Month: April 2015

Dan Photographed Mexico in 1983

DanMexico

2015. Acrylic on Masonite®, 20 x 13″

This could also be titled: Poor But Healthy Jack. It’s another painting to be auctioned off at my friend Dan’s going away party.

The many new birds and wild clusters of gnats have drowned out the noise of myself. From Last Communion:

April is Clean Up Time With Paints, Squeezing Out Tubes, and Making History

For me freedom happens whenever I am arrested by the element X. Yesterday’s work was spent dreaming about what will be if I allow the X in for longer periods of time. This isn’t bragging or false modesty. It is what it is. I am an artist, good or bad, but one through and through. Yesterday I would have painted on the cats if there was no canvas or paper at hand. But then I read to my daughter, improvised a rich stew, painted frames, cleaned out cat litter boxes, made beds, did laundry, planted late garlic—basically chased the ten thousand things which all of us are bound to do.
But not once the money exchange.
As a younger man I should have had my fortune read to spare a future old man anguish. But then I never would have believed it. Now at 46, instead of the positive I-Ching thunder at the well, my “art” gets thrown down into the well. Financial success is not showing in any card, and I guess that was meant to be, for me.
Artists never wanted a built-in swimming pool with cocktails at sunset anyway. I can tell who the wealth-desiring phonies are from a gated community away. It’s just that the onset of old age has me devaluing my efforts more often, when I know I should keep the fighting attitude alive and strong.
All of this is okay if viewed future-historically. I know the value of archiving struggle. For posterity. Today in New York, they take thirty percent of your skin (if you’re lucky to get a foot in the door of four white walls and around-the-room track lighting) because the power of influencing rich stupid people is basically an art in itself. These liaisons play their part, maintaining personal wealth and status while courting filthy rich imbeciles of a lower order. But they only serve a present purpose, and much of that is made in the past. The art collectors have money. The artists do not. There has never been a time on earth when the latter held their heads financially high like bankers in Mercedes. Cave painters were probably tolerated their art for performing some other shameful, putrid tasks. Cleaning out the crap corner of the cave, or burying the six-day-old dead. The ones who stubbornly held their arms to the chest declaring “not another demeaning task,” were probably tossed over the nearest cliff.
I am a cave painter in a poor upstate village. If there are three art buyers here, they have already cornered the market on still life apples and chiaroscuro candles melting wax. I have an existentialist’s chance in heaven to be supported by my community. Unless I decide to seek the Calvinistic retardation of “mop a floor for your dinner”. Then I will be financially independent, and afford any smartphone with its two-year contract.
No. I have a rich wife who supports me because I support her.
And I see into the future an immense archive sold at auction for $500.00, with a U-Haul rental fee waived. My grandchildren will get an education in the arts, enough to know that dedication and devotion to painting, or the like, where there is no contemporary investment, is like mopping an institution’s floors for free because you think you deserve the pool and cocktail-at-sunset prize, even though, after all, it was just a shiny floor. And nobody, not a single soul in your world, ever pressed you to live this fool’s eternity.

P.S. Please feel free to share my work with a wealthy gallery renter in NYC. She can take 90% commission. I’ll ask my friend Dan to load up his mini-van and we could be set up in a day. Tell her that I am handsome enough for my age, and on opening night would mousse my remaining hair and talk to prospective buyers as if they too possessed the artist’s hopeful soul, and not the caged rabid animal gesticulating in their void. Tell her that I am more desperate than a dead Basquiat or a living pervert like Jeff Koons ever was. Tell her that if given a small financial push, the gigantic chip on my shoulder would explode in creativity, which could help her realize her dream: the pool and cocktail-at-sunset prize.

 

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Mr. Olson, One Less Luminary For the Memory Dock, Por Favor

DanLuminary

2015. Acrylic on Masonite, 14 x 20″

Another painting for Dan’s escape from New York. The great American sculptor, Mr. Olson, performs a hit-and-run luminary to several doors at Christmastime. Always much better than a flaming paper bag, one opens the door to discover a candle lit in a giant frozen sconce. Luminary can be an artificial light or a person who inspires and influences others. At 43.5º latitude, our winter town cannot afford to lose one of the last aristocrats of the spirit. We lost another a couple year’s back, but she shared a luminary with the high boss of culture. This will be the first and only painting depicting my loss. I want to celebrate Dan’s departure. Maybe Texas will welcome him home as much as New York shunned his enthusiasm.

 

Eeyore Finds His Honey at Pease Park

2015. Acrylic on Masonite, 20 x 14″

Every two years The New York Foundation of the Arts offers a $7,000.00 grant to artists of several disciplines, of which painting is one. I have been applying since 2008. It is very competitive and tends to award where the competition is clustered—the five boroughs of NYC. I don’t think anyone from my county has ever been granted this generosity.

I no longer protect delusions of hope in this state of the art. Here is the cover letter anyway. No judge is supposed to read it before judging (but I know they do:)

“These are all recent works painted within the last year. I paint every day but Sunday. My wife supports my financial needs. I am also a writer, and like Kenneth Patchen, will sneak text into my work, even if it only repeats the title. Unlike Kenneth, and more like Picasso I would prefer to be a rich man so that I could live like a pauper. These paintings have energy. They are vibrant and moving. I don’t wish to be clever. I need to commune. I live next door to a college in a poor county. I have house shows to expose my work. I invite faculty. Even the art professors make a wide berth on opening night. I am not tired of rejection. I just expect it. Like the Beat poets of 1950’s San Francisco, these paintings need to be read aloud with jugs of wine passed around. So please, get up from your chairs and have a drink.

Emerson wrote that the future novels will tend more towards autobiography, one person talking to another about the concerns of her own heart. Painters are their own culture, never one drawn along national, racial or ethnic lines. The great art houses, promoters, gallerists, and art historians have warped the joy of painting into categories of success or failure both determined by finance. We forget that van Gogh was destitute all his professional life. We know the story of he and Gauguin in Arles. Men. Dreamers. But above all, painters in determination. There are no more movements as long as we allow this pandering to the unartists, Koons and Hirst. Just clever-Eddies with their billionaire Dubai cohorts. A great American art collector today owns a football team. Enough said about culture. His life alone makes certain that the art market turns the humble painter into an impractical beggar. Impressionists roll in their graves. They used to meet in cafes to discuss their work, but also subjects on politics, rage and love. Culture for the first modern painters was to be among others of like mind. Not so much today. After a brief jag mixing and applying color to canvas, the hyper-individual artist visits the cafe to pick up a latte to go. Reality T.V. tonight. Netflix has a new series. Maybe he’ll get inspired in the morning with a great idea for another gnostic artist statement to present alone, in an e-mail, from his computer, in a room, with nobody. Some culture! I dream a future for the painter that connects him to others of like mind. Not on Facebook either. Not that dystopian billionaire’s dream. No, we meet in the cafe to give the college grads of tomorrow an essay on art that doesn’t read like a tax write off.

I am just so tired of the make-believe network! Damn you! Look at my work with me standing beside it!”

After 20 Years, I Made My First Good Use Of The Internet

_DSC1538 Jourdan

This little triptych could be laid over in Helsinki today en route to Moscow. A painter there has traded his work with mine over the Internet. After 20 years I have had my first business break though—The art of anti-business connection with another human being a half a world away.

Last week I contacted him via Facebook to ask if he would sell me one of his paintings. He offered a trade instead, adding that he liked my work too. He must, since international shipping ain’t cheap, and to let go of one’s work can be a religious experience. Privately, I am deeply moved. Publicly, I believe we could start a movement. There is no better feeling for an artist (writer, painter, sculptor) than reverence for one’s work. Henry Miller spoke of this throughout his lifetime. I am in the process of a trade with a printmaker and a sculptor closer to home. They have my full attention. Now I wait for my parcel to arrive from another world. It’s Christmas this spring!

 

Now Comes Good Sailing Moose Indian

MooseTumblr

2015. Acrylic on canvas, 20 x 16″

These are Henry Thoreau’s last words. Think long pauses between tuberculosis breaths. He is a distant relative of mine, a kind of distant that all of us share with someone like “Lucy” the Rift Valley Girl. Actually, I am related to the great philosopher. A strand of his DNA would be nice to test for what I hypothesize to be the cuckoo gene that traveled six generations and infinite possibilities to my father’s 23 surprises gifted on consummation day.

Come to think of it, I might have more of him than less. I have an inordinate amount of will power, a love of the natural world, aloneness tendencies, and, I am a horrible dresser. What I didn’t get is oh so obvious—his way with words. So I paint what I can on canvas and go sound a lake for an afternoon. “Better to be a living dog than a dead lion,” eh cousin?