Thursday, September 25, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Friday, September 19, 2008
Unattributed photo from the Web
Whew! Glad I got that off my chest.
So, Built to Spill. Wow. Unlike most rock songs that are made up of vocal lines supported by guitar riffs, Doug Marsch’s unlikely Neil Young-ish voice veers in and out of epic, sprawling jams (and I’m not a jam fan, per se) that create loud soaring layers of shifting noise so dense that, although you can see guitars, a keyboard, bass, and cello up there on the stage, it’s almost impossible to attribute what you’re hearing to any recognizable instruments—except for the powerful beat that holds it all together (despite drummer jokes I really am going to be a rock drummer in my next life). It’s a sound that envelops you, takes you over, soaks into every pore. After “Velvet Waltz” I leaned over to Maria and said, “That was like having sex” to which she answered, “Yeah, if you’re tripping.” And they weren't even half way into the set. Olafur Eliasson talks about making people aware of themselves—“seeing yourself seeing”—as an intention in his art—well, this is about “feeling yourself hearing.”
So I took the day off from reading Sarah Palin emails (you want to read them but you don’t want to read them), and while I’m tired, I also feel psychically cleansed and ready for…whatever.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Meanwhile, cleaning and reorganizing my painting storage this summer rekindled my interest in making more “journal” paintings—a series I did for ten years where I noted, in oil paint on canvas, words and symbols that represented the emotions and events of my daily life. The paintings were born of frustration—with my painting (what was I doing and why was I doing it? who was I doing it for?) and with a life circumscribed by illness, work, and no time for a studio practice—even if I wanted one, which I wasn’t sure I did. Eight years before I had “dropped out” at a moment of success, made the decision not to show my work, and from then on when I did do something in the studio, I did my best to make it unsalable—by painting over old paintings or using those crappy pre-stretched canvases (a decision I regret, because I like those paintings now). I also gave much of it away. When I did my first journal painting, choosing to use personal details as content was also an act born of perversity—who would care? (And ten years after that, when the art world was awash in intimate minutiae, seemed like a good time to give the journal paintings up).
Forty Days, 1992, oil on canvas, 80" x 48"
My decision now to make another journal painting has turned out to be weirdly synchronistic. I started the first with an old painting, 80” x 48,” which I ruled off in two-inch segments so that each represented a day, and added up to the exactly 40 days (a Biblical number) between my birthday and Election Day, 1992—when Bill Clinton became president, winning out over George H. W. Bush and Ross Perot. In each two-inch strip I noted what I did that day (on my birthday the art director at TIME, for whom I was working, took me to lunch at the Palio Bar—those were the days!—and son Matt took me to see a private concert by Soul Asylum, remember them?) and I ended it with figures derived from the election polls. That was, of course, before cell phones, when the polls were pretty accurate. The numbers started out Clinton 57-Bush 37 and ended with Clinton 44-Perot 17-Bush 39, while Clinton won 43-17-37. This time there are 42 days between my birthday and the election so I have to reconfigure a bit. Also the polls are now wildly inaccurate—but at least it gives me something to do other than bite my nails.
Friday, September 12, 2008
White Crest Beach, Wellfleet, MA
This vacation at the Cape, the first like it in years, definitely qualified. After three lobsters, three crème brulees, an evening of manic living room karaoke, early morning pond swims, outdoor showers, too much sun, perfect surf, and haddock every morning for breakfast, I was refreshed and renewed. I didn’t read anything heavier than Spin and didn’t go near a computer. (I have to admit that there was a moment when I was tempted to post, but my friends restrained me. Friends don’t let friends blog on vacation.) The only downsides were mosquito bites and Sarah Palin’s speech accepting her candidacy for vice-president of the PTA, which we felt compelled to watch. However the next night, instead of listening to McCain, we went to a lecture by Thomas Nozkowski at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, which proved to be a more worthwhile use of our time. An artist who makes only about twelve small paintings a year, Nozkowski’s down-to-earth presentation made me itch to get back into the studio.
The September Spin I was reading had an interview in which Patti Smith, after stating that she's neither analytical nor philosophical, is nothing but philosophical. Resisting categorization, she addresses her multiple roles:
…my goal in life was never to become a musician. I’m not a musician. I drew and wrote poetry for ten years before I wrote Horses. I published books. Why do people want to know exactly who I am? Am I a poet? Am I this or that? I’ve always made people wary. First they called me a rock poet. Then I was a poet who dabbled in rock. Then I was a rock person who dabbled in art. But for me, working in different forms seemed like a very organic process. From an early age I studied people like DaVinci and William Blake and Jean Cocteau. They all did a lot of things. But if you want to call me anything, call me a worker. I do work.
The next time someone asks me if I consider myself more of a painter than a writer or vice versa, I’m going to say, “I do work.”
Thomas Nozkowski, Untitled (8-96), 2007, oil on linen on panel, courtesy of PaceWildenstein.