Archives for category: literature

zoe-3My friend, the writer and artist, Kevin Eib remarked that since he knows Zoe well enough, he recognizes this expression.  He called it “Mom, this is sooooo boring”.  Those of you who know Zoe probably know that look.  Poor kid.  I empathize with the state that begets the expression.  Boredom is a fine enemy; powerful, debilitating, uninspiring.  I can think of now worse.  We discussed this idea, more specifically the French feeling of ennui, which is a special kind of existential boredom.  We were discussing Baudelaire’s Flowers of Evil, where boredom comes up as the “abortive birth” of the relationship between mankind and the devil.  I have grown to be quite fond of Baudelaire–once a person gets past the shock and revulsion of his images, once a reader sees past the vehicle and gets at the trope, there is a shining mystical heart to his work that I love dearly.  His poem “Carcass” is one of my favorites.  I was so excited to find that many of my students could see what lay beneath his disturbing imagery…the fleeting dissolution of self into a larger whole alongside the terror of a more permanent dissolution (death).  If I can get even 1 student to buy into the idea that literature and poetry are fundamentally important to our existence, then I’ve (obviously) done my job.  An important part of our discussion revolved around why Baudelaire found Boredom to be such a devilish problem… one or two students managed to identify the central problem: the (false) belief that one is powerless, an ambivalence that allows, even fosters, the growth of evil.  Truly, what worse feeling is there than to think that what one does doesn’t matter at all.  That all action ends in irrelavance.  Pretty hard to swallow if you ask me.

Goethe had some things to say about action:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.

Lovely, no?

As far as the portrait goes, I still see some problems with the left eye, specifically the orbital indentation alongside the bridge of the nose needs more shading, and something is still off in the forehead (what?).  Also,I’m trying to  understand hair (shape, reflections, shading, curvature) but clearly still have much to learn.  The black and white medium (charcoal) is much easier to deal with…

Oh.  Here’s something interesting.  It turns out that the woman on whom the red-coated figure is based actually has a “thing” for mushrooms.  Funny, because I just couldn’t figure out why I kept seeing them.  It just didn’t make any obvious sense to me… I have no real connection to the little fungi, but Miss Bloom does.   Weird.  I suppose I must have known that somehow deep deep deep in my brain.  I’m glad I trusted my intuition and added them.  Seriously, no less than 4 times I “saw” the mushrooms before I finally said “fine” and added them even though it made no sense to me.  Cool.

1.  Read a superb short story by Jonathan Lethem, “The King of Sentences” in 2008 Best American Short Stories.  Lethem is a King of Sentences himself, and I think the story is partially about the tyranny created by success…you make a few pieces of good art and then all of a sudden newer, less evolved experiments are subjected to the humiliation of comparison.  Experience and novelty go head to head and only the naive idealism of youth can save one from annihilation.

2.  Drawings and paintings grind to a halt once again.  Methinks it is the result a dissolved network…but Jill is coming soon and we will talk shop and I will work again.

3.  White animals continue to cross my path while driving–portentious, omenous, auspicious.  Two stark white ptarmigan flew in front of my car, so close I had to slam on my brakes.  The odd thing was that they were sitting in the middle of a busy (for Fairbanks anyways) highway.  (edit: They were in the wrong place and were lucky they got out of the way before I squashed them with my Jetta.  How’s that for interpretation?)


Ok. So this is hilarious.  This comes from a new favorite blog, Craftastrophe (because handmade isn’t always pretty).  The title of the post is “Our Father Who Art in Heaven, What Up, Yo” and the post says “Because even thugs and homies have to repent their sins.”  See the little thug in the little point of the heart?  The rosarie hanging around his feet has a little plastic gun dangling from it.

bird bull

Still working small and quick and theiving from Picasso.  This one is from a 1941 pencil sketch.  I don’t know what I’m going to do with all of these.  If I’m going to sell them, I’ll have to matte and frame them which will be expensive.  I know there are artists who do “painting a day” exercises and then sell the results for el cheapo.  Maybe…

I say “Our Father” to my kids every night.  My favorite part of that prayer is “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.  I think I take solace in the the simple idea of the divine existing inside of, or even in close proximity to, this reality.  I sometimes have trouble believing in the idea, but the fact that the idea exists is nice.  My mother won’t let this comment slide without bringing up Swedenborg, and, indeed, that idea is at the heart of his theology.  My pal Joe Campbell liked to quote the gospel of Thomas on this one too, “the Kingdom of the Father is spread upon the earth, but men do not see it.”  I’m not sure why today’s entry is generating this stuff.  Maybe it’s just in the air in my studio.  It could be the fumes from the spray varnish.

For some reason, I keep returning to an interview I heard with the poet Patricia Smith recently on To The Best of Our Knowledge.  She spoke briefly about the idea that most people aren’t aware that they have a “second throat”.  I looked around for a quote and bumped into this:

Some time ago, poetry ceased to be something that I do
for fun and became the way I process my life. I would write
even if I had no books, if there were no audiences. I’d write
and read my poems to myself. When the world closes in,
poetry helps me find a safe place to breathe and be. I don’t
know if I could live without it. It’s my second throat, the
way I’m rooted in the world. This is who I am.

I’m going to hang onto that phrase, “second throat.”  It’s an odd phrase but very apt at describing the muscles I’m trying to excercise when I’m in my studio.  And painting and writing are not just what I do, but are, like Patricia says, the ways I’m rooted in the world.  I fear a world where I’m not connected by these things.  The divine is most present for me when I’m speaking with my second throat.  That first photo in this post is there to remind me that a sense of humor is woven very tightly into my throat, tied up in my roots.  What up, yo?