Tuesday, July 31, 2018

confection collection

Dear You,

Suppose you were to take a little sample, a little morsel of everything you encountered in a month, or half a year; every worthy sight; a little of every interesting detail, every curious sound, a little bit, a bite, a slice, of everything you saw and took note of in these moments of time and space.  And then further suppose, you were to take all these bits and bobs, and present them in a large and well-crafted frame, and then give the whole confabulation to a friend.  This marvelous and never-before-seen distillation of all the time and experience you have lived. 

Receiving something like that is what it is to read The Rings of Saturn, by W. G. Sebald.  If when you reach the end of it, and you have licked the bowl by looking up the unfamiliar words and phrases (quincunx, marasmus, soakaways, francs-tireurs, insuperable, barely malt coffee, Silesian, Martello towers, plutôt mourir que changer, tumuli, boffins) you will have left to savor still the transmutation of your own experience into a telling, a showing, an image, a collection, or even just a letter to someone.  Like this one, to you. 

Pleasure awaits: be off to your bookshelf or library!

Saturday, July 28, 2018

wonderful, beautiful shoes

Kidskin sandal with layered cork sole and heel covered in suede.
 Designed by Salvatore Ferragamo for Judy Garland, 1938.

Dear Three Paragraphs, Introduction, and Conclusion,

I am often thinking on the Big Answers, that I have been the casual recipient of over time.  There was a man in the ferry waiting room en route to the Isle of Wight that was telling me something very important about what one 'owes' one's parents.  I never could grasp his meaning, but I am still trying to.  And I showed my studio once to another painter, and she looked around and said, "Well, I can see you have a story to tell."  I thought, do I?  I mean, I do? 

If I did have a story to tell, one story that would be the one that counted, the one that made it, the one I'd give to all the world's readers;  I can tell you that everyone in the story would be able to get their foot in the glass slipper, and they'd all get to live happily ever after.  It might at first seem like this would be entirely too much happily ever after, but no, not really, because to happily ever after you have to know what you want, and hardly anyone knows what they want.  There's so much to choose from.  You can't blame people for not wanting to settle for one thing or another.  Mostly, people wouldn't even put their foot into the shoe, because they couldn't be sure that was what they wanted.  So, in my story, the shoe would fit everyone, but only a very few would even try to wear it.

There is an essay that pertains to these issues of narrative, identity, and shoes, in Dave Hickey's new collection, Perfect Wave.  Here is an older version of the piece. 

One of the little and particular changes between the essay published online and the version in the book is the adjective 'wonderful' before the word 'shoes,' in contrast to 'beautiful shoes,' as you will read it online.  This kind of difference is exciting, because it invites us to decide which is a better descriptor in this context:  wonderful or beautiful; and it further requires us to consider why Dave Hickey made the changes.  When he gathered his papers to review and select them for the book, what little sprite whispered to him "'wonderful' is the word you want there, Dave, 'wonderful.'"

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The white box.

Dear Viewers,

You know how I love the white box, the white cube, the white room, with a tiny bit of formal art in it.  I love it like ponds pocked by rain drops, like the sound of poplar leaves in the wind.  I love the white room with a small amount of art in it.  But, I worry.  It isn't sustainable, to use the parlance of the day.  It isn't very friendly for humans, either.  It's like those people you know, who have three sticky kids, a great dane, and a cockatoo, and what do they get?  A white velvet chesterfield.  It just seems all wrong.

I know a woman who has a very lovely home, there's nary a white wall in it, and she has lovely objet d'arts on the tables and shelves, and drawings, prints, paintings and sculptures on the wood paneled walls.  My own abode has white walls all over the place, but the art stuffs are chock a block-  little sculptures are two deep in the nichos, and folk art is crammed into the glass-fronted oak cupboards.

I want you, for the love of Mike, to want art, to want things that have been made by human hands, in your space, even if it is a 16 foot canned ham trailer.  Art, and I know it well enough to speak for it, wants to be near you; it's lonely in the white cube, where it never changes, because a team of curators and conservators are always fussing with it.  Art spends most of its time, truth be told, in climate controlled storage.  It's sad, really.  A bunch of beautiful things, with stories to tell, with feeling to elicit, stuffed in the museum basement packed in bubble wrap and naphthalene.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A long way down.

Dear Readers,

O!  There are things coming soon-  a little reminiscence of a cassette tape, an essay on marionettes,
a consideration of where art should be seen, and for today, this terrific song that my DJ played for me a few days ago.  If you want to hear it again, try this live recording.

PS  Junior Brown calls that nifty thing he plays a "guit-steel."

Friday, July 13, 2018

Never Been Anything but My Experiences; or, Only Made it Out to Needles.

Dear Beings,

My dj played this song not long ago, and I tell you what, this song is the perfect expression of existentialism.  Of course I had to play it on my guitar.  It's a wonderful song to sing, because it is true, for now; I have never been to Spain.  I had a ticket once, but plans fell through.  It's a pleasure that awaits me, and in the meantime I have this great song. 

Once again. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Play Dress Up.

Dear Enthusiasts,

Many of you will have already enjoyed this fun film from Planet Roller Skate, but for those of you who might have missed it, here it is:

It's positively charming, and doesn't it make you want to wear a tie when you skate?  Today I was wearing a very sad skating ensemble of an aged and torn grey jersey skirt, a pilled and lint-covered black tank top and pink striped socks.  The socks were fine, but the rest is strictly from hunger.  What if someone dropped by?  It's tricky, because not that much goes with all the beastly black knee, elbow, and wrist pads I insist on; plus, things do get a bit beat up and grungy when you sit on the pavement or fall onto it. 

The issue of what to wear roller skating bears further consideration.  It needs to be tough, dark colored, and flexible.  A scuba knit short dress might be nice.  When I go out to the sidewalks I wear a skort and a tee shirt that isn't too terribly old.  But this, too, lacks imagination and panache compared to a tie.  This winter, I think I will try one of my menswear blazers for skating the streets.  The menswear blazer is a very affordable piece of formality available at any thrift shop.  They can be had for as little as three dollars, and it lets people know that you mean business.  I am especially fond of the pinstripe ones, because they are so mobster/banker/attorney.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Ocean Ipseity

Dear Underwater,

I spent enough time in the sea with a snorkel to breathe through, that I began to feel fearful about my foreignness there.  I began to feel too far submerged in this other life.  Too close to forgetting my terrestrial origins, I might try to breathe the tiny bubbles of the sea water.  The enchantment of it threatened to annihilate my ordinary world. 
The motion of the water had subsumed my sense of self, and I felt the thinness of the membrane between ourselves and everything else.  The feeling of oneness is dizzying and scary, because when you are a part of everything, individuality has no meaning, you may come or you may go; it matters not to the world of land or sea.

I had to return to the dry, unmoving, beige, and bland, sand.

At the concert hall, I love to sit in the high, steep, cheap seats.  There is a walkway along the lowest row of highest seats, along the curve of the balcony.  It has a low rail, and I am compelled to bend down to grip it, because I don't trust my self not to throw myself over.  Not an accident, but a kind of instantaneous craziness, a confusion between up and down, and a wild, destructive impulse that exists almost outside of my mind.

Under the water I heard the clicks and taps of urchins moving their spines, and the scraping sound of parrotfish crunching the coral.*  The way light was diffused by wavelets was shimmering and all encompassing.  The space under the surface was a beautiful and complete world.  I was sorry to leave it.

*Listen for yourselves, and learn a little more about it here.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The Waters of Oblivion.

Dear Valerie, Vivian, Marion, and Marianne,

Your songs for today:  One and two.  Your project for today is to get yourself a Bob Dylan version, too.  It's nice and bluesy, and grittier than the other two.  After that, you'll want to play it on your guitar,

Sunday, July 1, 2018

memento mori

Dear Contemplating,

I am ruminating today on a red abalone dish with three little Lucite legs setting on the coffee table.  It isn't quite right on my coffee table; last year I painted the top of the table an orchid violet color.  It had previously been a sort of muted sage-pine color.  Before that, it was a 20 dollar table with a bright (meaning varnish over wood) top from a college student who sold it on Craigslist after he graduated.  It's a bit clunky, cheap, and rock solid, the way hotel or college furniture can be, but the more delicate, mid-century modern, walnut veneer table doesn't have enough space for the potted succulents, books, pencils, letters, coasters, and frequent projects that the table must accommodate.

The red abalone dish used to be on the round, white marble coffee table of our friends home.  The marble was very cool to touch, and yet soft, in that way that marble is, because of the way the stone diffuses light, the way you can see down into the surface of the marble, like a sheet of ice.  The marble had some fine, pale gray streaks in it, too, which always looked a little blurry; comfortingly out of focus. 

The red abalone dish sat on the marble table for years, until last year, when our friends began a move they are making to another country.  The dish sat there with books, two exemplary kaleidoscopes, and a set of coasters with illustrations of Great Authors on them.  When you would sit down around this table you would pull James Joyce over to you and set your coffee or prosecco on him and admire the red abalone dish, and see what was being read lately.  You would also probably take a look into the kaleidoscopes, because the view in them is never the same twice.

It's very lovely to have the red abalone dish, as you can imagine, but you can also see how much is missing when I look into its concave emptiness.

Several years ago artist Maira Kalman re-presented some objects in the collection of the Cooper Hewitt museum - please enjoy her thoughtful consideration of objects and stories.