L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Writing women and the generous community

I'm married to a writer. I never knew writers before. And now I get to be around them a lot. I'm an artist, of course, but I've never really socialized much with other artists; never actually felt part of the "tribe". So it's been a revelation to experience the warmth and camaraderie that I routinely witness within the writing community here in Portland. I don't know how other writing communities are; maybe Portland is the exception. Here, writers come out to hear writers read, big or small readings. I see well-established authors, with multiple books published, and relative novices at the same events. Often reading at the same events. Sharing contacts, happy to put in a good word with an agent or publisher for someone trying to get ahead. Sadly, a lot of the people who've "made it" in their careers are afraid of others getting too much success in the same field. But I never see that here. And I see very little sign of hierarchy. But I see such generosity, always.

I've read a lot lately on the status of women in the Arts. It's shocking how they get published less, performed less, shown less. Ironically, the vast majority of the writers - and published writers - I know or are acquainted with are women. Such fantastic writers. As supportive as the writing community is, here in Portland, the writing women are maybe even more so. They are so kind to each other, they give each other time and smart advice, they are so amazingly available to each other. I'm afraid - as a man, after all - to muddle my way into speaking about the nurturing natures of women, but that's what I see so much of, honestly. The writing women who have been published, wanting so much for those who haven't been to have that, too. There isn't a feeling of scarcity; there's enough for everyone. "Here, look, I made this beautiful cake. It's so damned good! Have a piece; I'll give you the recipe."

Friday, March 18, 2011

Writing when you have to

I'm nearing the deadline for finishing the talk that I'll be giving at the symposium at the Tacoma Art Museum on April 3rd. And, I have to say, it's proving to be rather a tough job. Since I'll by talking about my art, much of the presentation will be visual, but I still need to have enough material to go on for forty-five minutes. Forty-five minutes! Oh....

Though the theme of the symposium - which is in conjunction with the big Norman Rockwell exhibition at TAM - is the figurative in art, I'll end up speaking of other things as well. One of the thoughts rolling around in my head right now is the idea of "art for the art world" versus "people's art". Norman Rockwell was certainly a people's artist. That's one of the qualities, I believe, that made serious, critical attention and appreciation so slow to come; he wasn't seen as "serious" enough, his work is so straightforward and accessible. That's one area where I think our work has parallels.

I'm lucky that my career has come at a time when critics and the art establishment are increasingly more open minded about what kind of art can be taken seriously. But I still think my work is appreciated even more by the "average Joe". And though to be able to sell my work, I need to access a different layer of society, shall we say, I think - maybe unconsciously - I still aim my output at the less-art-educated majority. I'm not talking down to that audience. We appreciate the same things; their sensibilities are mostly my own. And they get my work as well, if not better, than the art-educated minority. The way I look at it, my work - with all its historicist excess, its gender tweaking, its unabashed prettiness - isn't meant to be thought over too deeply, just to be enjoyed. For its clear language and its "too utterly utter" preposterous pretensions. It's probably equally outrageous of me to say so, but I've come to think of my visual style as "elitism for the masses". And I hope it is.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Last Tuesday.

The building where we live had posted that they'd be turning off the water on Tuesday at 10:00 am to do some repairs. They've been doing that a lot lately. Always at ten in the morning. Often they don't get started then. Often they start much later or don't start at all. And the shut-off, when it happens, is almost always very brief. I figured that, since I didn't have to be to work until three in the afternoon, there wasn't any reason to try to shower before ten. Soon after ten I noticed that the water was off. As it got later, I kept checking to see if the water was back on. I had showered the night before, so I wasn't actually dirty, but I hate getting ready for the day unless I'm really clean and fresh. (I also shave and brush my teeth in the shower.) Past two, running out of time, I called the management office to check the status, and got the typically vague response that it would be back on soon. At the last minute, with still nothing coming out of the tap, I had to find some way to get myself ready.

There was very little water in the container in the refrigerator, but I put what we had in a pan to heat it up a little. Added the small amount that was in a container of bottled water G had saved and the - very flat - remains of the lime-flavored bubbly water that we hadn't thought to throw away. When it was warm I took it into the bathroom, brushed my teeth, wetted my hair a little, and got a cloth, wetted it, and dragged it over myself a bit. When it came to shaving, I didn't want to rinse off the blade in the still relatively clear water, so I thought to use the very murky, paint-y liquid in the water container I use for my painting. I wasn't - comfortably - clean when I'd finished, but I thought myself pretty resourceful for doing what I could. Later that night, after work, as I was heading for the shower, G agreed that I was pretty clever.

Three days later, on Friday, a 8.9 magnitude earthquake hit Japan, followed by a devastating tsunami. Many of the thousands of survivors have not had any access to water for more than two days.