Subtitled: The Desperate Artist as Failed Prostitute
Yesterday was a deep down day. One of three or four suffered every year by those plagued with the element “X”. Some can push it out though, if lucky, and live another day to “stand up on the high place with gibberish in (their mouths) and rip out (their) entrails”, as Henry Miller warned all hapless wannabes of the new age. You can see how I fail as an art promoter. Who is going to get hot and bothered by a hooker with his entrails hanging out? Still, I try. By virtue of the forever messy clown that I am.
Damn the Internet. It does not bring the rural painter to the Paris cafe. I should hang it all, paint, walk downtown and hawk my work to sheetrock contractors.
Art Ruby is an art posting site based in, I believe, New York City. Yesterday they put up a photograph of an artist celebrity who dressed up as a clown and took a picture of herself. She is a millionaire. Here is what I think about New York City art in a nutshell, taken from the pages of my latest book, Last Communion:
“David Geffen Cannot Afford Me
Here is yesterday’s deadline met for Christie’s line-up tonight at auction. I was barely given notice, getting the request at dinner and expecting a proofed image by midnight. But I remained steadfast, kept sober, and while painting, even found the time to cook dinner, sift the cat litter, help my daughter with math homework, listen to her presentation, and joke with her about boys. Phew!
Anyway, Christie’s called this morning and asked me to set up last night’s painting online—by request of their eBay pal Pierre Omidyar. He wants in on this high-end whorehouse poker game of art. Well, I won’t argue. I need them to exist so I too can enjoy a pedicure once before I die.
I put it on eBay: David Geffen Egging On Ghanan Painters to Drown Themselves in Lake Volta. No reserve bid either. I am told that all the billionaires will be scouting this one tonight. Especially Eli Broad, who would love to get in one more jab at that “flighty Geffen”. They say I will have no problem competing with Cindy Sherman. Most of them are tired of buying up her girl politics anyway.
But I never tire of her skill as a photographer. Christie’s has a much better explanation of her work than even God would provide for a 40% cut of a million. They know right where to put the cotton in the nasal passage of the narrator too to give his voice that amateur “you want to believe I am not screwing you, but know of course that I am, and with a large pipe” sound.
Keep an open window in your browser while we study this piece together. Untitled #92. Assessed (by whom?) between 900K and 1.2 million American dollars. Here is my criticism, as deep as time will allow:
It is what it is.
This means that every student of art history who makes a living authenticating charlatans like Sherman needs these silly schoolyard billionaires more than air and not much less than water. An iron lung could keep them breathing, but liquids need to flow. Without David Geffen’s complete worship of abstract money, abstract power, and more abstract money and power, all critics are reduced to the likes of me and my comrades, the army of struggling Ghanan painters. In my painting you can see them drowning in Lake Volta, where Christie’s, Cindy Sherman, David Geffen, and Eli Broad have mixed in enough acid avarice to give the natural pool a toxicity to burn the skin off while sinking. It is their twisted way. And they laugh, laugh, laugh while artists of every society, flail and fall alone, grasping to futile hopes of saving themselves. There is no such thing as a self-made billionaire. Equally, not a single self-made artist. No longer do painters get together in cafes to discuss the brutality of Imperialism, the wonder of color, the joy of living. No George Grosz dressing up like a wealthy industrialist loathing the upper class with a mad bitterness that infects his consumptive colleagues with the impossibility of youthful vitality.
No, today Banksy gets all comrade-like posting on Instagram his million dollar genius. Self-made? Rather conditioned by a troop of pallid, white dandys.
So the Cindy Sherman photograph… What is its true worth? Frame it her best and we can either use the wastelander gauge™ discussed recently, or Cindy can deliver her piece up to the Lakeside Statewide Juried Art Exhibition this spring at the AAO. She needs to send in a digital image by early February, and there is no guarantee of acceptance into the show. But if she is lucky, I mean really lucky (for no photograph has ever won first prize), she will take home a $300.00 cash award and get a write-up in the local shopper. She can set an asking price of $900,000.00, and Bill the gallery director will mark it, (everyone there will just think she’s pulling a “Ron Throop” who usually does the opposite and sets a ridiculously low price for hard labor), and her piece will hang there nearly thermostatically controlled while Great Lake winter winds blow, blow, and blowwww. She can pick it up in April and begin dreaming of herself getting objectified in a meadow of dandelions.
But nobody will buy her creepy “girl before she gets ravaged” photograph. Nope. Save it for the Fortune 500 perverts. Magic men. Playing poker with art, and artists getting used like manufactured chips.
Looking forward to tonight’s grisly screams from Ghanan painters.
You may begin bidding on the my piece… Now!”
So, I don’t think Art Ruby will ever post my work. It’s okay. I need them more than they want me. Their presence keeps art alive in a multiplicative inverse kind of way. What Miller taught us from Depression 1932 I now understand in modern economy Candyland . Cindy Sherman represents the “one” in the fraction one over a million. The Miller quote below flips the ratio (via the promotion of New York houses like Art Ruby), and instantly crushes her with the weight of what art has always been and always will be: creative people suffering in poverty, being philosopher kings, visually.
Side by side with the human race there runs another race of beings, the inhuman ones, the race of artists who, goaded by unknown impulses, take the lifeless mass of humanity and by the fever and ferment with which they imbue it turn this soggy dough into bread and the bread into wine and the wine into song. Out of the dead compost and the inert slag they breed a song that contaminates. I see this other race of individuals ransacking the universe, turning everything upside down, their feet always moving in blood and tears, their hands always empty, always clutching and grasping for the beyond, for the god out of reach: slaying everything within reach in order to quiet the monster that gnaws at their vitals. I see that when they tear their hair with the effort to comprehend, to seize this forever unattainable, I see that when they bellow like crazed beasts and rip and gore, I see that this is right, that there is no other path to pursue. A man who belongs to this race must stand up on the high place with gibberish in his mouth and rip out his entrails. It is right and just, because he must! And anything that falls short of this frightening spectacle, anything less shuddering, less terrifying, less mad, less intoxicated, less contaminating, is not art. The rest is counterfeit. The rest is human. The rest belongs to life and lifelessness.
—Henry Miller from Tropic of Cancer