Evan irritated him. He squeezed his eyes shut, “Life would be so much better without you.”
Mean scratched his heart — a selfgrown claw. He did not have Evan’s unbound affection that flowed from his middle brother to halo those close around.
But not him. He shrugged away from any touch. Next too Evan’s brightness, he shadowed deeper into gloom. Water traced his back, eddied down past his fingertips. Drip. The air, warmed all through, pressed against him. Toes crushed soft fern.
Bennet he loved — buoyant — from the beginning as he despised Evan. Bennet could coax a laugh from his darkwild mind.
Yet, with a sound splash, they sunk all three, into bluegreen brotherhood. On land that was unstable and ill-suited, now washed away in slosh of wet and calm harbor shade. Minnows caught in army green weeds. Caught in boy fingers too. Crawdads fast cranny into holes, clawpinch sunken treasure of rotted slime. Oaks cradle earth on their knees and feel the pressure of boy feet in their arms.
With a warholler.
Leap into blue.
Warm crashes into cool and wet. Plunges him and them all into deep unworry and forget.
These are the idyll days they try to recall. When spring fed pools make everything fine. And found in their ragged bounds — a sudden solace.
“Every artist knows that there is no such thing as “freedom” in art. The first thing an artist does when he begins a new work is to lay down the barriers and limitations; he decides upon a certain composition, a certain key, a certain relation of creatures or objects to each other. He is never free, and the more splendid his imagination, the more intense his feeling, the farther he goes from general truth and general emotion.
Nobody can paint the sun. or sunlight. He can only paint the tricks that shadows play with it, or what it does to forms. He cannot even paint those relations of light and shade – he can only paint some emotion they give him, some man-made arrangement of them that happens to give him personal delight – a conception of clouds over distant mesas (or over the towers of St. Sulpice) that makes one nerve in him thrill and tremble. At bottom all he can give you is the thrill of his own poor little nerve – the projection in paint of a fleeting pleasure in a certain combination of form and color as temporary and almost as physical as a taste on the tongue.”
– Willa Cather, Light on Adobe Walls
I attended an intriguing art fundraiser last night. The art was stripped naked.
By that I mean that the event concealed the identities of the artists. The 5X7 Splurge at AMOA-arthouse, Jones Center stacked a white room with shelves of mysterious minis — over 500 small format various media miniworks (some 3D) by wide ranging artists and sculptors. All art — one price – $150.
But you have to wait for the bullhorn to buy. Yes. Its blare tore through anticipation in the museum as high style people grappled over each other to rip off little silver tabs hanging by each painting. If you snag the tab the art is yours. “Negotiations” between patrons for popular pieces – fierce. But let’s not talk about my social inappropriateness here.
I’m interested rather — in the naked place. The place where you view art stripped of all context, all brand, all socially perceived value. Only the piece and your eyeball.
How to choose from the multitude? What do I internally do to create a $150 value for a work the size of a 50¢ postcard?
I tried to analyze. Hmmm. . . what is the quality of the drawing/painting? How does the piece address the size constraint? What is its materiality? Does its presence defy its borders? Does it break the plane, do something interesting/unexpected? This intellectual toying was my catbrain with a string.
But my emotions agonized. I didn’t want to be wrong — to pick a sub-par piece. I second guessed X 10. I wanted someone to fight me for the tab I grabbed (but I didn’t). I wanted the Antiques Roadshow Moment – “you’re kidding, my painting is worth what???” I wanted to see what no one else saw. Naked value creation – for my ego.
Why couldn’t I pick a piece and just enjoy it?
Well eventually I did. See above. And I learned again what I keep on learning. Be brave. Love it just because you love it.
And because your friend — who is a consummate judge of art — approved.
in the absolutely dark sea i have birds that
land on me and go inside me
let me go near you to touch you
let me put my birds
exactly in your mouth
what can i do with your moon lighted and
what is there now
every thing on you i want
you are somthing softer than star filled night
open up my
cranes in you
open up my cranes
steve roggenbuck from i am like october when i am dead, 2013 reprint
I went to a Millennial poetry reading last night literally sitting on the train tracks. I peed in a bathroom lit only by a black light and watched the torn pieces of toilet paper scattered-squat on the floor, glowing bits of paper eyes. I heard poetry like this.
imagine trees growing out of your arm
people walking all over you
cars and trains polluting the air you breathe
octopuses spraying bad tasting ink in your mouth
nuclear bombs going off around your neck
oil rigs digging under your skin
kimono dragons fighting each other in your hand
polar bears swimming in your eyes
a dad dropping a plate of hotdogs on your knee
meteors from space hitting you in the head
the inside of your body molten hot
and you cant escape any of it
this is what is feels like to be mother earth
daniel alexander from slime dog you are my friend
And I remembered again that I am not young anymore. I am old as dirt.
I’m not a fan of resolutions – I find them flimsy and limiting. Trying to “solve” life or “re-solve” life is a perilous venture potholed with frustration.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to reflect over the year and evaluate (This year I liked. . . )
Find areas for improvement (I wish. . .)
Isolate the things that worked to redouble efforts for success next year (What if . . .)
Accurate feedback is helpful – possibly life changing. One small study found that people who write down their goals more often achieve them. http://www.dominican.edu/dominicannews/study-backs-up-strategies-for-achieving-goals
Yet -I’m making a case for following this year. Artists already know the power of following. Follow inspiration to see where it leads. Allow ideas to unfold and evolve. Watch your creativity and ask how you can help it. Rather than ironing intention into a sentence to stick on the mirror/fridge for future castigation. Balled up and crushed in the trash by March.
Resolutions are limited by self-judgement – powered by self-discipline. People who are good at judgement and self-discipline profit from the model. The rest of us must follow – our passions, our ideas, our “what if life was like. . . this?” I’m for drawing a picture in your head (or paper) of what you want, and following that.
If you have an ambition – what does it look like? If you have a joy, find its color and keep close. If you feel trapped, cut out a door. If you are aimless, craft an arrow.
To pictures of a new year and a long swig of champagne. Cheers friends!
Robert Creeley, “I Know a Man” from Selected Poems of Robert Creeley. Copyright © 1991
Watch the structure of this poem – how the words veer and weave. The poem itself feels like a car on the edge of control. Speeding between desperation and the need for some kind of personal efficacy against the unknown (or whatever you interpret as the “darkness”).
Clemente paints Creeley with one eye open, a wink and a nod perhaps to both his clear insight as a major modern poet and his characteristic humor in confronting life’s big hairy questions.
Enjoy both friends!
Which came first -the elephant or the egg?
I like obstacles. They tell on me. Study your obstacles – what tale do they tell about your thinking? Elephantine obstacles require a great force of self to move, but many are completely mind made up.
In this totem, the elephant balances on a lavender egg. The elephant, remover of obstacles – is at once young and old – timeless leathered skin defined by burls in the underlying wood.
In motion. Maybe she was laid off – again. Maybe he holds divorce papers – again. Maybe she heads a faltering company or he’s losing a major client. These two-ton obstacles to happiness force us into motion. This elephant puts one uneasy foot in front of the other and though vulnerable, balances between hope and despair. She will make this egg take her where she wants to go. Perhaps finding (while plodding) a new direction. We don’t know how, but she will.
The bird, however, is stuck. Staring down a small black egg entirely avian made. Some dark ritualized judgement grounds her from flying free. A perceived tragic flaw, “I’m unlovable,” or “I’ll never reach my goals.” “I’ll always be _________. “I’m the worst ________.” Her wings pinned back. Cawing complaint.
But I see potential in this obstacle egg. Potential to find the thinking flaw. Black egg thoughts have a shady “all-or-nothing” ultimatum-ish type character – a dead give away. Hold on! I’m not the *worst* parent in the world. I messed up this time, but next time I’ll handle it differently. (deep breath)
Now we flex our wings. Now a dark egg cracks. Opens up to new and brightly life.
Free as a bird.
Yet a wing is subject to wind.
I like the color palette of this painting. I like vibrant but restrained – to watch what happens when choice is self-restricted. Maybe all workable freedom slipstreams on limitation.
Much maligned Boundary often brings with itself a double dose of the Creative. Because you can focus on the intricacies a particular problem (or medium) rather than the massive weight of what to choose. That limitation frees up lots of bandwidth. It’s an interesting conundrum of life, standing at the intersection of spontaneity and restriction.
Someone asked me the other day, “What would you do if money were no object.” And really I couldn’t even answer. I have no idea what I would do. Be immobilized by the vast space of potential. Wait for the wind to lift me, sightless and hurl me forward. Then maybe some necessary brilliance would unfurl. Because it seems my creativity only works against a foe -some absurd rule that deserves a good right-brained spanking.
Oh, there’s a chandelier underneath those washed and dripping strokes. A little structure under all that freedom, to hold it up – to give it a roosting place.
Allow me a moment to comment on this confounding binarism I find sandwiched between my toes.
It’s often called “black and white” thinking – the penchant of some people (me) to frame solutions in “either/or” scenarios. Do you want the pink one or the blue? This is either good or it’s bad. It’s the best thing that ever happened, or the worst. Whitman or Dickinson? Male or Female?
I have a major problem with binarism – it’s FALSE. The word “or” should be the warning light – the wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee someone is boxing up the choices. I don’t want cream or sugar – I want both, or stevia, maybe tea. A nice cup of lapsang souchong, perhaps? If we can generate multiple choice in our drinks, what about for other life challenges.
OR limits creativity to generate multiple solutions. I regularly pick up an everyday object (a mug) and think, “what could this be other than mug?” (vase, penny jar, pencil stand, plant pot, light fixture, toad house, soup or cereal bowl, jewelry holder, baling bucket, soil scoop, bug catcher, metaphysical mood meter (is glass half empty/half full?), inspiration piece, homing beacon)
I can see dividing imagined best case/worst case scenarios into a tidy binarism. To envision yourself toward a goal (sometimes frustrating) or to prepare yourself for the worst. Possibly helpful.
What about in-betweens? Hello! options not mentioned. Consider your job, done in a different way, in a different place. What’s the yellow solution, the blue idea, the green daydream? What if your choosing were colors, we wouldn’t settle for just black or white.
Yes there’s something called option anxiety – so we distill choices down to two. To short cut an otherwise too lengthy decision making process. Point taken. But.
Do you want limits or unlimited ? I’m kicking OR to the curb.