Month: October 2015

Homage To Painters Alive Who Understand What I’m Getting At

Dreadful

Tomorrow night the Russian Stuckists, the marvelous troop of Tuesday night painters, intrepid makers of two-dimensional eye candy, thinkers and doers maneuvering inside/outside the modern woe-box, saviors of Moscow and New York, deliverers of hope, sustenance, and joy to the alive mind, open an exhibition of their recent work and inspiration at a city pancake cafe. A Night of Dreadful Paintings. On Halloween! Wine and freedom, tingling fingertips… Running up to Alexey Stepanov’s flat with brushes and colors and wet leaves on the stairs. Anticipating the model and the night, feeling this:

images

“Couple In Bed” by Philip Guston

All night long they will pose publicly with the private knowledge that their painting is a life treasure, a fecund high that if revealed too openly, might cause a wave of mass enthusiasm to drown their individuality. Almost as if it were better to keep the secret to themselves. If too many catch on, to make the art of painting ubiquitous like jogging or taking out the garbage, then it was all for naught, there was nothing special in achieving the high art that is at least more lasting than a single human life.

I tell Alexey, and I hope he informs his friends, that I watch their gatherings with hungry eyes and aroused humility. Is there anything like this happening in the U.S. among the young and talented? They had a September show in the forest. Mulled wine, guitar, and I would hope in my dreams at least, much better conversation than “N.Y. Times—who’s great—let’s see—cause I’m great —look at me!” I am certain they talk of philosophy, culture, music, love, future. What everyone on earth alive wants to talk about, to be sure. But show me this enthusiasm, and group effort coming out of Brooklyn. I visit a painter’s blog calling itself Painter’s Table, but all I get is another look at a tremendously lonely, self-absorbed Brooklyn or Connecticut painter, touted (or is it tortured?) by another white-walled gallery. The image is nice, yes, but will it make us money? Every painter knows very well, without the helpful instruction of finance, if he or she is going to Hell. Quick now, another picture while I digress:

alexey10

Look! Trees and art… Who knew?

Can artists in America sustain culture? Where are we going? What are we doing? What the hell is a “career artist”? The media mind is taking over. Listen here painters of America… You are not free and you are alone. Not one neighbor is moved by your presence. In fact, most would be openly hostile if their food bowls were not spilling over with high fructose Shepherd Faireys, Jeff Koonseys, Andy Goldsworthys, and the like. Some tried and true art catch phrase to hold the people’s little psychosis’ in check while the next state-of-the-art gew-gaw is pressed on their faces. The media has made up its mind. It will remain at war with reality. It mocks your life while luring humanity to crave its sugar-coffee-new thing high.

I couldn’t say if the Russian Stuckists feel this way. Whether they would agree or not, I know all sensitive peoples have their seasons in Hell. The practice of painting helps me with my push and pull out of private doom. Nietzsche wrote “All joys want eternity”. The more I paint, the closer I come to what I believe the generation in the photo possesses already—the eternal—and I pray they have the sense to carry on no matter what life throws at them. Which episode of “Sons of Anarchy” reminds us of our shared humanity? What smartphone app is glorifying the joy of man’s desiring?

More photos for your dreaming. Wish them luck. They are a high step above your concept of art, New York City. And climbing.

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Portrait of a Line Cook as a Young Calamari

Calamari

2015. Acrylic on canvas, 30 x 24″

An old friend and line partner suggested I make a painting of how we looked in the kitchen at 7:00 p.m.on a Friday night. This is about right.

I was an aspiring writer in those cooking days. I also had to work double shifts to pay the rent. Friday doubles were especially hard, but at least I got to write letters during my break. Here’s one that would have been fresh in the calamari’s mind:

A Letter During Break of a Double from Cookbook For The Poor

A Larry Letter. A big fat letter full of juice. I will write to you a letter of season, of summer. Expect it to be finished by October and I will hand deliver it to you in all of my mad excess. But for now a quick letter—for the sake of spring…
I remember writing to you about the same time last year from Red Creek where I was living the same day in a different habitat. A year has gone by and oh, what a year it has been! From forest and garden, to alcohol and concrete jungle and no more than fifty cents in my pocket, back to the country and a worn-out relationship—back to alcohol, to Scott’s tomb, to winter’s nausea and lethargy, back to cooking, to excess, to immortality, to raising Rachelle. Now to the same sun, new sun, warmer sun, and probably after that, burnt out sun. The life of poverty, the cook’s life, the cook’s literary life!
I remember our walks to Central Park in the grayness. I remember the stoop, your stairs, in the urban night time—the yuppie chatterboxes wafting by (a bad smell). I remember my mad walk down Broadway to the Battery. I remember our walk with Hazra through the dead leaves. All the thoughts that were stuffed inside me, the sadness of separation, my lack of courage, my very personal battle against the human zombies, my desire to be a dad and a poet… And you there the whole time my friend watching Ron torture himself. Nothing has changed. I am still torturing myself. I know that it’s torture. To live, but to live better because a beautiful girl smiles at you on the stairs. To live simply for the wildness of the unknown, and wildly for the simplicity of life.
Last night was very bad, a mortal night. I looked in the mirror, I looked through it with the understanding that I may never love again. God, how frightened I was of death! My bones ached; that was something new. “Will I slave like this for the rest of my life without love? Can I possibly torture myself more without dying? How much can I stand?”
I have to keep putting my dream world off to the future. This is the medicine that saves my life every night. Do you realize how agonizing this is? Especially since I have lived my dreams many times before? Usually in New York City, but once or twice along the rocky shores of Ontario. The fact is that I cannot live my dreams in callous town. I am no Thoreau. It is either too small or too big. Can it be possible that I am equally attracted to farmland/woodland and to the monsteropolis? I need space and both extremes provide that space, depending on my mood which is always changing. My wallet has to be empty. That is very important. I’m in a constant flux of temperament. Not content, wholly content, indifferent, depressed, lit up like a Christmas tree with joy, immersed into a deep pool of sorrow and drowning…
Oswego is cold now. Probably because I am living the destructive side of solitude. A life of confusion and alcoholism.
“How does one know that one day he will take wing, that like the humming bird he will quiver in mid air and dazzle with iridescent sheen? One doesn’t. One hopes and prays and bashes his head against the wall. But ‘it’ knows. ‘It’ can bide ‘its’ time. ‘It’ knows that all the errors, all the detours, all the failures and frustrations will be turned to account. To be born an eagle one must get accustomed to high places; to be born a writer one must learn to like privation, suffering, humiliation. Above all, one must learn to live apart. Like the sloth, the writer clings to his limb while beneath him life surges by steady, persistent, tumultuous. When ready plop! He falls into the stream and battles for life. Is it not something like that?” —Miller
Yes it is! I’ve fallen from my limb. I find my sanity under the restaurant tree, but then I leave it and walk out into life—a life that I’ve created! The power to choose and change has escaped me. I feel that I am suffered to this life eternally, or at least until my liver falls through my bowel. Then I might get some incentive to change. This is the life I am practically forced to live because there are no kindred spirits, save for you— but you keep yourself a letter or a phone call away, and frankly, that is a useless dose, maybe an aspirin, a Tylenol perhaps, at a time when I need Larry, the 10,000 mg amphetamine, to sway my appetite away from alcohol. Does that make sense? I need a human face! I don’t need this much booze with my booze buddies. Too much. For now my life is a catalyst in the ongoing experiment with the human time bomb. I will explode. It’s only a matter of time…
Your call woke me up too early this morning. You are certain that I’ll be coming down in June for an extended vacation. I cannot say for sure, but the way things are going, you may be right. Work is preventing me from enjoying the “good life.” I would like to say that I am the reason, then there would be some hope for change. The boss has it in his head though, that he can pay people more to make him richer. I have never met a man so empty of life. His liver controls him now. He is locked inside a vodka coma.
You should have been there on Saturday night. Over and over in his drunk talk, his words blowing right over my head, “I’ll pay you more money… Whatever it costs… But you have to be here… For three months gross triples… I’ll pay the money, but you have to be here..!”
My God, what in the world was he talking about?

On a lighter note, I am the depressed owner of a dilapidated motor vehicle and Rachelle is sleeping with Marty. The car is without any struts and the daughter is without a father. The car sits and stares at me while I write this to you. I don’t know what to do with it. I can’t drive it. Brian says that I can launch myself (and the car) into the air anytime over the speed of 45 mph. Not yet.
Brian is back in the kitchen. I think he has been hired back to protect my mental health. He had his lobotomy during the winter. Now he’s ready to cook again.
John is on his way over to help with the car. I am going to ask him how to sue for custody while he takes apart the engine and puts it back together again.
How are you my friend? On the verge of complete self-annihilation? I am. More about that in my next column.

A beautiful spring afternoon! Presently I am over-looking the Great Lake Ontario. I am lying next to the Fort where two-hundred years ago men woke at dawn to ready themselves for battle. English ships were anchored in the harbor. A summer of fighting. A national pastime.
Down the hill at port floats a Russian ocean liner. A hundred men unloading plutonium and light switches, the captain in his loft drinking vodka from the bottle and chewing on a piece of stale bread…
Gnats surround me. The day is glorious, so much cooler than I thought at first. This doesn’t stop the buds from sprouting, nor does it silence the gulls who chatter tirelessly about the coming summer and the new fish. I am ready for some great change. Last May you were expecting the same for yourself, and now look where you are! Endless work and my wide open alcohol intake valve have made me weaker in spirit. When I get well in spirit I get angry. When I get angry I do foolish things. Not a day goes by when I don’t feel the urge to dismember myself, to self-destruct and send my body parts flying through the air… That used to be because of happiness. Now what is it? Brian says I need a hobby. Work and late night drunkenness, are these not hobbies?
What is this change? What is happening?
The gnats are sunning themselves on my coat. I count fifty of them. Time to go.
Under the restaurant’s tree. Will you send me the negatives of the photos that we took on Glenn’s pond last year? I want to decorate my living room.
The clouds are coming. Snow is predicted for the weekend. Each time the wind blows, a wave of gnats spray my face. I am phasing Larry. I am tripping through a phase. No doubt another horrible one. It feels like a prison sentence from God. I am condemned to loneliness. (Presently Fred the seagull is barking for a piece of the quiche that Jeff just threw to me.) God did not want me to be lonely, alone maybe, but not lonely. It’s a scary thought wondering if everyone is like this. If this be true, just imagine the number of nuclear technicians typing their misery into reactor cores this minute. Fred just walked within three feet of me, took up my offering and flew into the wind. Fred is a beautiful bird.
The snow from Northern Alberta is falling on the Russians unloading pantyhose hand-stitched in the Ukraine. Tonight they’ll sit at the end of the bar and laugh big horse laughs. The Captain will ask Brian to get him through to Moscow on the telephone. Two rubles to Vickie for a tip and then off to Chicago.

Lying in the park with my wits about me, but my body approaching grave sickness. I haven’t had a drink in three days.
I just woke up from a nap in the grass. I feel that the more I get myself outside, the better my chances for good health. Good mental health.
Falling asleep in the park is a good start. The sky is blue and the children are singing at the playground. Another beautiful day! A day when I am so happy to be alive. Shouldn’t that be everyday? I think the spring sprang from nowhere, and that forced me off the road to ruin. I am finished with the moonshine whiskey, smoky pitiful bars, and the many despairing drunken walks in the wee hours. Nature overcomes. In the grass I will find peace and give my body a chance to clean out its innards.
On this day I am ready to dress and leave. How appropriate that I am feeling a bit “under the weather.” The change is now taking over my whole being. I am hungry and ready to eat. I will stroll over to Scott’s and hit him up for a few bucks. I’m famished.
Under the restaurant’s tree. I was shaking at the bakery, so I brought my lunch here. This has got to be the best lunch I ever had the strength to swallow. A thick vegetable sandwich made with fresh baked whole wheat bread, two monster chocolate chip cookies, a blueberry croissant… And I’m still not completely full. The shakes have disappeared, the sleeping sickness too. I feel like I could swallow a watermelon whole and drink apple juice from a fifty gallon drum. I am strong. Gargantuan good health. Thank God!
I cannot stress enough my need to have those negatives. They are a tribute to us (granted it is our own), and I need to look at them now while I’m still alive. So, about this change that I am expecting… What do you think? I was reading over your letters from last winter. A lot of your words were spent on my problem. Very nice. What you wrote about my predicament made sense, or nonsense. Of course it’s so hard to tell which. Yes, I can do anything, and it is useless to try to plan a way, I know. But in all of your wild talk about my moving to God knows where—Paris, Holland, the Far East—in all of that talk, even you could not separate me from Rachelle. Your advice was clear: Go away. Find happiness (what?). Then after you have seen God stark naked, come back to Rachelle a better man. You say that she’ll be waiting for me, that she will stand there with the innocent, understanding, loving look of an angel. She would understand someday. Yes, I am sure of that. Of course! After she abandoned her own child.
I agree with you Larry that Oswego is no longer the place for me. I have not been creative here. I know a trade. I cook and I am a louse. But I think I have some insight into why I am so unhappy.
I have no kindred spirit, nor do I have a muse to diffuse my madness. I am alone and hungry. I am always hungry. I need a human being to cut up and stir fry and serve over rice. I need to sink my teeth into human flesh, but this is a French fry town; no one is willing to make themselves look edible. Here it is not polite to eat each other.
In New York I was at peace with everything and everyone. Except for despair; I had no peace whenever I thought about Rachelle. You provided food, shelter and sanity. With your help I found the courage to call myself an artist. How wonderful! To be just what you’ve always wanted to be. I never felt hungry, though we rarely enjoyed a full meal. I fed myself on the senses and was very content with their nourishment. I’ll agree that the afternoon hours we well nigh sunk into hell’s own despair, but I was stronger then, more resilient because of the do or die situation I was in. Now I am just plain weak. Not weak like the saint, but weak like the slave, beaten, dogged, not manly.

Read a little Walt and go forward. Song of the Open Road. So many times I have read through it for inspiration, and how many times it has lifted me! I see with right vision when I am with Walt. I see with the right wisdom of the heart and soul. All is well for the strong and the weak. Who is to understand strength and weakness?
My voice is myself. I have left the rigmarole. Dang it, I gots purpose! Ize caint be tamed!
The world is open to me. The roads are endless. I must turn off the road to become the road. The answer is simply that there is no answer. An answer to what? To life? Am I God? No! I am an angel, a creation. If that isn’t enough fact to send a lightning bolt through my veins and make flutter off my tongue the flight of a million and one thanks, then I should jump in front of a truck. But I need not do that. I’m beginning to understand. An explosion is chaos. Who knows what to do when an oil truck explodes on a busy corner? Well, life is chaos. It is exploding everywhere always, without an end. I turn a deaf ear now on any jack ass who has something to say.
The change I’ve been expecting my dear friend, is myself. I am! And the sun rises and sets, the earth is a-turning and I’m a-turning and a-walking. That is enough happiness. About as much as I can stand.

What else is there to mention? About a billion more things I’m afraid. Please send Mysteries and/or Plexus, Sexus if you get the chance. I need to read more and spend less. Right now I am into Pan for obvious reasons. Glahn and Edvarda—“Their pride is the human pride that aspires to happiness and then flees from it.”
I imagine myself as Glahn watching Oswego come into spring like he did in the north when he fell in love. My solitude is enormous. I am staring out over the harbor from a little grassy spot in East Park. Six years ago, while lying in my truck in this same park, I had the presence of mind to dream about the day. Six years ago! I am happier now. No more crazy. No less. Still wandering and wondering. Where will my sanity lead me to?
Looking out over this lake I know damn well that there is nothing to aspire to. One cannot climb to love as if love was to be found on the mountain top, and the only way left to go be down. Love is this precisely. Right here, right now. We strive for everything but love. All pursuit destroys love. I am certain of this. I will stand by this conviction forever. Pursuit is strong, but love is weak. It is not human for the strong to trample the weak. Human nature is the epitome of weakness. We take the lead in that affair. What is it that goads us into crushing happiness, tossing love aside as if it were nothing, but, in reality it being the only something we need besides life and the bare minor necessities to sustain life?
Just some minor thoughts to while away my laundry time. Mama’s babies are poppin’ up all over the grass. Dandelions.

Love Ronald

Free Mums For The Best Guess

Mummies

Mummies 2015. Acrylic on Masonite®, 11 x 14″

I often make a painting on show day to give away to the guest who can guess the answer to some impossible question like, “How much money have I made through creative effort in the last twenty years”? This exhibition I make it in honor to The Russian Stuckists who gratefully provided me with several verve injections this year. There is an upcoming show in Moscow on Halloween night—“A Night of Dreadful Paintings”, which I have been invited to submit. Here’s one. I call it “Mummies”, but friends, it won’t make it to your show, because someone at my exhibition always guesses low—very, very low. I’ll think up some other stuff. See you at the pancake cafe!

An addendum:

Yes, it was a child who guessed low, because I gave the hint of “all rational numbers” How was I to know they teach number definitions in 6th grade, or that any well-fed kid could think negatively? Well, it will hang well—his parents are sensitive people.
Hyperallergic is a Brooklyn based art blogazine—it gets the word out for Stuckism once in a while. We also got a few converts at the exhibition. I passed out the Manifesto and talked up painting until my larynx went passive aggressive:

The Syrian Serin Thinks a Cruise Missile a Bit Much For Crowd Control

serin

But he’ll take what he can get as long as it clears a path to more millet. It and I are wary of all species—not just the one with all the metal and high explosives. Still, it and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the greatest danger to the world’s overall health is the universal fear and cowardice of the species with all the metal and high explosives. The birds and bees of Syria fear everything that moves too. Fortunately for all, they still meet their fears like birds and bees, that is, birdfully and beefully. One on one, fighting with beak and stinger… True animals, reacting to dangers, real or imagined, yet meeting them birdfully, beefully. It was just like that for us cave painters too, back in the good ole days, fighting the tribe next door with tooth and nail just like human beings… That is, humanfully.

If Our Neighbor Mr. Smith Caught Me Playing With An iPhone, He Would Have Mowed Over It With His Rotary

Mr.Smith

2015. On Masonite®, 12 x 16″

Right? Back in 1978, lazy, uninspired morons (Freud’s definition of 8 to 12 year old mentality) got mocked for being so non-disruptively apathetic. That’s why I stayed in my room many autumn days and nights dreaming by the window. If someone knocked at the door, I’d run to my room and hide. To me it was perfectly normal then, as it is now. Of course if it was a friend, I’d feel foolish for running, but for all the knocks at my parent’s door, the friend knock was very seldom. So overall I believe hiding from others is okay, especially if one believes like Sartre, that Hell is other people. Who wouldn’t run from Hell if given an escape route? Especially one that led to a cozy, thick blue shag carpet?

Lots of paintings on the walls for my show next weekend. Don’t think I won’t be hiding.

Some of Shackleton’s Crew Just Itchin’ To Scrap With the Huns

Shackleton

Acrylic on Masonite®, 16 x 12″

(Sunday Times, April 1916) Elephant Island. Here await the last of Shackleton’s crew a few months into their very lost weekend in the wilds of Antarctica. Soon their captain will come back to the rescue, but until then, the boys spend their long day or night thinking up new and exciting ways to show courage to their imperial benefactors. For nearly two years each secretly hoped to return to mother England as the most courageous man who ever survived certain death—some were still going through the motions of shaving every 24 hours with a sharp beach stone and penguin viscera cream.

Update. Today Shackleton returned and told the boys of war with Germany. Their erupting cheers and dances of gladness were a sight to behold. Frightened every gnarled sea lion back into the frigid sea. King George will be very proud of his new, most patriotic recruits!

Last update. Several of the most courageous human beings in history, all who would make even a hopelessly lost Iroquois nod his approval, died under dirty and humiliating conditions in the trenches of the Western Front. It only matters how they died because their famed living was privately too much for their inbred emperor to bear. The King, who drank slave tea, and probably, yes most definitely, wore women’s underwear, was a closet fan of tremendous hope and bravery…

The end, as always.

Weekly News Round-Up For Working Painter Pushing Onward To Sanity

Bloodmoon2033

Super Blood Moon 2033, I’ll Still Be Right Here I Think 2015. Acrylic on Masonite®, 16 x 12″

I shall stay where I am because everywhere else seems to harbor more psychosis.

Sheldon

Bury My 42nd Kiss Under This College Hall 2015. Acrylic on Masonite®, 16 x 12″

The verve I expressed internally at 18, I have nurtured and expanded into outward expression these days, and it saves me often from floundering.

guns

Oligarchy Can’t Stop Mass Psychosis, But Guns Should Still Fly Away (Followed by the Bessemer Process) 2015. Acrylic on Masonite®, 12 x 16″

A reaction to the sickening violence of another psychotic American with guns, and then reading the news the next day that other psychotic Americans with planes and bombs mutilated as many innocents in a hospital (Kunduz, Afghanistan), that were killed in Oregon, and yet this mass murder will not be condemned on television by an American President because he is the guilty Charles Manson preaching a tall-tale of the Golden Rule. And a minority in the country openly follow his or another demagogue’s lines of madness because they are very tired and their pasta bowls are full.

Also this week I saw two decals on the back window of a pick-up truck. One had the word SNIPER with rifles forming the letters. The other said Marines.

There is a glimmer of hope.

The patriarchy is in its final death throes because this month I have read all the major works of Erich Fromm. There are many, many broken penises out there literally suicidal to get their mommies back. What we are witnessing now I believe is the tippy top of the fight or flight instinct before it explodes like a caldera. Since ancient Mesopotamia men have been dying (and killing) to get back to the womb. The Iron Age ramped up the arms race. It was only a matter of time before thermonukes were cocked among us. It’s all very reasonable to have arrived here after centuries of man, the patriarch’s, unreasoning. Presidents are no wiser than mass-murderers who run amok to be breast-fed. Nobody has control, and there lies the hope.

Still, the rage I feel while looking at a SNIPER decal, that labels its owner proud to create death, never strays out-of-bounds, and I limit expression to discussion with my wife, or painting a picture, or writing this. And it’s always enough! Unlike a President or another psychopath, I do not feel the inertia or potent urge to kill anyone, which means the saving seeds have already been planted. For I cannot be the only one who feels. Far from it. 5,000 years to nuclear weapons is a long time. But now that it’s here, I believe the mass majority of men and women are rapidly hastening the end of the age of the death wielders. The fire-bombings of Dresden and Tokyo began to show the desperation of the patriarchal society on a mass scale. The violence we see now are reverberations of that loud, hissing insanity.

Today, most people of earth are sensitive always— that is, balanced more or less equally between the male and female human being. Many misguided, and many afraid—unable to believe in the powers of self. The latest book I read from Fromm (published in 1968) talked about recreating a sane society in the technical age. He spent the whole last chapter explaining how to organize people to fix social problems. Putting adds for group meetings in the paper, telephone campaigns—that sort of thing. There was even a form to fill out, left in the pages of the book, to mail back to his office in New York (He died in 1980). He imagined many local avenues to scenarios of revitalized humanity, however no mention of the glorious Internet. Yet it’s here, and it’s making the psychosis of the warped man-society very apparent. Find your groups where you can voice sanity. Beyond my immediate family, I have a local three-chord guitar club, a few friends in and out of the club, and some precious Internet connections. I ignore the groaning caldera beneath me. For no matter what, if it goes, we all go. Time will not protect me from death, nor the sniper marine, the President, or CNN. Time reminds me over and over again that I only have so much of it to get any message out, and perhaps there will be the takers of the next generation. Every man or woman has the ability to accept or decline. Each day I wake up and choose, and hope others awake with such wonderful conviction.