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

Friday, June 29, 2012

Out of nowhere

[I don't know where this post comes from.  I don't know what got my thinking moved in this direction, but.... ]

I hate guns.  I hate everything about them.  I know we can't conceive of a world without guns, I know our laws guarantee a "right" to them.  I understand that people can get some sort of feeling of empowerment from shooting guns, can enjoy a thrilling transmission of power.  But even when they're used responsibly, when they're directed at nothing more sentient than a firing range target, I still hate them.

To me they're one of the most blatant symbols of our remove from the natural world.  That our machine-making minds have found a way to maim and kill - without effort - without contact.

If all I have to fight you with is a knife or a sword or my hands, if I have to look you in the eye and wonder the outcome, aren't I going to be a lot more cautious and rational when considering battle?  Just like a smart dog or lion or crow is going to make a judgement about whether a fight is worth it or not.  But if I have a gun - or a mortar or a big bomb - and you don't, I know I'll win.  Easy.  That core of a concept, our internalization of it, I think has had a sickening, dislocating effect on us as humans.

Violence is natural.  No matter how much we try to avoid it - usually a very healthy impulse - it's inherent in life and death.  In small and large ways.  But for violence to be understood, to be healthily processed by our puny human brains, I believe it has to present itself on a human scale.  The velocity of violence has to present in human time.


When I was living in San Francisco in the eighties, one of the many less-than-glamorous jobs I scrounged around to get was cleaning house for some people who had a t-shirt business in Mill Valley, across the bridge in Marin County.  The owner of the business always seemed more than a little paranoid.  Really kind of spooky.  He slept with a gun under his pillow.  And he was usually good about putting it away before I got dropped off - I was always alone in the house - but one or two times I had to pick up the gun and put it on the bedside table so that I could make the bed.  The only time I've held a gun.

It was so much heavier than I would have expected.  Heavy steel, machine cold.  Heavy.  Sickening, unnatural.  I found it very disturbing to even touch it.  It wasn't so much a fear I felt.  It just felt like an evil thing.  There are other weapons that can have another purpose, another life beyond violent intent.  A dagger or a sword can be beautifully decorated and ornamental.  It can be worn or hung on the wall and admired for its craftsmanship.  But I found no beauty in this heavy metal object.  And it was made for no other purpose.  For the few seconds it was in my hand, all I could feel from it, hear from it:  This is meant to kill with.  This is meant to kill with.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Decidedly not the same thing....

Preparing to paint - research, designing, Photoshopping, gridding, drawing - is not painting.  Buying art supplies and attending art openings is not painting.   Blogging and feathering my website is not painting.  Since finishing my current show at Winston Wächter and tossing off the small nude that's in the group show at Froelick, I haven't actually painted anything.

There isn't anything to paint.  I'm in the planning stages of several paintings - the beginnings of a whole show, really - but that doesn't give me any of the kind of satisfaction I get from being in the process of actually "building" a painting.  Putting stroke upon stroke of paint upon the panel.  Finishing each little section, moving forward in pictorial space.  Until some paint goes down onto the panel's surface, it's an idea, but it isn't a painting.  And I have nothing I can put paint on.

I used to whine constantly that it was sooo hard for me to just settle down and sit down to paint.  I was too nervous and scattered and dreaded the necessary intense deployment of concentration.  I could squander hour after hour, though, fussing with all the other parts of the art business that aren't actually painting.  And now?  Everything is reversed.  And even though I'm very frustrated over the dearth of paintable surfaces here in the studio right now, I'm very grateful for that reversal.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Two PTSDs walk into a bar....

So what happens when my lurking PTSD comes smack up against that of another struggling friend?  No joking matter, that.  It's unexpectedly wrenching.  In the midst of all the wonderful things that have been happening for me lately, I've had drama on the sidelines.  And I've directed much more attention and worry toward it that I probably should have.  I've added in my own little internal drama.

A very dear friend of mine is having a very difficult time right now, dealing with this insidious illness.  This isn't anything new, but part of its manifestation this time has been to turn on me, the angry rhetoric escalating, and then the grand gesture of officially and harshly discarding me as a friend.  We've never been anything but the most loving friends, always very supportive of each other, personally and in all our artistic endeavors.  So I was completely unprepared for this development, this turn.

Even more so, I've been startled by my own response to it.  I've been extremely anxious all week.  The queasy stomach, the feeling that "something bad" is going to happen.  (I have to admit, the timing hasn't helped; June 9th and 12th are the anniversaries of my dad's death and a car accident that G and I were in, the same year, three days apart.)  I know one of the commonest symptoms of PTSD is just that kind of anxiety.  A gnawing panic and a compulsion to try and tightly control all the aspects of your life.  Also anger, usually misplaced or misdirected.  I can tell myself over and over that my friend's rejection has absolutely nothing to do with me or anything I've done, that it's only the illness.  But it still hurts.  And the hurt makes me mad, because it's hard for me to just accept the hurt.  And the mad doesn't conjure anything productive.  Because you can't just slap the crazy out of someone.  (Though I can totally visualize that working - smack! and they come around - like they always do in the movies.  And, of course, that's crazy.)

I can pretty much see from the other side of it, understand a lot of the cock-eyed reasoning that's in play in my friend's mind, and have at least a small degree of perspective on the situation.  But the unexpected rejection still really gets to me.  An unearned rejection.  And one I can't fight, one I can't work my way back from with reasoning and support.  This seems to be a very tender spot in my emotional make-up; I guess it hasn't been entirely clear to me until now.  Maybe in the "big picture" of my life that's why this has happened, why this kind of situation is playing out again.  Because, happening this time, it brings up all the times in the past when I couldn't protect myself from the rejection, from being traumatized by the shock of it.  I suppose it happens to everyone.  I'm sure everyone has found themselves in that position, helpless.  I don't know, but maybe it's a bit more difficult for me to shake off than it is for most, considering my own struggles with PTSD.  But after I've taken care of myself, worked the methods that help with my own over-reactions, when I can start to turn the corner from the upset and get back some light and perspective... it still hurts.  And it doesn't hurt any less when I know it's not my fault, and that it really isn't the other person's fault.  It just hurts, and I guess I'll have to find a way to let that be.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I love my wife. Period.

Happy birthday to my wonderful wife, G.  A most remarkable person.  I'm so blessed that she loves me so well and - perhaps more importantly - continues to willingly endure me.

This is the image from my birthday card to her this year.  We both go Photoshop wacky to celebrate any of our holidays.  After all the paintings of me festooned with diamonds, feathers, etc., it only seemed fair that she should bear the burden of outrageous glamour for a little while.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Des jeux sérieux de beauté

Tuesday evening we were in Seattle for the opening of my new show at Winston Wächter, Des jeux sérieux de beauté.  Some serious games of beauty.  Which I hope the work is, which I believe it is.

It was a lovely night.  Great turnout, friendly people.  And I actually wasn't all that nervous; I didn't have time to be.  Right at the beginning of the event, I had a few friends stop in to wish me well, and it just kept rolling on from there.  As soon as I finished talking to one person, someone else stepped in to talk with me.  I often feel conversationally awkward in these kinds of situations, but everyone was so nice, so generous, that it was all just a pleasure. 

It is a bit odd to talk exclusively about yourself and your art for more than two hours straight.  As someone who's rather full of himself, you'd think that it wouldn't bother me.  But it got to the point where the gross accumulation of me, me, me was a bit embarrassing; by the end of the evening I had a sore throat from talking about myself so much.

When G and I arrived at the gallery, several hours before the opening, Michael Upchurch, the arts writer for the Seattle Times, was already there, looking at the show and making notes.  He had reviewed the group show that was my introduction to Winston Wächter and had said nice - and really smart - things about my work.  So I was thrilled that he wanted to interview me for this show.  When we spoke on Tuesday afternoon, he couldn't have been nicer, and the resulting review/interview that appeared in the paper this morning couldn't have been more flattering.  It's been quite a week, and I'm very grateful for everyone's kindness.