Sunday, May 23, 2004


are what I think they're called. They look like tiny blue roses. They don't smell, but they are profuse, and they dangle down. I never heard of them before, but once I'd met them, ownership was mandatory. And then I had to get a pot of pink-and-purple fuchsias to keep them company, and a little white cyclamen to replace the red one that died because the house-sitters didn't notice it, in the copper hanging basket, over Thanksgiving. And then I had to re-pot everybody.

Okay, so I go on plant binges. It's better than going on cocaine binges. Cornelius says I'm not maternal, because when I have friends come to stay with me and they whine like spoiled four-year-olds for a week, I have hysterical breakdowns and don't get over it. He says that if I had the Maternal Instinct and my friend acted like a four-year-old, and I realized that deep down she WAS a wounded four-year-old, all would be right with the world.

I don't know about this. Maybe he's right. Maybe I only have HALF a maternal instinct, and that's why I buy all these plants, and have a celebration every time the rubber plant unrolls a new leaf, and wring my hands when the china doll grows too near the stove burner and gets singed. Maybe that's why I sit at breakfast every morning and encourage the ficus.

Then, of course, there are the cats. I maintain that I don't really have three cats, because having three cats in a one-room apartment in Brooklyn would be crazy. I just have one Cat, the Big Splendid Cat. Then there is the Little Kitty, a different thing entirely, and utterly indispensable. The Brat was an afterthought, and anyway he spends most of his time in the ceiling, above the acoustic tiles, which he figured out how to rearrange all by himself.

The Brat, however, is constantly warring for space with the orchid and the japanese fern, and I really don't know what to do about it. They all NEED to hang out in the bathroom window, and there's not room for all three of them there. The plants get first dibs because they can't fight for themselves; they just sulk and languish for lack of humidity. The Brat sends them tumbling onto the litter box, and everyone comes out with bruises, not to mention soil all over the bathroom.

Perhaps this is all just half-assed procrastination. If I were serious about artistic procrastination I'd have a real baby, and put my art on hold for twenty years, and blame my frustration on the kid, and raise a serial killer and grow old and bitter. As it is I just futz around with watering cans and cat brushes and vaccuum cleaners as an excuse for not painting. That's what it seemed to be about on Friday, anyway, when I binged on campanulas after work, and then spent the next four hours watching Blind Date reruns, and went to bed excoriating myself for being lame and a failure and Not A Real Artist At All.

But then in the morning I realized that the reason I wasn't painting is that my studio was gunky. It was full of cat hair and dead leaves and little flakes of scraped-off paint, and dirty rags, and seven unfinished paintings, all abandoned at Awkward Stages. It was, simply, too disagreeable and overwhelming to contemplate, after massaging people all day, or before massaging people all day. So I vaccuumed with the hose attachment, turned five of the paintings wall-wards, took out vats of garbage, did the dishes, re-potted some more plants, and voila! I'm living in My Dream Life as an Artist. With off-white walls, high windows, sun streaming in, and cellos playing constantly in the background.

I can't help it, I'm a romantic.

Today, though, instead of painting, I biked all the way uptown and saw the Whitney Biennial, which was actually worth the eight hours, the absence of bike lanes above 10th street, and the day out of the studio on one of the two precious days a week I'm not chained to the gallery. Really, it ROCKED. The last Biennial I had a revelation; that the Whitney wasn't the sole arbiter of What's Good In Modern Art, and thus I didn't need to take the Biennial personally and get really pissed off. Instead, I took it as a "look at this, isn't that odd" sort of thing. The years before that I DID get really pissed off, and competitive, and despairing.

This year, for the first time, I had an unequivocal blast. I didn't walk up to each piece and think, "how cute," or "I can sort of see that," or "mmmmm." I walked into the first room, which was full of big paintings by people who actually knew how to paint, and went "caramba!" Then I went to the next room, which was full of complicated psychedelic images and videos and flashing lights in ever-changing colors, and went, "boop-be-doop-doop doop," and by the time I got to the sculptures of decaying werewolves in mirrored tombs with hummingbirds plucking jewels from their bones which were growing stalactites of quartz crystals, I was cackling and whooping unabashedly. I don't know how I would possibly write about this exhibition professionally--there was simply too much of it, and not enough for me to be ironic about. I simply say, "Hiiiii-yah! I salute you," plunk down my $40 for an artist membership at long last, and leave it at that.

On the bicycle I noticed that lately, the world is full of smells, and most of them are scrumptious, for some strange reason. They are the kinds of redolent smells that imprint happy memories--baking cinnamon rolls, tobacco smoke, rain, herbal soap, indefinable green, floral things. I don't know whether it's a sudden, miraculous respite of allergies, a random spiritual progression, or just spring. Spring is a much, much, much bigger deal in a place where winter is constantly dark and full of piles of non-negotiable black icy sludge. I used to think that people who fussed about Spring were about as fatuous as the curators of the Whitney Biennial. Now I'm bouncing around telling people, "it's Spring! it's Spring!" like a total idiot.

On the way home, after sitting in a burger joint having a celebratory Guinness and writing euphoric scribbles in my journal, I suddenly thought I'd start sculpting again, or making the sort of sculpture/painting/installation things I started making in art school, and stopped making for lack of encouragement. I realized lately that you can KNOW that your instructors were jealous and screwed up and second-rate, and were being condescending and unsupportive out of ego and insecurity, and still internalize their attitude to such a degree that you stop making neat stuff. I thought I'd make the towers again, little beautiful objects climbing up the wall or falling down the wall, and maybe this time the objects could be chakras. Towers of seven chakras each, made of all sorts of lovely things. Or I could do free-standing assemblage sculptures with the same theme, only then I'd have to get ten times as much space and a welding shop.

And I could use the plants in them, and call it art.


Anonymous said...

Surely someone has a basement for storage. It's the welding shop that seems hard.

-- badger

Anonymous said...

p.s. Somehow no one ever whines when they stay with me. they eat mac and cheese and like it. I give them blankets and clean towel. they wash the dishes and timidly request things, which I attempt to provide in a half-assed way. I think you might have had some periods of attracting the Hideously Needy for a while there. I wonder why?

- me

serena said...

C. calls me "the Universal Tit." I have this ideal about being "universally loving," and patient and understanding and shit, which makes me a magnet for the Universally Needy. Sometimes they're good at concealing it until they're actually in my home, which is the scary thing.