• .

    It happens in the course of events—it is a terrible thing that happens!—it happens that...well, it is a return to no-happening, that is what happens. It happens that things happen, and then it happens that they stop happening, it is a slow stalling, a sputtering kind of jerking series of interruptions of happening until the engine of happening dies and then there is no-happening. That is what happens. Then we are in the graveyard of happening, it is a place, really, of memory, but no thing. Or not. Perhaps no-happening is as valid a happening as any other, and as eventful, it only seems as if we have been felled by Morpheus, or, rather, Zeus at his trickiest worst (Morpheus only sends us to sleep, he does not cut us down at the knees, he does not violate our very reason for being). This word worst—wow, that is an old word! It is so old, I think it is on its way to obsolescence. We say it, but do we write it anymore? I am painting with great difficulty right now, it might even be said by some that I am painting badly. I am that "some." I am also of course its opposing voice that says I am painting several steps ahead of myself, so I am not really smart enough to judge. But "some's" opposing voice must surely be "none," and so, unfortunately, I am pretty silent on the argument that I am not painting badly, that is the no-happening—not, of course the silence, that would be too neat and well thought out, which would not be like me at all, but the no-happening of painting badly. And it is only that because it was not very long ago that I was at the center of the great happening of painting well, that is the greatest of happenings, trumpets are its instrument! It is because I admitted outside voices into my head, that was the beginning of the end of the great happening of painting well, when I admitted the critics' voices into my head and let them defeat me. It is always how it happens, it is uroboric, do not think it is the only time this has happened, it happens every time, the cycle of triumph and self-defeat, of happening leading to no-happening. Indeed, to keep self-defeat out of painting, well, that would be an achievement worthy of the Nobel Prize in Artist Management! Now, of course it is just a screaming rabble, a polyglot of mockery in my head, and I do not really know, to be honest with you, I do not really know if these critics are telling the truth or not, they are not very nice, and they are making my work at the easel very unpleasant, but perhaps they are only mean-spirited and it is not, after all, true that I am painting badly, perhaps I am painting quite well, perhaps I am painting better than well, and I will now tell you what I did not know I would be telling you when I began this non-neat paragraph, I will tell you that that is the One True Agony of painting, its Once and Future Agony, that it's impossible sometimes to know, but the brush must do its work regardless, even as mockery swings back to break one's kneecaps. 

  • .

    I say I am exactly there again because I am exactly there again, and yet, I think not. I think I am somewhere other than exactly there, I am here, exactly here, not there. So do not take my word for it, for I am not exactly there again, it is not possible to ever be exactly there again—thank god! Though new fresh miseries are always blooming, do not think otherwise! It is spring, after all.

  • .

    I am exactly there again.

  • .

    I will tell you now, I do not always know what I am after in painting. Sometimes I know, and in those times that I know, it is like floating happily on a lively lake, and I am tossed here and there but always on a buoyant body of one thing, that one thing is knowing. But I do not always know, and when I cease to know—and that is how it is, it is a cessation of knowing—then it is like sinking. I do not think it is like sinking, I think it is sinking. Now I am sinking, I am having the feeling of sinking, of breathlessness and fear and darkness. I believe I have come to the end of my squares, and I do not know why I paint, and I do not know that I should paint, I do not know that I have any business painting. How is it that I call myself a painter when I do not know what I am after in painting, there is no raison beyond flinging out my hand in order to transfer the paint from the pot to the canvas? It is even in question how to do that!

  • .

    Sometimes I go on this kind of vacation where I just work, where I work with the simple mind of no questioning. I do not ask why, I do not tug at my hair asking why and what for. I work, simply, peacefully, purposefully. But a vacation is nothing more than a temporary break from the everyday. Most of the time, I am asking why, and what for? Most of the time, I am pulling at my hair, asking myself, asking the great Without Myself, why do I do this, why do I paint, what is it for, what meaning does it have, and, if meaning is to be found, where is it to be found? I think the hardest part, sometimes the hardest part of what I do is not knowing whether it matters or not. A doctor does not go through her day wondering whether what she does matters—she knows it does. But a painter does—this painter does. I think probably the answer is a simple one, and the path lies in learning not to distrust simplicity, maybe that is where the answer lies. Why do I do this, why do I paint? What does it matter why? I paint. That is what I do. Right. No matter. None.

  • .

    There are so many ways in which being an artist is lonely, here is one of those ways: In the past, I made paintings, I know I have said this before, but in the past, I made paintings that people liked and responded to. I was very happy with these paintings, and I was also very happy that people liked them! It was rewarding! Because before I made paintings, I wrote poems and plays, and there are not many people in this world who are keen to read either poems or plays, and so I did not have a giant sense that people found the work I did meaningful or likeable. I think people would sooner pour syrup in their hair than read a poem. And people simply do not read plays, they will say they do not know how to read plays, they will not read plays. But then I began painting, and people liked my paintings, they enjoyed looking at them, I got lots of people to look at them, they were easy and enjoyable to look at, these were representational paintings, mostly of people and animals, the animals I liked to paint were rabbits and dogs and deer and coyotes and foxes, those sorts. But now I have turned away from representational painting, it is a strong swerve I couldn't halt, I think, even if I wanted to, I do not know why I was compelled to turn away from doing what I did well, although I do know I had gotten bored, and I do know also that I have been breaking down the way I paint for almost a year now, I have been working very hard to destroy it, it has been crazy-making and extremely difficult, but I do not think it is sabotage that caused me to do this, I think, at least I am hoping, it is growth and vision. But most people are sorry I have done it, and there are those who have urged me to go back to painting how (and what) I painted before. But I will not go back, and now I am making paintings that are something like poems, people do not seem to be terribly interested in reading them, for there is more effort involved than the effort it takes to look at a pink deer. I say I think it is growth and the urge to grow rather than sabotage that has brought me to this place, but what if I am wrong? What if it is only sabotage, and I am a contrarian of gargantuan proportions? (I am.) What if I have set myself on the wrong path and I have thrown away the shoes that would return me to my former path? Well, I ask myself the questions, but I'm unconcerned about the answers, because I don't t want to go back, I do not need to find those shoes, I believe there is unity in my work and a strong connection between what I did formerly and what I am doing now. But now it is lonely again, now I am alone with my work again. People really like pink deer.

  • .

    I am trying to take a picture of my studio wall—rather, I was trying to. Now I am writing this. But earlier, earlier, before it was even light out, I was trying to take a picture of my studio wall. Many of the paintings I am currently making require light to complete them. Not in the sense that we all need light to see, but in the sense that the paintings change, and the way we read them, changes according to the way the light plays on them. They are very much made with this in mind. They are like screens on which a film is projected. Sort of, but not exactly, for they are paintings, not screens. I am making paintings right now that are not good food for the voracious monster that is social media. They are subtle and quiet and depthful paintings that want time, I think, to understand and appreciate, and people are no longer accustomed to looking at things for longer than a second, if even that—however long it takes to move a finger to get to the next image, they do not spend time with anything other than the flow of imagery, the flow, you understand, and not the images themselves (most of which are scarcely worth consideration). The work I did before, with its bright colors and characterfulness, this work was perfectly suited to the glance lasting only a second. But the work I am doing now really ought to be lived with and watched, watched over a period of time, watched as the globe moves around the sun, as natural light dies and artificial light comes on, they are paintings to get lost in, but it will not be possible to convey this through photographs of the individual paintings themselves, and so I thought perhaps a picture of my studio wall in the morning light, first artificial, now natural, might convey something of their power, but I do not think even that will work. I think what would work is for us to go back in time, when paintings were viewed in the flesh rather than the fast-moving picture strips we are now so used to that we probably don't even really see anymore. After all, when your eye is given image after image after image, when it swims in a continuous and all-pervasive river of imagery, how can we see with any discernment, any connection at all to what our eyes are taking in, how can they not be clouded as with a cataracts, coated in a film of river muck? 

  • .

    I think I have said, or not said, that the paintings are changing, they are deepening. (I have not said that; I am saying it now. They are deepening.) I am no longer the painter I was. It was an arduous struggle, it was like pushing against the desert wind, it was like shouldering the burden of a thousand books while running a race, it was like anticipating the shape of what did not yet exist though its shape required anticipation in order to come into existence—no! It was not like that, it was that! But perhaps it is too early for me to crow. Perhaps if I crow now, what I am crowing about will vanish, too embarrassed in its thin young skin to survive my crowing, it will die of embarrassment! My superstitions do not permit crowing, and yet—and yet. (So said the poet.) Almost everybody would have had me stand in place. Those who would not have, he—especially—who would not have had me stand in place, to him I owe a loyalty that is larger than just my commonplace dog's loyalty. He knows who he is, who encouraged me to push forward, to push through with my dim vision, what I could only vaguely sense and couldn't see, he did not ever say to me, "But stay in place, stay put, do what you do, everybody likes it!" He did not say this; it was the chorus he didn't join, but he does not join choruses, so his is a voice worth listening to. I did not stay in place, though the chorus sang for me to. I did not keep making paintings everybody liked, though the chorus sang for me to. I began making paintings nobody liked (except him), though the chorus sang for me not to. I continued, and explored, and chased my vision, though it was very dim and often dissolved under my touch. I couldn't grasp it, yet I chased it. I was persistent (I am persistent!), I persisted through doubt and failure and a chorus of No's, and I persisted and I persisted and I would not deny what I believed (on zero evidence) might come into being if only I persisted—what else do I have to do? What, if not that, is my job on this earth, what if not to chase a vision I believe in though I am not given evidence of it? After all, my job is one of faith, it is discipline and faith, and that is my job. Those who do not see the value in what I do—and I assume they are many—it is because they do not see what underlies it, that I am upholding the tradition of true discipleship in devoting my life to art. It is not just the paintings I make, but the faith I hold that one's inchoate vision can be coaxed into wholeness and life with enough persistence and passion and self-belief. It is what art represents—not only the artist's vision, but her quest and struggle and faith. You see, I wasn't wrong: in persisting, I broke through. And so I must assume that I am doing the right job, whether I am paid for it or not, and mostly, I am not. I did not know that this was where this paragraph was headed, but here we are, it is as if I am holding a torch high overhead, and now I do not know what to do with this torch, I do not wish to extinguish it, and yet I cannot carry it into the day with me because that would be impractical.

  • .

    When I was eight years old—eight years old was my first watershed year!—but when I was eight years old, I conscripted two of my friends to perform in plays of my devising almost every day in our classroom. Here is how it went: At lunchtime, I would conscript my two friends, they were both girls, and we would rehearse a play I was either making up on the spot or had made up that morning, and then in the afternoon, we would perform my play for our class. I believe we did this, as I say, almost every day. My two friends whom I conscripted varied in their enthusiasm, the one was very shy and the other less so, she would have been the more eager participant, and the shy one would have allowed herself to be conscripted, I think, simply because she might have been a little cowed by me, I was a strong-willed girl. I'm sure I gave her the quieter parts. I do not know whether she liked being in my plays, my guess is, she did not, that she was a born spectator. Before I go on to tell you why I am telling you this story, I would like us all to take our hats off to Mrs. Dill, my teacher that year. I believe she deserves this honor for giving up a little of her classroom teaching time to me and my theatrical whims, I believe children ought to be encouraged to fully and flamboyantly express their imagination, and Mrs. Dill never told me no when I asked, again, whether I could put on a play that afternoon. She never said no! I am sure my plays were not that long, they did not take up too much time, I am sure, but I believe it was a generous spirit that gave Mrs. Dill the "yes" to say instead of a "no." Thank you, Mrs. Dill. Now, as to why I am telling you this. It is what I wanted to tell you the last time I wrote, but I did not because I chose the other thing to only, as it turned out, partially tell you instead. It is the first critique in my long career of being critiqued for the work I do, I still remember my first critique! Well, let's be accurate. It was probably not my first critique, only the first one I remember. At any rate, it was a play, I had just performed it with my two friends, the one with less enthusiasm than the other, the rest of my classmates were sitting on the floor Indian-style (I am fairly sure that is no longer an acceptable term, but that is the term we used then), and they were now an audience of little critics, perhaps Mrs. Dill opened up the floor to them, perhaps this was an integral part of the daily-play ritual, I no longer remember, I only remember one boy saying to me, in effect, for I do not remember his exact words, that the courtier bowed too much as he was leaving the presence of the king, he overdid it. It was probably a fair criticism, as I indeed remember bowing repeatedly, it was meant to be comedy, I am sure, but when you overdo it, you essentially beat the the comedy to death, and that is what the boy was telling me when he gave his critique of my repeated bowing. I then went on to a lifetime of amassing more critiques with varying degrees of aplomb, ranging from none to some. This paragraph is a good example of why titles are misleading, for not a single letter of it was on painting. 

  • .

    Now I would like to tell you about the squares because I am up to my shoulders in them again. The first thing I want to tell you about is that I feel very much as though I could go on painting them for the rest of my remaining painting time. They are infinitely compelling to me. But there is so much to tell you about, there is so much feeling I have about them, I find there is too much to tell, and I cannot decide what of that too much I should choose from, after having chosen the first thing. I will say this: They are squares, but they are not squares, for there is never a right angle, but they are squares that appear on the surface to be abstract—not that they are abstract squares, but that they are paintings of squares (that are never squares) which give the appearance of abstraction. (I think.) But they are not abstractions! These are in no sense nonobjective paintings! Perhaps they live in the world as such, but they were not born as such. They are as representational as anything I have painted. I am not saying they are squares (what a very strange word, really, this word, square, I cannot tell if it is Latin in origin or middle English or what) I am representing, I am not painting representational squares, I am painting, I will just tell you now, they began as windows, I am talking here about the Red Eye paintings, but they are becoming REDACT REDACT REDACT REDACT. I really don't want to be talking about this anymore. I should have taken as my subject today the first criticism I ever received as an "artist." It was between that topic and this one when I sat down to write my paragraph a little while ago. The one was vivid and full of story, and I longed to tell it, for it was a true story, while the other, the one I chose, was amorphous and not story-ful at all, but I chose it because I felt I wanted to tell you something that I then discovered in the act of telling you I didn't want to tell you! It is not that I don't wish you to know it, it is only that I don't want to tell my secrets yet, for I am still cupping them in my hand and animating them with my living warmth and encouraging breath, I am still hoping to turn tadpoles into dragons, I am still so deep in the midst of this work, I should not be talking about it. In other words, I am still using my secrets, I cannot give them away yet! I am very unhappy with this paragraph. It is way overcooked.