Monday, January 14, 2002
I feel myself slipping back to an inactivity of the soul. When I'm alone, I hear myself, but as soon as the day is filled with places to go, people to say "good-morning" to, animals to feed and care for, rooms to clean, food to cook and eat, I loose focus. It's as if something in me resists engagement with the mundane, and wants to live in the ether. I think we spend most of our lives distracting ourselves from that sense of silence and singularity, and look to things that draw us out of ourselves and into the world. I wonder sometimes if what we think of as psychological health and balance is really a strong ability to turn away from the terrifying fact of our own absolutely monadic objectivity.
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We record and catagorize our experiences in a compulsive effort to mean- to experience relationship. Our isolation is the fuel of a perpetual motion machine with a turning wheel of perception and appetition. I always want to be alone, but the truth is, I'm alone right here, it's the only way I can be.
Saturday, January 12, 2002
Here's a poem by me:
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The spangled crown prince returns to
his humble city of
dock workers and shop girls,
ruined face, eyes too black, horns -
begging: "Be gentle with me."
Everyone has seen him naked in
Everyone knows how to attack and
has memorized his defense.
Everyone sees his shame.
He himself feels the blood in
his hands, slippery as grease.
The blood of his
family, his friends
his children and
He rubs it between his fingers.
He breathes desire with
a sensuality that startles him and
looks up to see them stare.
His strength has become too great for
everyday, and he stands
masked, separated, watching and
wary. The innocents,
How can they know?
The lure of the crowd
the lure of the woman
the dance and the dancer
the scent of salvation and
disembodied, painful loneliness.
Lately, my fondest fantasy is one of almost total isolation in Iceland. I'd live in a turf house, half submerged in the earth on a treeless expanse of rock and tundra. Snowed in in the winter with a cellarfull of potatoes and onions, some dried, cured fish, canned tomatoes. No electricity and a purgatorial trek to the outhouse. I'd live there alone, or, with a tall, nordic-boned man who speaks no English and tends sheep, and provides human warmth at night. Having no one to talk to, I'd become sharpened and maybe even melancholic, spending days in an introverted silence, and just write. There would be nothing to sieze or direct my mind but the details of the daily.
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Here's a poem of Viggo Mortensen's that I found quite moving, really:
He's got a deep, abiding respect
verging on idol worship
for where things end up.
There are unopened letters
in his refrigerator, a fake
fingernail in the soapdish,
These things, and many more
leavings, fragments, balancing
reminders of a breeze
from a slammed door-
configurations of sanctified loose ends-
have become a living net
above which he performs
the movements that make
the clock move.
Very nice. Simple and profound. The images of these small thing as a "living net" above which life is performed is really a beautiful one.
The thing about me is that I figure that if I'm not going to write Four Quartets tomorrow, I'm not going to write at all, and my hand is uncertain in drawing, so why do it? That's where I'm going wrong. The stuff of art is all around me, and the making of art is a daily practice, an introversion, a physical act, an experience of being oneself an of performing expressions of that experience. I lock myself into painful silence, and am living proof that, as Albert Camus writes "comparison is the source of unhappiness"
Friday, January 11, 2002
I've lost my car keys and have been looking all day for them.
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Oh the humanity.
It's my first week on a new schedule of part-time work; two days off per week. I spent it happily in art galleries and museums. Tuesday I went down to Santa Monica's Bergamot Station gallery complex and saw one or two nice things. It's a good place, and inspired me to work. Yesterday, I went to MOCA and the Geffen Temporary Contemporary and saw single artist exhibits of Liz Larner (which did not interest me much) and Douglas Gordon who was more interesting, but for my money, not entirely brilliant. What was brilliant, as usual, was the buzzing energy of the Mark Rothko room, the photos by Diane Arbus and one by Cindy Sherman, and a nice quote from conceptual artist Sol Lewitt:
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"This kind of art [conceptual] is not theoretical or illustrative of theories, it is intuitive; it is involved with all kinds of mental processes. ...the idea becomes a machine that makes the art."
Also interesting was the fact that in the introductions to both the Larner and the Gordon exhibits, the making of art was referred to as a practice.
But, back to Mark Rothko: I love the stillness of those paintings of just color. There's emotion, energy and action to them, but they are also profoundly passive. There's a stillness and simplicity to them that is so peaceful. They are only meaningful in an experiential sense, and then only meaningful for the space of that one experience: next time they will be different. They engage time and space in a mute way, and their action is by virtue of a deep silence. I love the courage of art like that. Whatever intention there is in it, it is sort of rightfully left in an unreachable past.
I also got a book of photos and poems by Viggo Mortensen, with a CD of him reading and singing his poems called Recent Forgeries. It's lovely! His photographs and poems are so intimate and personal, and on the CD his voice is the same- there's a pleasing imperfection in the higher registers and something that might be either an accent or an affectation, but it's also wonderfully human. There's a resolute smallness in all of it, and a brilliant sense of pacing. There's the sense that what is valued most is a fine observational instrument calibrated by practice and quiet. It's interesting how, with this bit of evidence, one can draw a thread to his acting work and the sense he gives in his characterizations of a rich inner life; something extra in his characters that isn't and can't be scripted. It's clear that his impulses to work spring from well-tilled soil, soft earth, some stones. His work is genuine and affecting, full of resonant detail, provokes reflection, encourages consciousness, and so perfoms the most essential service art can perform.
I like it very much.
Having said that, there is nothing particularly new in it; nothing that stikes one as an adventurous use of subject matter or media. I'm inclined, though, not to see that as a detriment, but as the source of it's strength. Also lovely is the fact that it does not involve coffee grounds, ketchup, excrement or lurid sexual suggestion, which is refreshing. There's a modesty to it all, too. I get the sense that he backs away from sensationalism, coersion, or self-aggrandizement, and works from the stuff of his life and genuine emotion. That he would be embarrassed to do otherwise. Very nice.
I'm struck by the question of how his public personality, or personal beauty and heartthrob status flavor the reception of it. I read today that the Track 16 gallery, where a show of his new work was scheduled to open with a reception on February 2nd has been swamped with calls from fans who want to see him and don't really care so much about art. It's too bad. Still, I wonder how much more willing I have been to give his work a closer and more sympathetic look because I find him beautiful? I think that I would have liked many things about it without knowing of him at all, but chances are that I might not have given it the time based on surface alone. Is that good or bad? Good, for me, as I've been really inspired by the fact that it is really no more than an honest communication of emotion by a self-taught artist, and it fills me with a sense of possibility, but how must it be for him?
Beauty can be cruel.
Friday, January 04, 2002
A few words for Stuart Adamson, formerly of Big Country...
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When I was 15, The Crossing was my favorite album. My LP copy of it is as worn as the well-loved copy of ee cummings's complete poems I took with me everywhere I went in those same years. The spine is broken, the inner sleeve is torn and stained by brittle and ancient scotch tape. I knew every word, every note, every vocal inflection on this record. I knew it as if it were part of my own mind and heart, and it stirred in me a humanist chord that has never stopped humming.
When I was a young girl, this record taught me to love nothing better than the beauty of human expression, and to believe in the ability of human beings to fill their world and the worlds of others with hope. It taught me to believe in the power of words to express worthwhile emotion, and in the possibility that human emotion and expression could make life shine with dignity and meaning. I put this record on, squeezed my eyes shut against the petty difficulties of my school-age life, and let my heart roam in uncharted landscapes where love, honor, uncelebrated courage, truth, beauty, idealism and true, unflinching romanticism held indomitable sway. Stuart's voice was to me like a lover's voice that fired the mountainside. His music and words made certain that for the rest of my life, nothing without that epic sweep, nothing that didn't care most deeply for only those things that truly mattered, would ever really satisfy me.
Stuart, the writer and singer of so many beautiful songs has left us, sadly; sadly for him and sadly for us. I don't know why I feel compelled to more words. I guess I feel like saying them will go a little way to giving back to Stuart some of the grace he gave me. Suicide is a dark word and I want to say words that warm his memory and celebrate his brightness. The hugeness of his spirit and of his music has always been a beacon and a comfort to me, and no matter what the end of his story, the man who wrote those songs will remain in my heart as luminous as he ever was.
If there is a place of peace after death, I hope that he has found it.
Wednesday, January 02, 2002
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Here's the bottom line. Viggo Mortensen is killing me. How's that for cessation of the compulsive functions of mind? How can it be that one man is so magnetically, enormously, gut-wrenchingly attractive? How can his mouth move like that, his hair be the color of honey and how can his clear as water eyes look so full of delicious secrets? On top of that, how can he be a wonderful actor, a poet, a painter and photographer, a father, speak several languages and now be suited up to play my first heartthrob ever: Tolkien's king of Middle Earth, he of the wolf-colored hair, grey eyes and gentle, healing royalty, Aragorn son of Arathorn.
How will I carry on in the knowledge that he will never make sweet love to me, or say my name with his gravelly voice? Sometimes if we ask these kinds of ridiculous questions out loud, they seem less pressing than they did as private tortures, and right now I must admit that the very existence of Viggo Mortensen is burning a hole in my psyche.
But I feel better already for having gotten it off my chest.