Thursday, January 06, 2005


Unofficial new years' resolution #1:

Do not enter juryings that lever fees, at least in the months immediately preceding the holidays, when precious cash is better spent on gifts anyway. Or you might be checking your email on Christmas Eve, and open the one that says "Muckety-muck Biennial Shortlist" just as your beloved siblings are arriving at the front door, and be fruitlessly searching the list for your name as your favorite sister comes bursting in all full of joy and hugs, and you will feel hugged and slapped in the face simultaneously, and realize that you PAID some clueless curator to ruin your Christmas Eve, and it will Mar the Moment.

This was, of course, before the tsunami hit, and made such petty concerns seem rather worse than meaningless. But I moped anyway.

I saw the Andy Goldsworthy exhibit in Austin, though, and was restored. The important part of the exhibit was the 1 1/2 hour film about him, because most of his work doesn't translate to galleries, being in and of nature, and usually quite ephemeral. It surprises me how many people actually do know about Andy Goldsworthy, but in case you have not been in a bookstore that sells coffee-table art books during the last ten years--Andy Goldsworthy makes snow sculptures that melt, or leaf circles that blow away, or lines the tops of ancient, crumbling stone walls with sheep's wool, or suspends fragile webs of reeds and thorns from trees until they collapse in the wind. He does this most of the time. How he supported himself in the twenty or so years before the publication of his first coffee-table art book, I have no idea. But his work inspires, in me at least, a deep, wordless peace that reminds me why I make art in the first place. It's easy to forget, amid the frenetic ego-mayhem that is survival in New York.

Andy, talking about his work, does not irritate me in the way that, say, Jeff Koons does. He's not a glib fellow. His work he says, is about the struggle to understand the place he lives in. He wants to understand the way the river meets the sea, the way the sheep affect the land, the flow of the tides, the cycles of snow and sun. The forces that energize his work are the same forces that destroy it. It doesn't bother him when a sculpture that took hours of back-breaking frustration to create is carried out to sea with the tide, or melted by the sun, or taken by the wind; this is what connects him with the world, and makes the work larger than he ever could alone. "I know the world doesn't need me," he says.

This helped me articulate, once and for all, my frustration with my Basic Sculpture professor and that goddamned video about Spiral Jetty. One or two of my faithful readers will recall that during Basic Sculpture class, I was branded a reactionary for preferring Picasso's "Guernica" over Spiral Jetty, the famed Earthwork by Robert Smithson. The video about Spiral Jetty involved painfully long clips of dust blowing out behind a truck, and bulldozers pushing rocks into a lake, and endlessly twirling shots from a helicopter, coupled with overblown references to the ubiquitousness of Spirals in Nature. One of my more sensitive classmates referred to the work as "solipsistic;" I failed to appreciate the full, simple aptitude of this criticism until now.

For the meaning of "solipsistic" is "the notion that one is the only conscious being in the universe," and damn, wasn't that the case for Smithson. Spiral Jetty was about big, stupid ego and lack of understanding, ego perhaps greater than Picasso's. Yes, there are spirals in nature, duh; there are much more elegant and beautiful ways to convey a spiral, however, than bulldozing the shit out of a landscape selected for the cheap and uninhabited nature of its real estate. Smithson did not live for decades within the ecosystem of Spiral Jetty, as far as I know; he did not "watch the children lining up for school, and see them grow up and have children of their own" before he considered himself mature enough to comment upon it. Spiral Jetty tells us nothing about the movement of tides and seasons, the complex interrelationships of light and leaf and bedrock, the magic of frost and the cycles of living and dying. It's just about big, stupid men going apeshit with their big, stupid trucks and bulldozers and helicopters and video cameras.

I see it as no coincidence, now, that the professor who inflicted Spiral Jetty upon us was the same professor who utterly failed to comprehend why I wanted to "understand" my medium. In fact, I was feeling rather humble and abashed about my own klunky, literalistic paintings in the face of Andy Goldsworthy, until I realized that I, too, have embarked upon an adventure of understanding.

Because I really love to paint, not just in the ego-crashing-into-the-world manner of thousands of wannabe painters, who fling the pretty colors around at whim, thinking "look at me, I'm an Artist, I'm Painting, I Don't Understand Myself--I must be a Genius." In Williamsburg, I met about four of these a week. I was forced, by pressure of circumstance, to represent a few of them in my gallery. They're one of the major, major reasons I don't intend to open a gallery ever again. They can be ebullient, charming and fun, but they don't further the causes of peace or understanding, or anything at all but themselves.

No, for me, as I look back upon my obscure career, painting was always my wedge to create understanding--first of the human face and form and emotions, then of light, composition, color and texture, finally of energy and spirit, and the pursuit of the ineffable. I will say this for myself, that I pursue these things with more humility and singlemindedness of purpose than I have ever hounded hapless Williamsburg gallerists. And thus I don't need to feel like a total failure when Muckety-Muck Gallery leaves me off their Biennial shortlist. There will be other Biennials, as many as there are bi-years.

So, in case you care, amended resolutions:

1) Get up earlier (I will not tell you what time, lest you sneer, and anyway I'm so far failing on this one.)

2) Get into shape, meaning getting centered. On a visit to the Miracle Chiropractor of Fort Worth, Texas, Dr. David Estes, who is ALMOST as good as the Lord-High Shaman Chiropractor of San Francisco, CA, Dr. Dennis Millward, I discovered that the reason that I have been limping for the last several years, heavily favoring my left foot, is that I have an unstable sacro-iliac joint, and my whole left side has been progressively shriveling up on itself. There are infinite theories as to why this might be so, but the upshot of it is that I need to give up any hope of running marathons in this lifetime, but focus on Pilates and yoga, and work on balancing the energy in both halves of my body. This is a great relief, since the high-impact workouts I had come to expect of myself were getting too painful to continue with. Now I have the fun, hopefully attainable goal of stretching, breathing, balancing and not hurting so goddamn much.

3) Make each day a meditation, whether writing, making art, doing bodywork, or just cooking and watching movies. Continue to apply for grants and muckety-muck biennials, but make this a part of my OWN documentation process, an end in itself, and let go of so much attachment to outcome.

4) Nurture connections with people who love me back, and let the others go without rancor.

Really, I have noticed that there are two types of people in my life--the ones who disappear when I no longer have anything they want, like a gallery to show their art in, or a body they want to screw, or money or social status or ego-blandishment or WHATEVER. These are the ones that, say, don't even bother to RSVP my ingenuous Christmas party invitation, or return my phone calls when I'm valiantly striving to overcome personal catastrophe.

Then there are the ones who cat-sit and car-sit while I'm away, and call just to say hey, and send business my way, and show me their art even though I don't have a gallery anymore, and show up for my Christmas party with wine and gifts and cute little cards. These are the ones who deserve nurturing. I know this should be obvious, but I seem to have a messianic complex almost as big as Christina Ricci's. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, go rent "Buffalo 66," "Pumpkin," and "Monster" in succession and tell me if I'm wrong.) I have this semi-articulated assumption that if people are mean, selfish and inconsiderate toward me, they must be tormented souls in need of healing, and thus I should track them down and go heal them.

Well, to hell with that. I tracked down an old sculpture professor last month, discovered she was living in Williamsburg, sent her a warm, ebullient note, and did not receive a response. I tracked down a guy I had a crush on in high school, sent him a funny, flirtatious note, and received an uncomprehending and incurious reply. This January 2 would have been, and in fact was, the two-year anniversary of the date that I invited my now-ex-boyfriend to dinner, after he'd been unconscionably rude and inconsiderate toward me, and not only forgave him but invited him with open arms into my home, my heart and my life. He did not fucking deserve that, and, more to the point, did not know how to handle it when it happened. From now on the Rule is--don't be mean, but don't cut these people any slack. They hurt my feelings and I can't afford it.

There are others, but these are pretty much the gist. And a Happy New Year to you, too.

No comments: