This Week I Painted Some While Lake Turned and Weather Charmed

lakeontariospring

“I Know Lake Ontario Doesn’t Look Like This in April, but Maybe It Should” 2017. Acrylic on birch panel, 24 x 24″

puzzle

“Only Jay Leno and Other Jingoes See the American Dream From Outside the Dollar Store” 2017. Acrylic on 500 piece puzzle for a dollar. What a deal!

peartreedollar2

“After Sacrificing 23 Pieces of Crap From the Dollar Store, I Planted This Baby Pear Tree” 2017. Acrylic on dollar store frame, 8 x 10″

dollarcordonbleu

“Dollar Store Frozen Chicken Cordon Bleu and Blueberry Muffin on Ceramic Plate Made in China, $3.08” 2017. Acrylic on plate, dinner plate size

dollarclip1

“This Dollar Store Clipboard Does Not Want My Dream of Mexico Unless I Make It So” 2017. Acrylic on Chinese dollar store clipboard, 10 x 14″

dollarstore

“How I Look and Feel at the Dollar Store in Town” 2017. Acrylic on dollar store frame, 8 x 10″

alligator

“Even at 50 My Attempt at an Imaginary Alligator Should Spark the Professional Curiosity of a Bored Psychiatrist” 2017. Acrylic on paper, 15 x 11″

50Train

“For Those of You Living in 1 of the Other 195 Nations, the Reason Americans Don’t Love Trains Anymore is Because Our Brains Have Been Usurped by Cognitive Dissonance Aliens” 2017. Acrylic on Stepanov packaging particle board, 12 x 16″

The Last Anxiety Dream

roseworking

“Rose Left For Work This Morning With Her Nose in a Better Place” 2017. Acrylic on paper, 11 x 15″

Rose is my wife. Or, I am her husband. They say possession is 9/10 the law, and to anyone looking, it’s obvious that we are close—married to the hilt— bearing all the positive and negative of that attachment vice/virtue the Buddhists claim is soul draining. So, emotionally, we possess each other, for better or worse, like good/bad attachments. We “get it”, and flow fairly well together, through good and bad, in concert with fluctuating hormonal balances—her month, my month, hair loss, hair gain… We have nearly mastered the art of cohabitation, and she, whether realizing it or not, is primed and ready for a sweet nirvana, if she ever desires/not desires its potential awakening.

Me, on the other hand, is an anxious mess. The culprit (if I must ascribe blame. And I must because I am not healed) is culture, and the roles it pressures us into, wittingly or unwittingly. Rose is breadwinner. We eat and stay dry and warm because she maintains acceptable work outside the home. A steady job that pays well enough for me to stay home and keep life about us steady and content. I am literally bread-maker—stay-at-home cook and part-time butler, part-time painter, writer, curator. These are the chores separating me from Rose, for we are both very sensitive, full time spouse and parent, and there should be no comparisons made in these departments. I am an okay cook, decent butler, yet would fail the most basic Emily Post white-glove inspection.

Selective breeding among male Throops carried on fairly well without me for 56,000 years, and then Rose and I came along and upset the stream. Damned it up good and proper, I’d say, for I haven’t gone a day in my adult life without some manner of confusion about my place and role(s) in a society that worships nothing but abstractions—namely, money.

To say I am an anxious person would be a gross understatement. I am more like an outwardly successful squirrel, yet unsatisfied with myself in a world of squirrels that covets and adores a mutual abstraction. Squirrels around me who act like squirrels day after day, accumulating nuts, building impressive nests, braving seasons and storms, but underlying every accomplishment is the pressing desire to accumulate the abstraction that will make the squirrel a new squirrel, refined prince or princess in squirrel kingdom. I am infected with the abstraction also, which makes me a constantly dissatisfied squirrel. Let’s say this abstraction occupying us squirrels practically night and day is the desire to accumulate human manufactured snow-globes. Many generations ago, some wise and economically trained squirrel scribes thought to create a falling leaf money supply to ease and simplify transactions among squirrels of Squirreldom, however knowing the ubiquitous existence of trees, sought a limited, countable base currency to give an abstract value to something that was readily available in Squirreldom—leaves. Leaf banks opened up practically overnight, followed by upstanding squirrels founding colleges and universities, the development of a million acceptable leaf-paying occupations (none of them nut gathering), and finally a culturally devastating, squirrel-separating atomization.

Anyway, I had a dream last night, my last one about money if hope can help it. I was at Donald Trump’s next wedding and the cheapskate expected a gift. 60 dollars is a lot when you can’t make that in a month from painting. Rose’s brother from D.C. was there with his wife telling her in a false admiring, deeply condescending way, that it was “too cool” that I painted—Oh, but I could see the mockery in his eyes and hear it in the tone of his voice. Shamed again! And not for the last time that night. After the gifts were laid out for all and sundry to see, Trump had my gift, a painting, taken out and thrown in the trash. Rose confided to me that she provided a back-up without my knowledge—a Samsung® tablet for the new bride. I was so mad. I stormed out of the tent and went to sleep on a servant’s cot in some nearby dusty garage.

The end.

Faith that my marriage is secure, I intend to reach my end beating to death inside me this false god money. Whenever I have deep doubt, (and that is as often as dinner), I will take that negative energy and with it,  push as hard as I can into a positive dream.  This money god has got all of us squirrels absolutely frazzled. All my nuts aren’t secure, but I know where to find them. I had no faith in gods. I want no faith in money. I’ll play my faith at this marriage and focus my dreams on a persistent present moment. I will continue to write and paint erratically, like a squirrel caught both ways in the road.

Friends, family, and safe acquaintances, please continue to buy the paintings I paint and books that I write. Heck, $50 is “better than a sharp stick in the eye”, as my bodhisattva wife often proclaims. I leave you now with a few paintings by me and a song by someone else.

“The Bodhisattva Poses With Her Anniversary Pot” 2016. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20″

spirit animal

“Is the Squirrel My Spirit Animal Or Am I Just Hyper-Paranoid?” 2015. Acrylic on canvas, 14 x 11″

rosegoldfish

“In November, 2051, Rose Will Be Out in the Backyard ‘Digging a Goldfish Pond’. Just Wave, and Carry On” 2017. Acrylic on Alexey’s packaging particle board, 12 x 16″

Please look the other way, and just listen….

Winter Lessons Drowning Girl by Roy Lichtenstein Ron Throop

Winter LessonsRoy_Lichtenstein_Drowning_Girl

Left: Winter Lessons by Oswegonian Ron Throop /Right: Drowning Girl By escaped Oswegonian Roy Lichtenstein

A post from March 2014, to introduce Oswego to those arriving from Hyperallergic:

Wow. Yesterday I read a 2004 article on Roy Lichtenstein, a very famous painter of the late twentieth century. I already knew that he taught for a couple years at the state college in Oswego. I also read in a biography that his wife hated it here. The winters were tough and she began to drink like a fish. My elderly next door neighbor said she caused quite a stir at the faculty wives’ club the night she wore colored stockings. I never knew what a great failure Lichtenstein was the day before he started painting comics. He was an abstract painter who loved Picasso and Cézanne. His paintings amassed unsold in the basement.

Yesterday I read with laughing eyes the early tale of Roy. The parallels are enough of a story to keep me plugging away at my own failure. I quote at length.

“Roy would say, ‘I know any minute someone’s going to come and shake me and say, Mr Lichtenstein, it’s time for your pills, and I’ll be back in Oswego, in a wheelchair.’ There was a touch of Lichtenstein’s characteristic self-deprecating humour about that. But also a sense that he had been, as she says, “very lucky to have been where he was at a given moment”.

Roy knew, like all painters do, that success is a crap shoot with a 1,679,616-sided die. Only a wise, self-deprecating Oswego artist would admit to this.

“But the teaching post he held in Oswego from 1958 to 1960 was a low point of his career, very far from the wealth and art stardom that were his within a couple of years… At the time he got the job in Oswego, Lichtenstein had been working as a painter for nearly 20 years, and achieved almost no success. Bruce Breland, a colleague of the time, remembered that Lichtenstein ‘had shown in New York—with no results. He was showing paintings and they were going stone-nowhere.’”

All my paintings also going cement-nowhere in the basement.

“Lichtenstein did a series of part-time jobs—window dresser, draftsman, furniture designer, painting dials on instruments—while his wife, a successful interior designer, was the main breadwinner. Lee Csuri, sculptor and wife of another old friend, remembered that in the mid-1950s, ‘Roy was very despondent about what he was doing. And feeling he was nowhere. His painting of that time was abstract expressionist, but it was very muddy’”.

Yahoo! My wife is a graphic designer, the bread winner, and my feelings of despondency on a good day have me yank off just enough mustache nose hairs to goad me to the next chore.

“Then in 1958, he got the job in Oswego. But as Avis Berman, a researcher into Lichtenstein’s life, concluded: ‘Living in Oswego was disastrous for the Lichtensteins. The winters were brutal and Isabel lacked fulfilling work, and began drinking in earnest.’ So at 37, Lichtenstein had a dead-end post in the sticks, a wife who was rapidly becoming an alcoholic, and a studio full of paintings no one wanted to look at. Then his luck began to change.”

Oooh, I can only hope.

“As Dorothy Lichtenstein tells the story, ‘Roy was always trying to get back to the New York area, and in 1960 he was able to get a job teaching at Rutgers University in New Jersey. And there was a group of interesting and lively people there, including the artists Alan Kaprow and George Segal. Roy had a feeling that if he’d still had a job teaching out in the boondocks, he might have done his first Pop work, but not carried on. He felt there was something that comes from response and encouragement that fuels you to go further than you might in a vacuum.’”

Response and encouragement. Roy had a feeling. Ron has one from time to time. He expresses it, and in return receives the appreciative song from a cricket stowing away under a stair in an abandoned Oswego factory.

“But there might have been another trigger. As Chuck Csuri, Lee’s husband, recalls, Lichtenstein’s son David came home one day from school and complained: ‘Joey’s father’s a policeman, and Henry’s father’s this, and Virginia’s does that. And you’re an artist and you can’t draw.’ Roy said, ‘Oh, OK.’ So he got out a canvas and drew a comic-book image. The result might have been Look Mickey, with Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse. In it, Donald is fishing, and says, ‘Look Mickey, I’ve hooked a big one’. And a big, new idea was exactly what Lichtenstein had got hold of himself”.

That is all the parallel I need. Back in 1998 Roy’s spirit must have hightailed it back to Oswego, and flew up my nose.

Now to focus on the work and the big break which is sure to come at fifty, using the logic of arrested development afflicting the middle-aged in the 21st century. I shall keep at work, seek escape, and let my mustache hairs grow into my mouth.

Save

Save

Home Economics Honorary Degree Most Obvious in Springtime When My Toes Begin to Wiggle

cosmologicalsatans

“I’m Not a Religious Man, However, Cosmologically, I’d Have to Say That a Couple of Enormous Space Satans are Smothering Us Up Good and Proper in a Whole Lot of Ignorance and Want” 2017. Acrylic on canvas, 30 x 24″

In 1936, my grandmother Evelyn graduated from Cornell University with a degree in home economics.  She learned many tricks of the “being alive” trade. Her parents allowed her a college education in order to find a “good family” to marry into. Ha! The joke was on them! She found my grandfather Ronald, a poor mechanical engineering student, and she brought all that accumulated home business knowledge (for a would-be millionaire) to a modest little paradise in the small town where my parents and then I was born. She was an expert canner and knew how to skin and cook squirrel. Ronald took a steady job with the state highway department, played on his tractor, and in the autumn, helped fill Grandma’s root cellar (the basement) with enough potatoes to feed a family of four until June.

In a few days, I shall become a grandfather. I have an honorary degree in home economics. I think my grandmother would be proud. Long ago when I was still in high school, she predicted that I would become either a restaurant chef or a philosopher. I got close to both, but never achieved full status in either profession. After my grandmother died, some time between acting chef and philosopher, I tacked on painting as probable bread-winning pursuit.

No dice.

I am just a non-credentialed stay-at-home husband and father. I will continue to paint, and cook, and think about ways and means to the good life. And in spring, once again, notice that near-constant wiggling of my toes and pressing urge to clear out the winter, clean up the nest, and find self-worth in a world that has for the most part abandoned post-secondary degrees for the family-raising arts. I found my bread-winner and built a modest little paradise without the back-slapping congratulations from a broken society uninterested in an able-bodied man (or woman) taking up where his or her grandmother left off.

Sort of.

I refuse to barbeque the local squirrels. But I do make tortillas from scratch and grow my own garlic.

 

Save

I Believe it is Inherent for the Artist to Doubt His or Her Own Face

Meenough

2017. Acrylic on (8) scrap canvas, 6 x 6″

News this morning says that the big penis bomb dropped on the subterranean  compound in Afghanistan killed 36 ISIS fighters. All bad guys according to the Pentagram, I mean Pentagon, upside-down crucifix… whatever the name for “Satan Central” is these days. So I get low some mornings down in the basement studio, knowing that, with a dead Constitution, we are all just a broken people without a country. And I paint emotionally.

The Pentagon thought a million Vietnamese were all “bad guys”. A million Iraqis too. 300 million dollars (cost of exploding penis) to kill 36 repressed suicide bombers, and our heavily armored, eye-brow-cured “leader” declares it a success. And yet, the ISIS gang can achieve equal success, and more by murdering innocents at an airport, or shopping mall, or public park—wherever the heck they want to. And all they need for it is some wires, TNT, an electrician, and of course a man or woman whose child was killed by the Pentagram, I mean, Pentagon, no, I mean upside-down crucifix.

My God, this broken war-mongering state has made so many psychologically sick persons that it wouldn’t be difficult to recruit a few, and for a million bucks a pop, strap some explosives to their bodies and drop them from airplanes onto any heavily ISIS’d desert military compound, or, tit for tat, an ISIS airport (Oh wait, they don’t have any of those), shopping mall (none of those either), or public park (nope, zippy, nada).  There are many American life failures who might offer up their bodies for a cool mil to be collected by loved ones after a successful mission. And it would simultaneously free up millions for home improvement. Infrastructure, housing, health care.

Nope. The corporito mafia wouldn’t get its cut.

Anyway, Happy Easter! In 2004, during the recent memory insanity of constitutionally illegal Iraq war, I wrote the following open letter and mailed 40 copies to all the religious houses in my city and countryside. Hummers were delivering their broken families to church, while the paid-for military was spreading disease all over the globe. It was time to scold the scared little preacher lambs. They weren’t doing their Jesus job. Cost me 40 stamps and I never got one reply. Oh well Mr. Vonnegut, so it goes…

An Open Letter to My Local Messengers of the Gospel to be Read Aloud This Easter Sunday….

Earlier today I heard over my car radio that a mosque in Fallujah, Iraq had been struck by three U.S. missiles. A Mosque in Iraq. Missiles. In 1938 rocks were thrown at Jews and their windows. The Night of Broken Glass.Today, April 8, 2004, forty Iraqis were blown to pieces by your government. A sacred house. A holy shrine. Today I believe this mosque to be the holiest place on earth. Little Jesus was one of those children inside, crouching, holding his tiny ears while your government assassins melted him.
This Easter Jesus will die and rise from the grave for Iraqi children. Why should he even bother with the Americans? Our children are not in need of any god or its savior. Our children have been orphaned by the holy spirit.
So now you know what has happened, and what will you do about it? Myself? I stuck my head out the car window and screamed a thousand curses on mankind. With all my vocal might I shouted out hate until I nearly passed out with rage. If war is crazy, then a church that is silent about war is criminally insane. Criminal to Jesus Christ. To men, to birds of the air and beasts of the land and of the sea. A mosque is burning and children are screaming for their mothers and fathers. Grief is destroying the families of Iraq and I must do my part to block your false Easter joy with cries of their suffering.
I am tired of crying my heart out to fallow fields, to oblivious trees and squirrels. It is time to confront the men of my village. The truth is that your church is partly responsible for the premeditated murder of human beings. I call on you to end the global murder perpetuated by your silence, your acquiescence, your tax dollars and those of your congregation’s. You have a pulpit and therefore a responsibility to God and the people to right the wrongs of your brothers and sisters.
The children of Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine… Are you not getting the story correct? Who is David and who is Goliath? If Jesus was walking the streets of Fallujah this morning, where would he run to when all hell broke loose? To the mosque of the holy spirit, or to the Bradley tank? Do I have the New Testament wrong? Have I been away so long that Christianity has warped into a reliable adjunct of the Pentagon? Do you ever wonder why people don’t pack full your churches? Do you speak for Jesus or the American emperor? Are you a Pharisee, a mobster, a coward? For God’s sake, stop reading Christ as if he were literate! You know as well as me when the gospel was written. You know who wrote it too. A good comparison would be the Indian Parliament in the year 2300 interpreting Gandhi’s message for the masses, with uplifting words as well as a massive arsenal of nuclear weapons.
Please now, the suffering people of Iraq are deserving of good news this Easter. Say something for them if you can claim understanding of anything Jesus. Why so many preachers live the better part of their spiritual lives in Revelations will always be a mystery to me. Maybe fear and impotence play a larger role than I had imagined. Maybe after all is said and done, the lot of you just suffer from spiritual envy. You can’t deny that those terrorized Muslims sure know how to feel!
I think regular doses of suffering would make us better believers too, but unfortunately Walmart doesn’t carry any of that in stock. In America, Sunday church is only as palatable as the brunch afterwards. The latter is always too cheap for real maple syrup. The former just gyps the spirit.
For Christ’s sake, go out into the streets this Easter! At least lead your congregation on a march through the parking lot. Point to the machines that are destroying their planet. Help them to understand what that means… to not have a sustainable planet. For contrary to present Christian representative opinion, global warming is a Jesus problem. Also nuclear weapons, the military budget, the Patriot Act… Jesus, these are all very good Jesus problems. I’m afraid that the real revelation these days is that most of you are so far gone from the teachings of Christ that American Christian spirituality is one of the world’s biggest jokes. You are good comedy. Funny like the Morris family in Uganda
preaching the gospel to unbelievers. I think that a Ugandan criminal has more Jesus in him than all the Morris family and their church sponsors combined. Why? because chances are that that poor sinner has actually suffered. Americans don’t suffer. They weep into their pillows and buy cars. And you, who could possess so much authority in your own house, allow them too many transgressions, even these mass murders of late. Why? For your own security?
For the sake of all God’s creatures, risk your jobs this Easter Sunday. Tell the people what they do not want to hear. Give to the Iraqi children who have died for you. Cease negotiations with the Emperor. Let the people come to your mosque for reasons of life and death. But first tell the people what they damn well need to hear. That Jesus Christ would not be proud of them. At least no Jesus of my heart would die for these hide-behind-missile child murderers.
The killing must stop now. It is your job to stop it. Make our Jesus proud! Imitate the Christ this Easter.