung with thoughts.  -Joshua Reynolds

Art is the means by which we communicate what it feels like to be alive.  -Anthony Gormley

Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing. -Georgia O'keefe

A person's life purpose is nothing more than to rediscover, through the detours of art, or love, or passionate work, those one or two images in the presence of which his heart first opened.  Albert Camus

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

internal signals

It seems to me that as painters get older they tend to ignore the internal signals that have guided their earlier work.   It is as if each new work is a blow up of a very small part of an earlier work.

Now of course this may or may not be true.  We just need to find an MFA in Art History and ask them.  They can tell us.  I think of Picasso's small bird of peace that he did in the fifties that became hugely reproduced in the sixties and seventies.  But of course this is not true...for as many painters there are in this world there are as many paths.

There is only one success: to be able to spend your life in your own way, and not to give others absurd maddening claims upon it. -Christopher Morley

Oops, I made a mistake here. While I was rambling around writing this, I accidentally stumbled over to my friend Thige's blog. Thibault Germain. As soon as I do that I find myself lost in his beautiful work. I forget what I was thinking about and I care nothing for finishing this. I just think, well if I could, I will just go and make beautiful work, just exactly like his, and live my life in spiritual peace. Peaceful colors, subtle hues, carefully chosen amazing. And it is all in French, a language which seems like a warm bath.

As I sit now and imagine how to spend my imaginary billions, I think of building a huge medical building, as nice as the Guggenheim, and I will fill it with his work.  Everyone who comes in will meet the best doctors and dentists, all free, they will be surrounded and healed by this work, just as I was as a child, when I walked through the Mark Tobey's on my way to the dentist.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

I have nothing to say

Occasionally you sit down n front of this thing and say to yourself -I have nothing to say I have never had anything to say.  

You look at the keys and they all look black as if it doesn't matter which key you press.  They are all the same.  They are all meaningless slabs of black rock with ancient Egyptian symbols on them.  There is no possibility of meaning because you don't understand them.

And certainly the same should be said about the paintings.  They have no sense, no form of expression and convey nothing.

I feel like I'm fifteen again, a time when no thought had the energy to enter my head, no feeling had a feeling to express, nothing was glued together, everything fell apart with its lack of sustenance, its total void.  The only possible answer was reading and playing music.

And rowing.  Taking that metal boat down to the lake and rowing.  That at least felt good.  Where is everybody I used to ask myself out on the lake alone in a bizarre quiet on a warm Virginia spring day.

And how did Aldous Huxley know the name of those plastic wraps on the end of his shoelaces?  How could he make up phrases like the near familiar object beyond the diaphanous prism?  What did that mean?  And where is anyone?  Are they all at home doing homework?

Friday, May 9, 2014

am I free?

I often wonder: Am I free?  I don't know exactly what that means.  But for me its something like do I feel free?  Do I feel like I live where I want to? Do I do what I want?  Think what need to think?

And even down inside I want to know what does free mean?  Why do I often feel chained, strangled, unable to say what I need to say, unable to express what I feel welled up inside me?  Am I simply a recalcitrant?  Not even able to stand the authority of my own inarticulate self?

And I wonder did I forget how to say things, how to think things, how to look at things?  Did this happen back in kindergarten when I painted my first painting that wonderful blue piece I did then?  
Did I forget what I was doing?  Forever?

Why do I do the work I do? What can these things say to me?  How do I know when they are done?  I stare and stare at them and I think, speak to me please,  tell me why you exist how did I form you? or even how did I find you?

It is totally ridiculous. Don't cha think?  Why does anything get found or painted or shaped or even expressed?  Why in heaven's name does a book get written?  Who does that writing?  What are they saying?  What can an artist be thinking?  What happens?

And I wonder sometimes, how many of them disappear? These artists.  Go unnoticed unwanted unneeded?  Probably millions and millions of them.  My father used to paint these extraordinary things,  sometimes the bleakest work, or a beautiful joyous watercolor, not many, but enough to establish a broad range.  Then he stopped.  He would do something else, like collect stamps.   I'd like to do that.

But I only like them on envelopes with a letter inside.  I found one once from a woman in Paris writing to her children in England.  It seemed so touching.  She claimed she would be home soon.  
It was in a beautiful handwriting...but something in it rang false...a strange phrase maybe, a wandering when she should be saying when she would come home.  I felt a sadness.  I thought, she is not coming back.  Ever.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

the mad doctor

I was sitting in the dentist's chair for two hours again this week and the dentist was working on the same tooth once again.  Now two hours twice is a long long time...and while I was sitting there I started to wonder what could be really going on..

I began to wonder if she wasn't implanting a device in my tooth that could tell them exactly where I am and what I am thinking...and I began to wonder why this sweet and sensitive girl would be doing this to me -what possessed her?

I could imagine her and the other dentist listening to my thought and talking about them...
-Well he asks, why isn't it working?
-Well it is working, we checked all the signals thingies an stuff.
-No there are no thoughts! he responded.
-I guess he doesn't have any.
-People always have thoughts...
-Maybe he's not a person, or maybe he just doesn't think...

Slowly they are unraveling my mind, breaking through the iron bands that guard my thoughts...

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

hello future

Hello future...I know when you read this all of us reading it now will be gone.  I hope you can think kind things about us.  Maybe your dads and moms spoke of us in happy phrases.  But I'm not really going to talk about us.  We're gone after all, swept away, its a new playing field, a blank canvas, it is you future.

Let's are you?  Are you all liking this new world?  It kinda looks hazy from here, out of focus...I'm sure it has all the new miracles, the inventions of the future, like walking, that's a good one, do you like it?  I always did.  

I bet there are many many great artists in your day, from all over the galaxy,  that must be fun, to see the new stuff as it is created.  It's a great pleasure now really.  Although only a certain group of us care to see the stuff.

You might like it if I talked about this stuff, but it's just too boring.

Well not really -its just that I can't think of anything to say today.  I think I've just got to much on my mind, like going to pick up the phone for Guthrie and getting Rook some new insects to eat, and taking Seth to get a shot and going to his guitar lessons and getting him some more lunch food etc. etc. I'm sure you get this stuff, like I've got to figure out how to get my wedding dress fitted etc...

And what happens sometimes is that that kinda stuff just wipes out my dreaming...even erases my connection.  It's like I fell on the ground and got dirt and grit in my just don't work fact it just stops movin...

maybe its just that I haven't taken anything in recently...the stuff that oils my brain...and it gets rusty fast when left on it own.

Monday, May 5, 2014

It feels good

I must admit it feels good to be back in Painterland.  I've been busy the last few days, and they were fun, but this is the place I call home.  This is where I sit at the big table and Vincent sits across from me, and James Whistler to my left, and Matisse and Picasso to my right.

Anyone of them could be sitting anywhere really.  They do not move around though.  There is a lot of drinking going on, though there are those who never drink,  there are a few chess games that are happening.  And there is me, embarrassed to be here at all with these geniuses,  I'm just sitting here and I feel like I am in heaven -I am glad to be here -I know I am a defalcator, a confidence man...

And I know they know it too.   -but they just don't care.  There is too much to drink and to eat, and marvelous arguments going on about nothing.   I am glad to be invisible in this grand company, just to listen and to watch.

And once in a while someone will stop and talk with me for a minute or two, be it Max Ernst or Andre Breton, Robert Rauschenberg, or Juan Miro.  I find them all charming, all flattering, even though the comments may not be so flattering.  They are all interested in images, in the shaping of perception, in the recall of memory.

And though I can be here only a minute or two before it all fades away in the morass of responsibilities and duties,  this visit has been golden for me.  Thank you my friends for having existed, for having lived in this world, some even concurrently with me.   Thank you for all you have created.