• .

    Today I would like to kill two birds with one stone, but first I'd like you to consider how really very difficult it would be to kill two birds with one stone. First of all, we do not kill birds with stones anymore, not most of us anyway, we do not need to aim our slingshots at birds, we only need to direct ourselves to the bird section of the grocery store. I do not know why we would kill birds other than to eat them, although catbirds, magpies and scrub jays are all birds I've disliked enough to want to throw stones at, although not necessarily to kill them, only to make them fly away. Catbirds because they whine interminably; magpies because they, well, talk too much; scrub jays because they're too (interminably) screechy. It would have to be a very large stone that took out two birds side by side, or one with such force behind it, it took out one, who was flung so violently, she took her companion with her. I don't know. I really can't see how a person could kill two birds with one stone. But I am going to do so now, at least metaphorically, because I am going to tell you about my Red Eye paintings, what I am calling my Red Eye paintings, and that will be the stone (flinty) of today's paragraph, and it will also serve as my artist statement, which I need to provide with the Red Eye paintings I am sending east. So. You are on a plane. It is nighttime. Imagine you are on a plane and it is nighttime. You are alone, there is no companion beside you, only a stranger who is beyond reach. You are leaving something. You are going toward something. What are you thinking as you gaze unsleepingly out the window, what thoughts are you projecting into that black nowhereness of an unpeopled and unknowable universe? What are you running from? What are you running for? It is so—for me, it is so poetic, the idea of movement, of running, of travel, of darkness, of voidness, of night.  Lately, I have been making paintings that take as their subject no object, or, rather (perhaps), that take as their subject space. I am a storyteller. But so are you. We are all with story. What I am doing in these paintings is providing, if you will, the space—the window, the stage (for there are stage paintings as well)—into which, it is my hope, you will project your own stories, the poetry of your own stories. Of course, the paintings must be paintings too, and that is my job, to make them right with the eye, it is not your job to make the paintings, but I would like it very much if you completed them by telling your story into them, even if where you are telling it is inside your heart and even if the way you are telling it is not with words but with feelings, with the soul's grammerless response. Now I will tell you something that is not for the artist statement, but is for this paragraph: I will have to change the voice slightly for the artist statement, I will not be including the bit about making the paintings right with the eye, that was only for you, but that will be easy work, and now my work (on this) is finished, I have my two dead birds at my feet—do you know, I've never even touched a dead bird, though I've seen plenty? I have not touched death much. The other day, on the hiking trail, there was a dead snake. It was dead. Its deadness, the way it lay inert and slack with deadness, was something I found utterly grotesque. I would say it was the quality of slackness I found grotesque. But now I am hunting another bird, and that is completely unnecessary, when I already have my two dead ones.

  • .

    The business of art is so disheartening. Painting is its own struggle, it is sometimes a bloody war, it is sometimes, happily, not as fierce as that, it is usually a struggle of one kind or another, but it is deeply rewarding, and I do not consider that it would be worth doing were it not a struggle. I distrust things that come too easily, these things are called "facile." I have made facile paintings, and they are the paintings I destroy, they are not worth keeping, they signify nothing, not even failure. But the business of art, this is a struggle I don't much like engaging in. That is because it is a game whose rules are unclear to me. There is nothing straightforward about it; it is all twisty and turny and full of rabbitholes and snakeholes and mirrors you can sometimes walk through, and sometimes not, sometimes they will be closed to you and if you try to walk through them, as you did last week, they will only show you back to yourself, stunned, confused, dumb. I do not understand this game! It is interesting, the word "submit," is it not? As artists, we submit our work for consideration. We submit. It is an act of submission. In performing it, we become submissive. We make our pleas for entry. It is usually not given. It is not because of the quality of the work. There is not that logical correlation. I have seen more bad art on the walls of the galleries of this city than seems statistically even possible. This is another thing I do not understand. You could throw a rock, I have said before, and hit a hundred good artists—how did this one get a show? There are rules, you see, there must be complex rules I am too obtuse to understand. Really, though, I think it is like being a butterfly who is told she must do the heavy carrying of a mule as well. It doesn't matter that the wings won't hold. Find a way to turn them into burden carriers. But be beautiful in flight, be weightless on the earth as we could never be. Show us what it is to be ephemeral; but what have you brought us besides?

  • .

    Being an artist has no intrinsic value, it is valuable only to the canvas that loves paint or the paint that dreams of the violation of brushes. It is memory, I believe that art is memory, and so I suppose then that artists are memory keepers, but so are many others, so are writers and recorders of all sorts. But I will say this about the memories that art keeps, I am talking about painting. They are memories of ourselves! It is not the memory of paint, or surface, it is not the memory of museum-going. It is the memory of light. It is the memory of time, of land and the gamboling wind, it is the memory of hats!, the memory of dust, of circumstance and being. I do not think I am making myself clear! That is because it is very difficult to put words to this, for I am speaking of something so ethereal, no words can stick to it. It is memory. It is the memory of ourselves as we have existed through time. It is the memory of blood and breath. Painting gives us that. It lets us remember. But I still cannot say that being an artist has intrinsic value, even though it is illogical to then speak of art's great value as a memory keeper, or a feeling keeper—feeling that is memory, or memory that is experienced as feeling. It is illogical, because without artists, there would be no art, and therefore no memory. We would not remember ourselves! Yes, yes, I know, we could read the Illiad or Beowulf, and that is memory as well, and it is powerful. (I have heard the beating of a thousand hooves in pursuit of Grendel, and I have tasted what those armies tasted, and I have felt their drunken fatigue!) But standing before a painting—let me be specific, it will be easier: Standing before a painting by, say, Rembrandt, do you not slightly bow your head in memory of the low roof? Do you not watch the dust that filters through the window, remembering the movements that unsettled it, the creak of the chair as the sitter sat? Can you not smell the dusty corner full of shadow and a shaft of light? So far, machines cannot create that experience, and neither can people who are not artists, and animals can't do it either, only artists can. But I do not think any of that matters, for I do not find a world that values artists. It is a world that romanticizes them, particularly their unhappiness and struggle, it is a world that enjoys stories of their misery in life and wild success in death, it is a world that delights in hearing of their self-destruction and their tragedy. But it is not a world that values their well-being. If there is celebrity attached to the artist, then I believe there is also value, then the artist has value because, as we all know, celebrity has enormous value in our culture, it is the value of forgetting ourselves. Now I will make a logical statement based on the foregoing, and then we will be finished with today's paragraph, which I spent more time untangling and (more or less unsuccessfully) sorting out than you will ever know—consider that I began with a statement that I then completely refuted and how that contradiction was unresolvable but necessary nevertheless to resolve—that statement is this: Forgetting ourselves is clearly more valuable than remembering ourselves. 

  • .

    Oh, well, I guess there is nothing. On this morning, as the light is coming up, there is nothing. It is a wan, nothing-color light that is low in the east. There are telephone poles against this light, and wires. I see these things through a loading-dock door/window that is my only window. There are other things I can see, but they are not worth mentioning. It is not an edifying view. It is Saturday morning. Of all the mornings, I find Saturdays the most difficult mornings to be a painter. It will pass, as Saturday mornings do—in fact, as all mornings do—but while it is here, this difficulty, it is a difficulty not unlike the inability to breathe. There is so much to do, it is not as if I do not have a thousand things to do—on this morning, I plan to prepare paper, for instance, and this will involve stretching it, cutting it, and then brushing onto it first an acrylic medium and then clear gesso, which gives it tooth and grain. I will also stretch two canvases, on which I will be painting two "Red Eye" paintings to send east (I am being uncharacteristically specific!), and I will also begin the very early work on a large new "window" or "stage" painting, which I am also sending east. This will be the work I do in the morning, which precedes the actual work of painting. Also, I am doing this, I am telling you things, which is a thing I love. It does not matter, however, that I have all these things to do, and that I more or less love every task. It is an unease that fills me, a loneliness, the loneliness of the insistence on solitude my particular form of being an artist takes. I wish it were otherwise, but it is not. Most days, I do not feel this unease. I am happy to report that on most days, I do not feel this unease. But Saturdays wheel around to themselves again and again and again, and then I feel the unease, the unsettling unsettlement of never settling, never settling, never settling. Already, in the very early hours before the light came up, already I have felt envy and desire and regret. After all, there was not nothing; there was this.

  • .

    It is not always, you know, going to be about painting, or on painting. In fact, now that I have called it something, something serious and upright, I will probably make every effort to defy it, to defy the label, defy the title, I will tell you, I do not like titles! I do not like them because they are constraints and because they are liars, we are never what we say we are, not because we are deliberate liars, but because we are incapable of describing great complexities with simple descriptions and few words, in the case of this blog, two: On Painting. Well, I do not want it to be about painting today, or on painting, I want it to be about helicopters. Specifically, the ones that are making mincemeat of the morning quiet. That is enough, it is enough to say that. If you happen to live in Los Angeles, you who are reading this (is someone reading this?), then I do not need to say more. If you do not live in Los Angeles (you who are not reading this?), then I cannot say more, for you do not know what it is like to live in a low-lying spill of a city that polices by air. But here is a nice thing I will say about helicopters: When they leave suddenly, they leave behind a deeper, more extraordinary quiet than the ordinary quiet they came into. That is a nice thing about helicopters. 

  • This morning, I have it in my head to discuss my absence of heads. Someone said to me, "But what does it mean?" and I replied, lazily, I didn't know. Look, I've been making things up my entire life, and these things I make up, they are poems and plays and now paintings, I do not just make them up for myself, they are not merely solipsistic manifestations of the esoterica of my imagination, although certainly they spring from it, although I do not think that is their primary source, I cannot give a name to that source, I believe it is outside of me, and I am just sensitive enough to not only intuit it, but to listen to it and to openly respond to it as well, that is to say, to stay in correspondence with it despite its demands and punishments, which far outweigh, I believe, the rewards of being possessed by and in possession of such sensitivity. There are few rewards. But I cannot remove my sensitivities, I am one with them. To be sensitive, to be hypersensitive, that is no doubt the primary condition of being an artist. It is not an easy thing to be. It is neither pleasant nor comfortable. We are responsive instruments. What I am wanting to tell you, and would be telling you if words didn’t keep getting in my way, is this: I have been doing this for a very long time. There is nothing arbitrary about what I do. It requires enormous amounts of solitude and thought and not-thought. I do not create things with the wild randomness of a ranging animal. (Although instinct does play its role, and it is sometimes a starring role.) If you were to look at the entire body of my work, I am certain you would find it coherent, making its own (internally) logical progression to a terminus that hasn't arrived yet. If I am making paintings right now of bodies without heads—let's be precise, of female bodies without heads, there must be a reason, even though I cannot necessarily be relied on to tell you what that reason is. My unreliance is my laziness or circumspection, it does not signify a lack of insight. It is only me taking a small holiday from the rigors of what I do, because, in fact, it means so much, it is a meaning that is a suitcase that holds the accumulation of all that I have done over the long course of my life as an artist. If I am making bodies without heads, I am telling you, I have earned that right, and it is not without meaning. I am happy to discuss it; in fact, I welcome the opportunity to discuss it, but I cannot give an offhand, quick answer: It means this. There is no one answer to give. Perhaps in the future I will make a catalog of the many answers I could potentially give.

    Tags

    Categories

  • When I was a young woman, after I graduated from university, I worked in publishing in Manhattan. The first house I worked for was Oxford University Press. This was a very nice place to work! The people who worked there were eccentric, they were old-timey kind of publishing people. One of the editors wore bedroom slippers! They had book sales in the library once a month, and you could order books from their list for free sometimes. For instance, I got the Complete Works for zero dollars and zero cents! We had half days on Fridays in the summertime, presumably so we could get to the Hamptons in time for cocktails. It was all very not for profit. Then I decided I wanted to move to Oregon and write, so I quit the job. When I told my boss, who was English, that this was what I was doing, he said to me, "Go West, young woman," and I have always saved a little fond spot for him in my heart because he said to me, "Go West, young woman." But I did not go West, not then anyway, so after a spell of not working, in which I would buy the New York Post every morning, along with a bagel and coffee, then spend the day writing, I took another publishing job, and in this job, I had an office that overlooked the Chrysler Building, eye to eye with the secular-church-spire-y top. I would watch the way the sun lit the silver hubcaps throughout the day, or the spire, as I say, it was like a magnificent sundial and I was some Druidic worshipper, though I had stupid office things to do to justify my paycheck. One of these stupid office things I had to do was to file papers—not that I was a file clerk, but that I was some sort of person who had to create files for the papers she produced, letters, memos, spreadsheets, what have you. But I found this task tremendously difficult, for I was unable to categorize the papers in such a way that some would belong to one file while others would belong another file, linked to their file mates by some criteria that eluded me. To me, each paper was sui generis, belonging only to itself. At the same time, each was related to the others in ways that precluded separating them into separate files. What criteria, after all, was I to use? I could not decide—I was not a good categorizer! So I used a lot of file folders, and many of those folders only contained one file. As I say, I could just as easily have had only one file folder and placed all the papers in that one folder, because they were all as related to each other as they were unrelated. In the aftermath of having made some sort of go at this filing business, I imagine it was then rather difficult to find various memos or whatever it was I filed if ever I needed to refer to them. I imagine that would have been very difficult, but I do not remember. I am now having a similar difficulty with my website. I do not know how to categorize my work because I have so much of it! So far, I have made categories based on either when the work was made or series I have done. That was sensible of me! But I do not wish to show so much of my work anymore, and now I must figure out a new way of showing—and categorizing—an edited version of a large oeuvre, and I do not know that I can do it!  In addition to that, I have so much new work to add, but because I do not want to create the same kind of categories as I did in the past, I do not know how to add this new work! And yet, it must be added! I wish someone would come and do this job for me, but they will not, I know they will not, and so I must do it myself. I have enjoyed telling you this story. I have enjoyed it because telling stories does not confuse me. Even though my writing can be very circular and brambly, I am rarely confused when I am working with sentences. Sometimes, it is true, I have to treat my words like breadcrumbs to make my way back to my original point, it is true that sometimes I have to do that because I am so digressive. But there are words, they can be used like breadcrumbs, and I can do it! Besides which, circularity is very logical to me. In fact, it is probably the shape of God. Unfortunately, now I must return to my website to be flummoxed by its reorganization. It is really very much like filing.

     

    Tags

    Categories

  • I will begin this with an understatement: Nonobjective painting is hard. In fact, it is so hard, I can't even find a way to describe to you how hard it is, so I will back up a minute and give you a quote from Robert Motherwell, which I had the good fortune to read just this morning, it is this: "One has no idea what it is like to spend forty years of one's adult life alone in a room with blank canvas or blank paper and think, 'Now what am I going to do with it?'" I say good fortune, because it's really very hard to spend one's life alone in a room making things out of nothing, and I am so close to that difficulty as to be conjoined with it. But it is even harder to make paintings out of nothing, that is to say, to make a painting that has no object, that takes no thing as its subject, to begin a painting without the clear objective of making an object come to life, in whatever ways one is gifted at doing, that is even harder, I have made it even harder for myself than it already was! I will not elaborate on why it's become necessary for me to get my head (and hands) around nonobjective painting, only that it has, it has become necessary, it is something I must do, I must understand it. But I do not understand it! But it is not just the confrontation with the canvas I am experiencing, I am used to that, it has always been a confrontation of varying degrees of difficulty, it is more existential in nature, it is an ontological confrontation with nothingness itself. There is, literally, nothing to go by. I am telling you now in a way that will neither understate nor overstate it, I am telling you that nonobjective painting is hard in the way that nihilism is hard, it is Sartre's nausea, it is an existential crisis of the kind I have never experienced before. I am groping for the slimmest edge, but there is nothing, it is the unanswering void. It a dreadful mirror, it is the dreadfulest mirror.

     

    Tags

    Categories

  • It's strange with painting, the deeper I get into it, the more mysterious it becomes. I half wonder if at the very heart of it isn't some sort of Pythagorean mysticism, some quasi-Eleusinian mystery cult—I mean, it is mysterious! Not the how or the why part of it, although both questions, how to paint and why to paint upend me daily, I can never answer either of those questions satisfactorily or with even the slightest portion of confidence, I do not know how to paint (except to paint), and I do not why I paint (except I paint), and they are both I believe questions that want answering, I do not think they should go unanswered, but I cannot find answers other than temporary ones to those questions. Sometimes I become certain, for instance, that what I paint is more important than how I paint, and in that time in which I am certain, I feel I have reached a certain summit, and I can therefore plant my flag of permanent knowing. But it is only a sandhill summit, and then the wind comes and blows it away, and eventually I decide the opposite, that how I paint is of course! more important than what I paint, and there I am with my flag again, I have conquered all doubt! But that is not the mystery I am talking about, although it is probably an aspect of it—after all, why do we paint? Are we making pictures, is the paint only a means to an end, or is painting, the way we apply paint, the end in itself, and pictures are only a byproduct of that? That is a giant question to me, I am always grappling with it! I do not even know if it has an answer! It is probably an answer that is like light that slides along a spider's thread, it is probably like that, mobile and unfixable. To answer it, or to attempt to answer it, may be a kind of initiation into a deeper level of the mysteries. The posing of a riddle: It stands at the threshold of so many stories of the voyaging seeker. All along, I've been meaning to make an address to you about the greater mystery, the one that is more than just the how or the why to paint, and here is the place where I would do that. The trouble is, I am only at the threshold, I am still with the riddle! I have not been admitted to the deeper mysteries yet! But even if I had been, initiates never speak—even if I knew, I couldn't tell you! But I can tell you this, because it is nothing I have been told myself, I am not passing on any secrets here, because no one has ever revealed this to me, I have had no guides in this perilous (fucking) journey, it is only something I intuit: I think it is a mystery that goes very very deep indeed, so deep, it is where God and the devil once convened, and all the darkness around them was infused with light, and the light was steeped in darkness, and upon this darkness that is light and light that is darkness is where it is written, the true language of painting. But I am up here at a threshold, and people are rolling carts, or wagons, by my window, I do not know what kind of merchants they are, and of course a dog is barking, for always, somewhere, a dog is barking.

    Tags

    Categories

  • I am afraid I have inferred something that simply isn't true, I have inferred (I am afraid) that I am no longer teaching myself how to paint. I am still teaching myself how to paint. Every day, you'll pardon my language, is a fucking lesson in learning how to paint. Something as rudimentary as how to apply the paint, it is something I am still learning! I do not always know how to apply paint! Even today, even today after so many years of painting that I have made some very good paintings and many more bad paintings, even today after so many of those years, I am wondering how the fuck (pardon me) I am going to apply the paint because I did not do it well yesterday, and yesterday has now become today, and I do not wish to spend the day applying paint like a fucking (sorry) seizuring Bedlamite. So I am still learning how to apply paint, and it has been several years now that I have been painting in earnest, every day. Painting is a trick, an illusion, that is for sure, but it is not the trick or the illusion you are probably thinking of; it is, rather, a trick or an illusion wherein the painting appears to have been easily made, where it seems easy to do. Yes, yes, I know—some paintings are easily made. And, yes, I also know that some painters are more deft than others, I am sure almost all painters are more deft than I, I am not very deft, though sometimes I am in a happy haze of deftness, and perhaps in those times, I am under some foolish impression that I have taught myself how to paint and that I am no longer a student. But I am not in that happy haze very often. Mostly painting is like wrestling a bear, I have said that before, and throughout the process of painting, the bear is usually winning, although oftentimes I am able to pin it down long enough to make a painting I am happy with, but the struggle always takes its toll, and, pinned or not, the bear still roars with its stewy breath and bloodied teeth, and I am still afraid of it, I am still as in awe of this terrible beast that is painting as some are of the storm-beset ocean and others the unclimbable sky—whatever one calls one's awful god. I am still afraid of it.

    Tags

    Categories