THE MODIST'S DILEMMA OF IMAGE
Today is the first day above freezing in a while. So I'm out in the studio, with both doors open, sprinkling pyrodex gunpowder onto a canvas that's been driving me crazy. I've decided to dedicate this year to working as much as i can as a "studio" artist. This means making crap, as opposed to doing churches, or gallery shows OR working for the MAN. I'm taking a break from semi-retirement. This approach to art making is a tough one for me. I've spent almost 40 years trying to leave these decisions to some process, not the esthetic eye. A bloody deer drug across a canvas may look painterly, but it's an action produced image. 30 seconds and it's done. No stepping back to look, and then continue. I light the gunpowder and a fizzling line runs across the canvas, smoke pouring out the doors. Maybe I better move this operation outside.
I no sooner have the canvas laid on saw horses in the snow, than GNJohn drives by. He brakes and backs up. As I spread wheat paste across burnt paper, I bitch to him about my artistic predicament. "You'd think at my age I'd have some clue about what I'm doing." I whine. He sizes up the mess and tells me how much he wants to go to Florida, the problems of his dying dog Girl, and overall winter malaise. "Maybe you can use it as a background for something." He suggests to the smoking canvas. Hmmmmmmm. Then we bid adieu, and go about our separate days.
I drag the sticky canvas back inside and let it dry by the woodstove. The phone rings. It's Shewho. She's two hours early for the bus back to town and bored. I give her the update on the "painting" and tell her all about the Clifford Still doc. I saw on PBS last night. I've been a big fan of Still's from when I first moved to SF in 1975 and saw the SFMOMA show in 1976. The doc. sucks but the Still work unrolled in the new Still museum blows my mind. Shewho's not as big of a fan. She asks me if I know about the Chinese artist who does gunpowder paintings? I don't. Figures I'd miss this one. I'll later google him and be relieved that his work has nothing to do with mine, except the gunpowder. But back to Still. Now here's a guy that has no dilemma of image. He hit his stride in 1949 and rode it until his death in 1980. Those big paintings are of nothing but pure existence. Like all the heavy weight painters of the time- Pollack, Rothko, Kline, Motherwell there's little reference to anything before. But this dude hit it right on the head. They are as fresh today as ever. I'm won over all over again.
I'm sorry for all the artfag narrative. Look, no one is sorrier than I that I'm not in a tree right now, considering wind, the next front, tracks, how to hit the damn critters. But no season 'til May. That leaves art and religion. You know the deal. So bear with me. I've realized I'm a Modist....as opposed to a Grandeur. My gestures, though extremely considered, are small. I'm out of the game. My participation in the so-called art world is limited to commenting on Kenny Schacter's fb page. Otherwise it's just me and the decision making process, year after year. Shewho suggests some deer blood mixed with the gunpowder. I'm there. I had considered thawing out some meat for dinner. I decide on stew- more blood. I guess the image will reveal itself eventually. Can't rush these things.