Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Through the Wormhole

The other day someone asked me to compile a list of all of the artists I think are important or that I admire. I resisted that because (A) the list is constantly growing, (B) Names are constantly falling off the list and (C) I'm not sure that what I think and who I admire is all that important. My list of artists is accumulated through more than a half-century of looking at art. I miss so much because there is so much to look at, way more than could ever be accommodated by a single eye. Then, there is the fatigue factor. I will often go to look at art with the strictest notion that I will only look at a few things. This keeps me from wearing out too quickly. But, if one is to grow and add to her or his body of experience, this means that one must go often to look.
Now, I have to admit, that I don't go as often as I used to, anymore, but I still manage 20 or 30 times a year to pray in the temple and give witness to the holiest of holies. It's just that my liturgy makes no sane sense. I have wept at the first glimpse of a Jackson Pollack, yet felt complete indifference in the presence of a Tintoretto. On the other hand, I admit, I can't muster much enthusiasm for much of contemporary careerist art. By the way, someone should tell a few of the highest of the high and broadest of the broad, that not all work by A-list artists is an A.
I am a huge fan of Diebenkorn, for instance. Some years ago one of the local museums, I forget which, had a comprehensive survey of his "Ocean Park" series. I entered the show in a very enthusiastic frame of mind- but after a while, grew quite exhausted- and somewhere toward the end of the show, I had what I can only describe as an otherworldly experience where I am sure I heard the voice of Diebenkorn's ghost yelling at some harried studio assistant to run down to the hardware store and get more masking tape because they had a deadline to meet.
To the person that I resisted: I have started working on that list.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Imaginary Dances and the Thin Red Line

I was watching the movie "the Thin Red Line" yesterday while drawing. It is, to me, one of the saddest films I have ever seen, not because of all of the death and dying, but because of the poetry of unfulfillment. It is also one of the most beautiful movies I have ever seen. The images are stunningly, achingly beautiful. Almost all of the characters are interchangeable, merging into one metaphor for everylife, the work that will not be allowed to be finished.
Another preoccupation, lately, has been imaginary dancers- I mostly like the gesture and the potential kinetic moment.
In the film, Terrence Malick captures us as lesser demons, like Nick Nolte's portrayal of a Colonel driven mad by frustration and its implication of inconsequentiality.

I also want to take a moment to announce that I have created a small book (well, booklet, really,) of a few of my drawings from sketchbooks of the last year. I titled it "Amphiboly" and it is available as an on-demand print from Blurb. It is available as a 7X7 inch paper back or hardback and has forty pages of drawings and text. The paperback costs $12.95 plus sales tax and shipping. (About $23.00, total-YIKES! For this reason, I'm not marking the book up to take a profit-)

I am a little proud of it- regardless of how mediocre a talent I am, it is somehow soul-warming to hold something of yours that has found its way into print- even if it is a vanity press production.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Madam Stuka

"The problem with reality is that it keeps happening." -Wittgenstein(?)
It doesn't get better, folks. The only thing that seems to change with age is the sure understanding that there aren't any bad guys or good guys. Mother Theresa and Gandhi are the flip side of Donald Trump and Kenneth Lay- at some point they fuse somewhere in the middle.
No good deed ever goes unpunished.

The problem is that people aren't sad, they're pissed off, don't you think?

I was watching some program about Amy Winehouse (love that hair bump, reminds me of the Buddha) and I have no idea what the problem is. I'll bet she doesn't either.

I couldn't resist putting up this sketch of my dog, Penny. She looks really grumpy.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Sky is Falling

In "the Things They Carried," Tim O'Brien's book (surrealist) about a platoon of soldiers in the Vietnam War, he describes a scene of such shocking and horrible brutality, where the soldiers in venting their frustration and boredom, slowly kill a water buffalo calf by torturing it to death. At a later point in the story, the author recounts being confronted by an indignant woman at a book signing (if I remember this correctly,) who takes him to task for his cruelty. "Madam," he says, "it was only a story, fiction, I made it all up, it never really happened." (I'm paraphrasing here, as I don't quite remember the exact quote.
In a few days, the government will try to shoot down a falling spy satellite. The satellite is in a decaying orbit and there is some fear that it will fall on a populated area. The odds of this happening, of course, are pretty long, as 3/4ths of the possible landing zone is comprised of ocean, and, anyway, if it did fall on something, maybe it should fall on a military base somewhere. Theirs(?) ours, who cares, he who lives by the sword shall so perish.
Or, perhaps my metaphor is wrong- maybe it has more to do with Damocles. At any rate, the reason given for the attempt to shoot this thing down feels like a lie. (Something about they don't want anyone inhaling the fuel vapors.) I think the government lies to us because someone wants to see how preposterous their lies can get before most people call them on it. Oh, wait a minute, we are the government,.....I think I'm beginning to see the problem. At any rate, I'm hoping for a hell of a show, aren't you?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Correct Strange: Advice

In early learning of the rules of form, the inclination is to give into correctness. There is comfort in this, don't you agree? The comfort of the form allows us to avoid the gaze of the strange. This strange otherness, that which exists outside the correctness of form is dangerous and, in falling, we become a danger to ourselves and the fragile mirage that we depend on for our absolute hereness.
Sometimes a strategey for defying the stultifying effect of correctness is to give into silliness. Perhaps you accidentally say "cunt" on national Television, if you are fortunate enough to have access to it.
In any act of criticism there is at least a grain of truth. Self-deprecation and a sense of humour can sometimes go a long way to lessening the pain of perceived short-coming.

Monday, February 11, 2008


We don't know what we don't know. It always surprises me that more of the folks that I run into don't suspect that there is something, lurking, just beyond their vision, that will change their life in a profound and essential way. We were in a fast food restaurant in Bakersfield over the weekend. (Always a bad way to start the day.) I saw a woman with six children- ranging in age from about 13 to an infant. Of the six, three appeared to have Down's syndrome.
Sometimes I have to sing for my supper. There is simply no best way to do this. At least, none that works in all circumstances.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Tristan Und Isolde

We went to the LA Opera last night to see Wagner's Tristan und Isolde. Our friend Monica gave us her tickets. I can't say much about the music, as I am unable to hear or appreciate the finer points of Wagner, (same for Mozart- except in that case- too many notes.) The sets and the visuals, however, were wonderful. The David Hockney set design was really quite funny- I kept expecting Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny to walk on stage. Of course, this sums up my artistic sensibility perfectly.
John Cage wrote about an experience of taking Ravi Shankar to a symphony concert and of being amazed at how Shankar raved about how much he liked the first piece, until Cage realized that Shankar was talking about the period in which the orchestra was tuning up.
Cage also said that he could visualize a world without art and thought that it might not be such a bad place.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Spark Chamber

I had a dream about my childhood, more a memory, I think, than dream.... I saw men in heavy coats and field boots with shotguns., coming out of the woods with strings of small dead birds, slung over their shoulders.
I recently read Elie Weisel's "Night," and found myself very moved- not so much by the horror of it, although this horror is beyond comprehension, but by the notion that the Author's life must be absolutely defined by the experience, perhaps to the exclusion of all other experiences. How does a person become "normal" after this?
Are all memories, before and after, refracted through the prisim of this? I suspect that there are a large number of people who are defined by their horror, either violence, illness or madness. I understand how fortunate I am, so far, and I do not take this for granted. If we try to practice the art of justice in small ways, at all times, perhaps things will get better.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Songbirds of February

I dreamt of a big machine, like the kind you see paving highways, in my back yard. It was tended by a small man, covered in oil and dirt. He was rubbing oil on workers who were digging rows (cenotaph?) with shovels in front of the machine(is there something Freudian here?)

This morning before dawn, I heard a songbird. I've already had my fill of these winter days- I live in Southern California for this reason. (I'm not sure we are done with the season, just yet, though.) Jupiter and Venus are very close in the southeastern sky- it feels like the end of days.

Today we head North to see some old friends-