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Thursday, April 29, 2010

SERAPHINE, THE ARTIST

bluets



In the past I've scooped up a handful of dirt under a small cluster of bluets and put it in a teacup. A teacup is the right pot for bluets. I'll probably get one in a day or two. Nice little indoor bouquet of the bluets of spring that stay in flower for a long time. They don't require any more care than occasional watering, and not much of that. They have a fresh air about them. They delight the eye with their tiny magnificence. When the flowers are done, I can put them back in the ground and they'll return next year. They're hardy little things. They make me think of Asheville poet, Jonathan Williams, who had a book of poems titled, Roots and Bluets. I think 'roots and bluets' every time I see bluets.



Everywhere I look, trees are in full bud, some popping open, some yet to. This early warm spell we had didn't seem to hurry the trees about buds opening. The buds have their own ghostly beauty. A tree in full bud amounts to a haze of the colors orange, pink, yellow, red, and the colors in haze behind it can be seen through it until there are 2, 3 and 4 layered tree-shaped hazes of these brilliant spring colors. It has been several weeks the trees are waiting for the time to be right for the leaves to open.



Two calves, white with reddish brown spots, each decorated in its own way, are lying down in the green meadow where the grass is to their ankles, an abundance of what Tom Pruitt called, fresh green shoots. They're comfortable. They've been together all their lives and probably will go to slaughter together. They have a good life; plenty of grass to graze, a salt block, periodic grain delivered, a friend for life to pass the days with, a fence around their territory to keep everything else out. The meadow is their safe place. It's all theirs. Not a bad life, considering their purpose is to become Whoppers and Big Macs. Burgers on the hoof. Out there chewing their cuds. Light coming in at a sharp angle in the evening glows on their backs, a nice warm feeling when its 61 degrees, the last kiss of sunlight before morning.



There's nothing like losing a good friend to make me raise the value of my living friends. Now that I'm out of Sparta, I like to get up with people I've not seen much, spend some time together, talk over whatever comes up, people whose company I enjoy, ones I didn't get to see much in the past for looking after Jr and running a store and everyday life busyness, the quiet people I don't run into because, like me, they don't go anyplace much. People I've come to know through Jr I want to see periodically to keep in touch. I suppose they feel the same about me as I feel about them, memories of Jr. I'm happy every time I talk with somebody I knew through Jr, because we talk about him, and I like to talk about him, hear tales about him, tell tales about him. He can trust me in death as in life to always be on his side, to confirm his good name. I'm glad for Jr's sake that he had someone he could trust to come through for him in his helpless time, look to his interest when his mind was gone as much as when he had his mind, behind his back as to his face.



I saw a film this afternoon that was so real it was like it was happening instead of scripted, acted and filmed. Seraphine. French film, subtitles, the true story of an artist in a small French town who was a cleaning lady. She amused herself making pictures. She was the bottom of all pecking orders until an art dealer from Paris found her by chance. It was the time between WWs 1 and 2. The actress who played Seraphine was like she wasn't ever acting. Her resemblence to Jean in her life as the one everybody talked down to really took ahold of me. Jean liked to make drawings too. I didn't encourage her to paint more, unlike the man in the movie who encouraged Seraphine. She had a period of time with good income and a big studio, due to his encouragement and sales. But that was before the hammer fell. She became obsessive painting all night long, working late in the day, ran herself down, the Depression put an end to sales, put her standard of living back to what it was before, which was OK, but a few screws fell out and and her mind went a little wacky.



If people around her could have just allowed her to act out her harmless fantasies, she'd have been fine. Hers was a life of other people helping her out until she ended up tied down and straightjackedted in an institutional bed in a cell with a window. It felt to me like a story of the disasters interfering in other people's lives can create when the intent is so to the good. It works like that so often. Like people coming into Sparta with a business idea that's what Sparta needs, like me. Turns out Sparta didn't need it. A lot of other people have learned Sparta didn't need whatever it was they thought Sparta needed. I was cautious about trying to do something that would be to Jr's good, because it seldom works out as imagined, imposing my will on somebody else's karma, their own flow, their own track. It's what happens when you get knocked off your own track onto somebody else's and it's not going where you need to be going. I liked to respond to Jr's will as it arose, instead of imposing onto him what I thought best. I knew him well enough to know he knew himself better than I or anyone else knew him. When it came to who made his decisions or determined his directions, he did, up to the last breath. That's what I felt like I was doing there, helping him to live by his own decisions all the way along.



Seraphine was a beautiful soul, who loved God and had a good life cleaning for other people, no family near or far, painting pictures for the fun of it. She was on her own cloud and had a good life there, albeit lonely and poor. The actress, Yolanda Moreau, was the character on first sight. While it looked like she was not acting at all, it was an acting tour de force, because it didn't look like acting. An unforgettable character. I, in my own life, have come to see my art as something I don't want attention for, will not pursue the fame and money game for. I've come to wanting my own art to be like music to the mountain musician. It's what you do because you love doing it, you've worked at it a long time improving as time goes by, you live the rest of your life too, what little you make from it is supplement, like new tires, a dentist visit, like that. A sale makes it possible to catch up a little bit. I don't need for a sale to buy me a house on a beach in Florida. I want my art to be an at home thing, no ambition for New York, no ambition outside the world of the people I live among. The ambition here is to honor the individuals I paint with a portrait in the world to be remembered by a long time after they're gone. Not that I believe that is especially important, because a fire could burn them all up. But I believe honoring them is important. Just the act of doing it. Like a musician's delight is in making music. These are the thoughts I gathered from witnessing Seraphine Louis's story of reaching too far for something that wasn't there. The art market world both energizes and destroys. It depends, like Hollywood, on which wave you catch, the one with the great white shark in it or the one without. I'm not a surfer, so it doesn't mean a bowl of Mexican jumping beans to me. That's how I like it. Let everybody else fight it out.










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