Counterfeit Commonality

1. Wonder and Awe

2. Doubt

3. Forsakenness; retreat to self.

Karl Jaspers talked at me about this.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Frosty spoon, babies, maggots, Truman Capote, ceramic Adam and Eve, shark grave,

The tail end of my week off from my day job. It was Holden Caufield attempts a bacchanal. Or some such thing. Drinking makes me sharp the next day. It's a lucid focus, but I'm not purporting some devotion to a drunken master style of art making. It's a method. Nothing more.

The aviary on the North Side of Pittsburgh is pretty impressive. The first birds you see are goofy-looking eagles and macaws. Then penguins. They've been slaughtered by superstitious folk in countries into which they've been imported because they were thought to be trolls. True or false?

I went there with Ange and her kid, Sophie. It was great. I was hazy and jubilant.

Gina and her kids were there, too. Her kids seem to like me more than Sophie. I think I freak her out.

The aviary folk were feeding maggots to some of the birds in the large tropical room. Musty and pulsing with airborne fluid like a giant mouth.

From there to great coffee and Truman Capote's Other Voices, Other Rooms. It's an early novel of his and it's quite good. Some passages flow like honey and gold.

Over to The Society for Contemporary Craft. It's tucked away in the Strip District near the golden-domed church. A ceramic show. Eden imagery. Some of it really knocked me down.

A long walk up Smallman to Butler, up Butler past some teenage hecklers and into the Allegheny graveyard. My first wander around the grounds. What a sight! The overcast and merciless light was perfect. And, like an audible fart in a French cinema, the infamous JAWS gravestone:

I got a little lost for a while but I certainly didn't care. Will Oldham in the ears, sharp, cold light, wriggling trees desperate for the sky, and coagulated earth. Lose me. Ideas came on like the stickiness of gracefully delivered but shockingly bad news.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I'm Almost Human

I've accrued some paid time off hours for my day job. Enough that I scheduled a week for myself. It coincided quite nicely with a gorgeous turn in the weather.

It's remarkable having my day for me. There is little sleep. I don't want a minute wasted. Mostly this time is to set out the final surge for my first solo show opening in May.

I think the work is strong, but I'm forever remiss to grant myself any room for congratulations. There should be more. More depth, more scope and focus. And less. Less fuss, less guided-ness.

The city is breathing a sigh of relief in the weather's reprieve. I walk the dogs. I drink a lot of coffee and get back on my bicycle for longer rides. The studio work goes, but it's studied and slow. It's the opposite of feeling sure but somehow knowing.

I like having some visitors, too. Heather White came over today. We ate some breakfast and poked around in each other's studios. She's a behemoth of energy and mental organization. We both like personal debris and beloved garbage. I feel at times as though I'm her slow-witted cousin who never went to school. Or something like that. But talking with her is a really nice reminder that need takes precedence over procedure in our art making.

Good things lately:

Matthew Collings' latest Diary column in Modern Painters

The Goya etchings in the special exhibition at the Carnegie. The Fragonards and Daumiers and Hogarths look stiff and dated compared to his. So much conviction and power. Some kind of haunting.

Gooey brie on apples.


New pair of jodhpurs. New belt, too.

Some glimpses of something with power in some parts of some of the new work.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Heaving in the Mind

My friend Jamie makes art about our failures as humans in the form of culture. I think he means that culture is always incomplete. It services us for so long depending on various factors, but ultimately it fails in its timeless and universal scope. I think that's what he's saying in a lot of ways.

We've shown together numerous times. Our work takes pretty different forms. But some of the impetus is quite similar. I think of failure a lot. Not my own in some small-scale quasi tragedy, but as human experience en masse. Always just falling short of what meaning there could be and some calling it the unfathomable and building a religion while others call it impatience on our part and scoff at anxiety.

Jamie Adams "Battle Popes" 2007 multi-plate woodcut

In my own small way I'm always making work about being overwhelmed. Anxiety comes into it as a big theme. The acceptance of mortality is really important to me. I find that grace occurs when we submit to that realization not with passivity but with the attitude that strings of inevitability engage our senses endlessly.

Lately I've realized that my images center around trauma not in a direct way, but in a way perhaps more horrible when fed through memory over and over again. Leonardo Da Vinci said that painting moves in the mind. I find that to be more and more true the more I get involved with painting. That's how I mean to paint. I think that's a huge part of its power. It moves in the mind immediately and simultaneously it unfolds endlessly as though one could get the feel of a novel at a glance and yet find undulations of engagement on a visceral level over long periods of time too. Good painting says something when it makes its noise. More people could make good paintings if they concentrated on just that simple notion: How do I make it good?

So, my figures are patchy. Every mark is really toiled over on the surfaces so they're taking a long, long time to make. That's rather fine with me. I can't abide painting forms. I don't really know why outside of knowing that I can't abide the arrogance of purely perceptual inclinations presented as facts. Not from me anyway. Previous abstract work was a brash and floundering attempt at building forms of doom. These figures come from the same place, but I feel I have worked into a more sophisticated focus in the mark making and color. The doom has a better idea of itself anymore.

It all adds up to these floating collections of bruises. It feels successful sometimes in that way where it moves like the memory of flesh in my mind. Heaving or breathing shallow, twisting, immovable but falling apart. Moving with love and the consequences of mortality. It has little to do with culture outside of self-awareness. It's certainly a reaction to culture, but not one that's significantly different than someone reflecting on where they were, say, in 1110 A.D. And I'm a product of my time. That's what I meant by inevitability in some ways.

Living is the widening circle to death. There is nothing worth living for, as the process bows to the result. Everything is worth dying for.