All day today I have felt like a success. Certainly not money or attention success. I have blown my own mind, and that blows my mind. I have touched art for the first time in my life. This black box with the string hanging down, or standing up, whichever, I cannot stop looking at. I prefer to think of the string suspended. Now I'm thinking of other things to do with string, simple, like this one, simple down to just the string. I see one I want to do right now, but have to vision it first and I have only the conception. This is what I mean by success. I'm making things that are my own, that come from my own imagination, like composition did in the time of painting portraits of mountain musicians, but a step beyond. What I'm doing now grew out of boredom with what I called painting inside the lines. One day I said, no more coloring book art. From here on, somebody likes it, ok, somebody doesn't like it, ok. Indifferent to praise or blame, I set out find my own aesthetic besides reproducing faces and hands. I thought of gluing some cardboard to plywood and painting them different colors. Made two and they did not trip my trigger, but felt like it was leaning in a direction I liked. The next one, same arrangement of cardboard on plywood, all one color, yellow. I loved it. Made another yellow one, then a fire orange one, a black one with a faint purple haze in it, different compositions of the cardboard. Each one I liked better than the one before. It has been this way all along in this series, the black box being at least the thirtieth in the series, sometimes sculpture, sometimes to hang on a wall. I can't afford to make big outdoor sculptures, so I make small models of things I'd like to see big in a public space. This part ceases to matter, the model being the thing itself.
A few friends have seen some of the new things, though I have no interest in anybody seeing them. I'm exploring my own aesthetic for myself and seeing where it goes. Actually, I don't want the distraction of attention. I like showing them to friends at the Daily Creative Practice group on facebook, and like seeing the new things by the different people there. I find it an inspiring bunch of people I've come into contact with. I'm the only one doing what I can only call minimalism. It is natural that I would want to go minimal. I remember seeing minimalism come in after abstract expressionism, seeming so radical, extreme after a period of expressionist splashings of color, though some, like Robert Ryman and Barnett Newman were like the seed of minimalism in abstract expressionism. I took to minimalism with a passion similar to how I took to punk rock after a period of what was then called "underground," and now called "classic," "Sixties" rock. Punk was refreshing and new, as was minimalism. At first, I was a bit ill at ease with the simplicity of it, in both cases. I saw a show at the Whitney (I think), in 1968 or 9, of a blend of Pop and minimalism. I was there to see the Pop, not much interested in minimalism, until I saw a green board about eight feet long leaning against a wall. Upon seeing that board, I felt like I got it. All other minimalist works I saw after that fell into place, I saw what they were doing. Since then, I've found a couple of good picture books of minimalism and a few by artists, Robert Mangold and Richard Serra. I'm drawn to the simplicity of minimalism, both visually and philosophically. In the time of abstract expressionism was a belief that went with it that abstraction was the apex of pure art, the ultimate in art. It was an arrogance. Then came minimalism and pop. There was something next.
Abstractionists went nuts when pop came along, some calling it propaganda art, and minimalism wasn't even worth noting. Who cares about a plywood box? I never dreamed I'd be entering the minimalist arena. All the years of learning, enjoying, appreciating 20th Century art, I preferred to do figurative realism, because I live in the country and wanted to paint in relation to the culture I live in. I wanted to paint mountain people. I wanted to validate mountain people, say these people are worthy of note, worth remembering. The greatest gift from God in my life has been landing my parachute in the Blue Ridge, no more knowing where I was going than a dandelion seed in the wind. I'd only seen Doris Ullman photographs of Appalachian poverty. In the first months, I was afraid to walk anywhere, afraid I'd come up on a still and get shot. Pure fantasy. The Ullman portraits were the tail end of another time. I feel like I've made my contribution to my community by now, seven years with the radio show of regional music, four years a store that sold regional cds, five years a column in the local paper, involvement in this and that. A time came after the heart acted up that I felt like I've been given a stay of execution, not borrowed time, but a gift of time. I thought, this is my time. This is I dive in to find out who I am time. Time to explore my attitude toward life. Since Jr died, I felt like I've fulfilled my service to humanity give-back and may have been given extra time twice to advance my search. It is time I don't want to waste on distractions. And if I'm going to find my own art, which I felt I'd been creeping toward all the way along, reaching toward art like grabbing the air.
Finally, I feel like in the black box with the string I have touched art. I'm not putting this up for debate, just reporting that within self I feel like I have, indeed, touched art. It's a quiet, humble feeling. It is something I feel like matters to no one but me, aint nobody's business but my own. It's mine to work with. Next, the step beyond this. Everything I've done in this series, I love it upon completion. It tells me I am in touch with my own personal aesthetic, informed by everything I've learned since birth. Every aesthetic consideration comes from my own visual sense. Feeling visually. No consideration of selling eliminates the money distraction. I am the only one it is necessary to please. At this moment, each one I do I love more than the one before. In October I'll show them in the Sparta library for a month. It will be a fun month. Few people will see them. Nearly everyone who sees them will see nothing. This guy's trying to pull my leg calling this shit art. And that's ok. What somebody else sees is neither here nor there for me. Like a Rorschach ink blot, it is what the individual sees. Now that I've reached an ideal, it's kind of like coming into a place I cannot transcend, but I can, and will. The significance of the black box for my own development is what comes next. It put me in a new zone. I even feel like this is worthy of Francis Picabia, an ideal for me. Dada post-dada. The Dadaists of 1915 and a few years after were the punk rockers of the art world. They did something that was new in their time. I am not. What I am doing has gone before, others did it first, a century ago. It is new to me, coming into dadaist way by way of minimalism is a perfectly natural progression for me as these are the periods of 20th Century art that appeal to me most. A long way of saying I feel successful within.