The Painter Has No Dowry… Yet

The Painter Has No Dowry... Yet

My daughter is getting married and she isn’t a reader of this vitriol. She is not quite a half year out of graduate school, has been awarded an art teaching position at her high school alma mater, and is engaged to a good man whom she loves deeply. I think she stays away from my writing because sometimes it is bile, and she is one of the strong happy bases in my life who dilutes the acid of me, and no doubt in the process, often compromises snippets of her own immediate feelings of well being to do so. Like all daughters and sons, she is a bit ignorant of the cornucopian hope/worry of the future her parents imagine for her. The hundred mile commute to and from her new job in a hundred dollar car. The payback of student loans at a loan shark interest rate our government sets to lock up the joy of living to our nation’s young and eager. The fear of return of last autumn’s double mononucleosis that found her worn down from overwork, and paid her dearly for it. We worry knowing worry is futile. Living check-to-check, from debt-to-debt is nobodies’ joy, yet for the struggling creative artist in America, it can be a season in hell. The work is not an issue. The work gets done. The paintings amass in piles on the basement floor, or, if framed, stacked against the wall along the perimeter. You keep painting and dreaming the painting will pay off, someday. Brick by brick you build a delusional optimism or succumb to the madness of failure, which is an internal flame all men share in all cultures—yet becomes a conflagration to the artist of that culture who still retains its traditions. I want to be a part of my human family. But they are embarrassed of me. Whether in Tanzania or the U.S.A., all fathers desire a proverbial dowry toward their daughter’s wedding day. Here in the states nuptial traditions are falling by the wayside. The roles are shifting. Husbands and wives compete for careers. Money flows if you want money. All can work so the dowry is dead. But the tradition lingers. Our daughter will make more moolah this month teaching than I have made my whole life as creative writer and painter. Soon she could support me and pay Rose a dowry to “get Dad off her back”. That is just how the modern global village would have it be, (no doubt, by virtue of my country’s economy stuffing its money cheese down the throats of earth’s nations). No more traditions. No meals at the table. Both parents off to work at jobs they despise to come home and count the money, which is never enough. So I fight tradition (as creative painter) yet adhere to it in daily life, maintaining a strict regimen to nuclear family closeness which is a nigh impossible task in a nation replete with personal comfort junkies. Believe me, financially, it does not pay.

There lies the painter’s frustration, and he may take it out from time to time on curators of museums and galleries. Of course they cannot support him! Their donor’s misconceptions of themselves make the artist’s delusions look like children’s dreams. He wants to be a humble painter. He charges twenty dollars less an hour than a level 9 secretary to the department chair. The garbage man makes fifty dollars more a day than what the artist would want to make in his imagination with strawberries. The dishwasher is on a financial path tenfold more secure than the painter, and the latter gets a social life thrown into the bargain! My city museum claims to support the local artist. I got in a twitter tiff with a representative the other day. “We’ve lent our support to 60 local artists in 2012 alone!” He didn’t like my essay charging the cult of art with art homicide. “See,” he wrote, “We’re showing this local guy now.” And he links me to a page of an established artist with credentials ranging from write-ups in the New York Times, to gallery hosting of his work in The Museum of Sex. He uses blood to make his art. They’re quite beautiful and decorative as far as blood goes. His spotlight is switched on via the several page list of “places where I have tricked art history Ph.D’s into believing I am worthy to invest in”. I do not have that special list which pleases members of the opposite humanity I spam on a weekly basis. I am local, and prefer to be local because I gotta live with these freaking people, I might as well get them to appreciate me, as I do my car mechanic and cashier at the super-duper market. Still, I hope to break through someday to one influential member of the elitist crowd who shares mine (and Henry Miller’s) vision of the artist. Just so I can secure a humble dishwasher-income living through my practice. That’s it, and that is simple. But it ain’t happening, and my daughter’s dowry suffers.
For two years I have maintained a “donate” link in the right column of my free blog. Not one penny in charity. I even wrote about offering nickels to the artist as a symbol of support to a vocation that knows no vacation. I have a hundred paintings and several self-published books available for sale, and if it weren’t for the kindness of a few good friends and family members, I never would have sold any. It is torture to “make art” in America, where people exchange money every second for a Slim Jim or barbecue potato chip. People here are out of their minds. But in a kind of insanity that is beyond insane (for even the psychiatrists who monitor this behavior cannot see past the noses of their own Slim Jim sensations). Here:

“Most of the young men of talent whom I have met in this country give one the impression of being somewhat demented. Why shouldn’t they? They are living amidst spiritual gorillas, living with food and drink maniacs, success mongers, gadget innovators, publicity hounds. God, if I were a young man today, if I were faced with a world such as we have created, I would blow my brains out. Or, perhaps like Socrates, I would walk into the market place and spill my seed on the ground. I would certainly never think to write a book or paint a picture or compose a piece of music. For whom? Who beside a handful of desperate souls can recognize a work of art? What can you do with yourself if your life is dedicated to beauty? Do you want to face the prospect of spending the rest of your life in a straight-jacket?”

—Henry Miller

Well, I am no longer a young man. Then I am either an artist or a supreme fool, for I still believe that I will amass the dowry my daughter deserves. She and my future son-in-law must not pay for their own wedding. If you read this (local friends aside), yet not inquire about the low low price of a Ron Throop painting, then I will go back to line cooking this month or the next. I will be that seedy guy on the broiler who adds a gob of spit to the bubbling butter, just because you were dumb enough to pay thirty dollars for a meal that will last thirty minutes in your mind

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