Monday, August 16, 2004

Benchmark events

Just returned the video of "Pierrot le Fou" to Reel Life, on my bicycle, in the rain, in the middle of the night. In honor of the last time I watched it, and because I did not want to have schlepped my bicycle down three flights of stairs in vain, I went to the Tea Lounge afterwards, had a glass of ludicrously expensive wine, and scribbled.

I am sorry to say that "Pierrot le Fou" did not live up to my memory of it. The last time I saw it was seventeen years ago, my junior year in college, on a Friday night when I had plans with about four different people who all stood me up, and a broken heart. (How few things have changed, in seventeen years.) "Pierrot le Fou," an obscure and pretentious Godard film, was playing at Hogg auditorium, and I sat amongst a smattering of snide French majors and had an epiphany. These people! Wandering around, doing random things as the spirit moved them, driving stolen cars into lakes just because, stabbing strange men for obscure reasons, scribbling cryptically in journals, pouting and smoking cigarettes. Eureka! Life is what you make it! We are all free! I emerged from the showing of "Pierrot le Fou" a changed soul. I went to the corner store, purchased a pack of Lucky Strikes (no, I DON'T smoke, never have, except in moments of emotional extremity and excessive intoxication), went to Captain Quackenbush's Intergalactic Coffee Shop and hammered cynical and surrealistic poetry into a pale blue spiral notebook until they threw me out at closing. Funny how I remember the notebook, after seventeen years of notebooks, the actual kinesthetic object.

I even remember bits of one of the poems I wrote that evening. It was a bitter indictment of man, as represented by the alcoholic, pseudointellectual contingent I was associating with at the time. "I could spend a lifetime under bricks./ I could live with you in Eden and never uncover my face./....I seem to see your hind's eyes/dying frightened in the woods, but it is one/ moment of fear against my steel lip/ curled savage over a day's journey/ and I do not pity you." My thesis advisor said that last line was very Sylvia Plath, there.

This time around the movie was sort of boring. These people, wandering around doing stupid things for no reason, writing cryptic and pretentious things in journals, dying at random. I even wondered whether the whole thing was supposed to be a hallucination of the main character, who has all the time never left his staid domestic existence, but has simply taken to his bed and dreamed it all; one split-second clip seemed to indicate this. At any rate it didn't hold my attention. I wonder if I've outgrown my enthusiasm for life, or whether this is the true beginning of maturity? I don't know.

And I haven't had any surrealistic poetry in me, in years. Journal entries are no longer veiled and dire, but direct and mundane. "Desperate to get out of gallery, out of apartment, move will be a pain but probably good for me. Perhaps some sweat will get me through the grief and apathy and I'll actually be motivated again." I wondered if "Pierrot le Fou" failed to inspire me this time because I am no longer such a mystery to myself. Or perhaps it was simply that I've DONE those extreme, seemingly random things--pulled up roots and moved to another country, left my glamorous French lover in a fit of petulance (bless you, Pierre), had affairs, been an itinerant gypsy, committed to a life of Art without much external remuneration. I have even frisked through the woods singing silly songs to my lover. It's not so radical after all, and now what's the point?

One pretentious line from the movie that I liked; "Once we figure out who we are and where we are going, the tragedy is that this is all we know; the rest of life remains a mystery." This sort of seemed to mean something, but the annoying thing about French films is that you can never quite tell. I decided that now I know, more or less, who I am and where I am going, the only thing that interests me is creation, and other people.

Have spent the last five days or so, generally, in an apathetic stupor, mostly asleep. Having a cold was just the excuse. I am not even bothering to feel guilty for not exercising, drinking bourbon, beer or tequila, eating sugar, bacon, and carbohydrates, doing anything to avoid my studio. I have gone all the way into "what is the FUCKING POINT" and hung out there, trusting to boredom and economic duress to eventually bring me out of it. It is surprising how hard it is to waste a lot of time. There are only so many movies you can see, so many side streets to bike up and down, so much you can overeat, so many comas you can drink yourself into. At some point it's simply less work to get on with working. I have not yet rediscovered my joy in life, but I suppose it will happen eventually. At least, the idea of suicide holds no present attractions.

Spent the afternoon in a panic, trying to generate decent-quality JPEGs of old paintings to send to the editor of an online poetry journal, which is featuring my work in their summer issue (thank you, Badger.) The editor selected a number of pieces which I'd forgotten I even painted, and due to various computer crashes, upgrades, and thefts, I no longer had any high-quality images of them. Funny how other people see such different things in my work than I do--the image selected for the cover was one I frankly can't stand, and had been planning to paint over, for lack of money and new canvas. I ended up re-photographing the ones I still own, downloading others from a forgotten old site and tweaking them in Photoshop, and sending back-up "alternate" images just in case. Looking at all this old work I realized that 1) I am not as lazy as I think I am; 2) there is a reason I fall into long periods of bleak career despair, having so many ENTIRE BODIES of work which have gone into storage or dumpsters, largely under-sold, under-exhibited and un-reviewed; 3) my current paintings carry all the weight and information of these years of study, and thus I can feel less diffident about SHAMELESSLY PROMOTING MYSELF, not as shamelessly as my sometime friend the artist/curator (see below, keyword "narcissist") but sheesh, I need to at least APPLY for shit.

This is one of the conclusions that I've come to, about this break-up--I should have been pursuing my own thing more. I'm not beating myself up about it, by any means. I don't think I was dysfunctional and dependent enough to deserve getting dumped the way I did, not by a long shot. But at least for the last ten years or so, a voice in my head has been telling me that I can't possibly earn a decent living with my art. So WHY NOT put too much energy into sustaining relationships with closed, crippled souls? Why not put my own work on the back burner while promoting other people's?

I don't know exactly what this is. It's not low self-esteem, at least not in the ordinary sense. One of the emotional things I'm noting in myself is sheer rage, the kind I have not felt since getting jilted by whatsis-face, seventeen years ago, ironically enough. There is no doubt at all in my mind that whoever gets me is getting the billion-dollar jackpot, in anybody's book. Come on, I am all the usual list of attributes, plus I bake bread from scratch, ditto vegetarian Indian food! I am a sublime masseuse! I am hilarious! I laugh at other people's jokes, and listen to them talk, and let them know I heard! I am ambitious but kind, informed but not insufferable, I know how to garden! I have long silken blonde hair, enormous bedroom blue eyes, and a figure that won't quit! What the hell is WRONG with these people?

Er, hem, not sure where I was going with that. Anyway, you know as well as I do that these things don't really matter, we are all perfect in spirit, blah-de-blah-de-blah. I think, though, that a deep part of me does not want to succeed alone, because this would be a Pyrrhic victory. I'm not one of those artists to whom art is sufficient for a mate; anyway, you notice that MALE artists like that get laid a whole lot, whereas female artists...I have two words for you...'Emily Dickinson'. Aiiiiiieeeeeeeeegh!!!!

Christ, maybe I'll go put on skimpy dresses and pout. "I vant to leeeeve, I just want to LIVE." (J'envie VIVRE, seulemente vivre.)


Liz said...

it's all true. you are an awesome artist and yet you put a huge amount of your energy into other people. this can be a virtue. but yes it's time to take yourself seriously and self-promote.

And... you are SO CUTE. And so obviously good as a mate, though sometimes you are scarily cruel with your keen powers of observation and analysis of other people's flaws.

I'd go with either the skimpy dresses, or your SF punky dyke look, but either way, overdo it. flaunt your paintings and your attractively battered pale blue notebook of a soul, or something....

Desert Cat said...

"There is no doubt at all in my mind that whoever gets me is getting the billion-dollar jackpot...
What the hell is WRONG with these people?"

I sure can't tell from here what's with people. Here's hoping your new beau can appreciate the treasure that's fallen into his lap.