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Monday, April 14, 2014

ORGANIC WRITING

willem dekooning

Saw an NPR news clip online a few minutes ago concerning a sculpture of Jesus wrapped up in a blanket sleeping on a park bench, homeless in America, placed in front of an Episcopal church in Davidson, NC, just down the road. The priest, or whatever they call their preachers, said with an apologetic tone of voice the church was "upscale," like it had a case of Affluenza and couldn't appreciate a napping Jesus in their front yard. I had to laugh. With a price tag of $22,000 plus tax and shipping, I don't know of any country baptist (downscale) church that could afford one. Primitive Baptist doesn't even take up a collection. Where is the surprise a church with a member who could appreciate and afford so fine a work of art is upscale? Some of the people in the church like it and some don't. Duh. Like it's null if it gets one disapproval? So what. I doubt there is one work of art appreciated by everybody. Certainly not Picasso. Not deKooning. Not even Michelangelo's David nor DaVinci's Mona Lisa. It is their fame that draws the lines of people to them from all over the world. In the Museum of Modern Art I was looking at Brancusi's Bird In Space when I overheard a couple of "upscale" women talking loudly like old sorority sisters on a girl's day out, both in blond tv anchorwoman wigs. They were standing in front of a Pollock. One said she and a friend of theirs had made a Pollock one afternoon, and it looked just as good as the one they were looking at. I thought: No two ways about it. These women come to mind every time I see a picture of Bird in Space or a Pollock. They stay in my mind by association, same as a man waiting in line in front of me in the Boston airport. We talked shortly. I said, "This is the farthest north I've ever been." He said. "I know." I love that as the best riposte in my experience, certainly the most memorable.
 
 dekooning
 
The preacher's unconscious inclination to apologize for people that don't get it brought up for me: Here it is again. Automatic expectation that all humans are to be of one way of seeing, perceiving, beholding. This is the mainstream thinking I've seen all my life that appears to be even more automatic in this time, republican lockstep time, rule by people that don't care about anything but bribe money and paying the least taxes. Preachers and politicians I've come to see awfully much alike. They kiss your ass for your money. There again, the old-old saying, avoid politics and religion. I tend to see preachers and politicians equally self-serving. My guess would be, the percentage of the ones not self-serving is close to the same under preacher or politician. But that's just my jaundiced view of the world. Like Ronnie McRay-gun is famous for saying, "Facts are stupid  things." I could not force myself to aspire to climb the ladder as an artist for more money and attention, very largely because it meant sucking up to the rich at openings, invitations to be charming at dinner parties as the token artist. To quote French Surrealist poet, Jacques Prevert, Je suis comme je suis, I am as I am. That does not include a desire to talk about bullshit with drink in hand attempting to impress somebody looking at me with a cold eye, though gracious, who would rather be watching a ball game on television. It didn't take much of that to spit me out like the frog dropped into scalding water. Didn't stay long. No part of me wanted to learn to pretend sophistication and wit. The wit I kept to myself had to do with things like putting a bumper sticker across my ass that said, I'd rather be watching chickens race. I could not pursue that trail up the mountain. I couldn't find anything about it that was true. Liars galore. Lord have mercy, the experience with liars was looking you in the eye and telling stories you'd know were bullshit with a grain of salt for a brain. If you don't see it at the moment, you soon find out. I cannot function in a world of people such as that.
 
dekooning erased by robert rauschenberg
 
I ended the pursuit of publishing after some years of spending an awful lot of money on postage for rejection slips. The writing did not flow with me in those early years during and after school. There was too much I did not understand to find flow. In the winter of 1978 I met a mirror of myself as I wanted to be, Young American Poet, so incredibly pretentious he should have been embarrassed, and so full of shit it flowed in a steady stream out his mouth. He embarrassed me. I saw he was a few steps ahead of me, and saw myself moving in the direction of becoming like him, a poseur. In that time I got with self and said, I will write no more until whatever I write writes itself, flows of its own with its own purpose. Never pursue fame and money with an art form. I started the climb in late 1980s, early 90s with painting and hated it, loathed it, abhorred it. Said to self, What the hell am I doing? It came to I'd rather paint houses, the houses themselves. The social games that go with "making it" in any art form do not appeal. I don't want kultur vultures sucking up to me, nor will I suck up to them. I found along the way I had a complexity of ambitions where painting or writing were concerned, none of which had to do with the painting or the writing itself, peripheral. Shedding the false ambitions, they fell away through experience over a period of time, however long it takes in each case. Like the gotta-do things we're told and taught to believe. I needed to flush my head of the false thinking about art taught by belief systems about marketing, same as I needed to flush my head of religion garbage to see God in the raw.
 
henry miller
 
Starting this blog was the act of writing coming to the surface for its own sake. No fame or fortune or ambition for any purpose but the practice of writing daily toward a smoother, more articulate flow, like somebody practicing the fiddle every day. No agenda is what makes writing work for me, alongside no ambition. This is how I like to live my life, without agenda and without ambition. I like to write one sentence at a time following a thought or theme that evolved in the course of the writing, what I think of as "organic," writing. Let a theme evolve and go with it, see where it leads. The writer I would call influential on my own writing is Henry Miller. Miller was a guide for my person in the time of leaving a lifetime of Kansas fundamentalism and looking for education, learning by way of paying attention to the world around me and reading. I read Miller closely for several years, starting with the Tropics, of course, then The Colossus of Maroussi, Big Sur and The Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch, The Air-Conditioned Nightmare. I have copies of almost all his books. I have beside me a 1940 Medusa Books, New York, copy of the Tropic of Cancer. And I have one of his books signed and a handwritten letter by Miller. I love that like I love my signed copy of Ralph Stanley's memoir. The Tropics that drew attention over a headline Supreme Court case in the Fifties about pornography are so tame by today's standard as to make us laugh today at the charge, which was political, anyway, had nothing to do with the writing. Miller, unlike other famous writers, did not write about partying with other famous writers. He wrote about his neighbors, the people he knew in his everyday life, artists nobody outside their world knew about, people he knew, friends. Miller taught me appreciation for the people in my everyday life. He taught me how it can be a more spiritually rewarding experience sitting by the wood stove at the welding shop talking with friends, laughing at jokes and stories, than sitting with somebody famous, like F Scott Fitzgerald, for a drink by the pool at the club. Miller sought true human beings in his life and in his writing. He taught me that real values are to be lived, they have purpose, and it's the people in our everyday lives that matter.      
 
 
 
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2 comments:

  1. Wow...My family members have been urging me to do an exhibit of my eclectic art for several years and I have always said no...was not wanting to sell and therefore saw no reason to put it on display for a bunch of strangers to spend time looking and critiquing...you put into words exactly how I feel about it...I should make a copy of your blog and send it to all of them and say "here...this is how I feel"...Thanks for another great morning read...you and coffee...my daily buzz... (smile)

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  2. There is so much truth in your words, T.J. Not just an authentic reflection of your own experience and an intentional desire not to allow yourself to commercialize your talent, but an exhortation on the reality of the dangers of getting sucked into the vortex of having to sell and justify yourself and your work over and over again to people with too much money. I know this feeling all too well...not in the art world but in the world of 'knowledge for hire.' As a non-academic Ph.D. I have often experienced funders (like art patrons) who wish to purchase their very own 'consultant' with academic pedigree in order to make the BS streaming from their doors appear valid. After 15 years of that, I believe I've had enough. I'm rather enjoying spending each day exploring the road less traveled, reading your blog and making (almost) beautiful art. Although my bank account is not much to speak of any more, it's indeed a much more fulfilling life. Thanks for your wisdom as usual. Cheers!!--Carol

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