Thursday, November 24, 2022

the written word


Ed Ruscha

Dear So & So, and You & You,

I woke up wondering what in the world to bring to the potluck.  Roasted squash?  Gingerbread?  Cheese and crackers?  Shortbread?  Jello?  None of that sounds right. 

Next I wondered what kind of narrative a son or daughter would create of the deeds and words of a parent.  What story would one write:  My mother was a good woman.  My mother was honest.  My mother was a fish, she smoked, she vacuumed up my toys out of spite.  My mother was distant, on another planet.  She never had time for me, just her cases.  My mother had eyes in the back of her head.  My mother was an octopus.  My mother could fix anything.  My mother soothed with chocolate.  My mother always sprayed stinging medications on injuries.  My mother was vain, she obsessed over her looks.  My mother was heartbroken that she could not fit into the standards of beauty.  My mother never learned to drive.  My mother was confident.  My mother was controlling.  My mother worried too much.  My mother didn't care enough.  My mother let me down, she lifted me up, she put me on a pedestal and I could never live up to it.    

Why such a narrative in the first place?  Because people will ask you who you are and why you are.  You will be called upon to have to some answers, and people are accepting of the kind of answer that seems to contain causality:  I am this way because my parents were that way.

This is not all I woke up thinking about; I was also counting the books on the shelf, and thinking about writing.

When I was in preschool* they would write, on little lined sheets of paper, stories I would dictate.  I always supposed all 3 and 4 year olds narrated in this way; but now, I wonder.  I was inordinately pleased with these little sheets of loose paper.  Like the murky, magical workings of the world had been captured and made manifest.  Look at this amazing evidence of the invisible mind!  Look at how it can be read, over and over!  And so, maybe, everyone does "write" these stories in preschool, but maybe not everyone experiences their words on the page as a miracle.

* Preschool was my introduction to formal education, which, when we moved, was put on hiatus until I was 16; community college.  The other 12 years were spent in what would now be called "unschooling."

Tuesday, November 22, 2022



Rocketbuster Boots

Dear Y'all,

Here are two fine songs to give your best compare and contrast efforts to:  Song oneSong two.  I give them to you in chronological order, not in order of preference.  Of course, considering these two will invite you to consider this song, and this one.  If you still feel like some more, try these versions of the last one:  Version B, CD.  Also, E, and F.

That's all!

Friday, November 18, 2022

Your Girl Friday: Bake Club Captain Tosi!


Christina Tosi

Dear Friday,

Another great Girl for you!  You are the lucky one, Friday!  Here is a girl who knows all you can do against hopelessness and grief is to bake.  She is wise, and you can be too, by joining Bake Club!  I did, and I love it, and Christina Tosi!  Whose recipes for Marshmallow Chocolate Chip Cookies and Milk Bar Pie have been lessening my sorrow, and the sadness of those around me for 11 years!

Monday, November 14, 2022

a lesson


Artist Louise Nevelson and her work.

Dear Studying,

You might recall that I resigned from my job trying to make a place where people felt like they could make something.  It's okay, I like the hours of my loafing life better, and I don't need to commute via automobile anymore either.

I am left, though, with a lot of papers to sort through, and piles and piles of what might be inspirational instructional materials.  I am not sure what to do with these things, and so I thought I'd put one here, because this has always been a place for mélange.

Anyway, file it under "art lesson" if you like, and if you don't feel like a lesson, listen to this instead.

How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare.

The title of today's chalk talk is taken from the name of a performance given by artist Joseph Beuys in 1965.  I use it here to acknowledge both the difficulty and the ambiguity of my two topics, and, hopefully, to encourage you to check out Joseph Beuys' other artworks and performances.  I want to address the related questions of how to know when is an artwork "finished," and how can a person go about becoming less rigid, more open, more loose, in their art making?

Like so many things in art, there are no fixed answers, no definitive answers for either of these questions.  But, let me give a few suggestions for how to expand your thinking on these two topics!  

You can always work longer, harder, on a piece.  You might keep on changing a painting for years!  Most artists come to the 'end' by either reaching a level of satisfaction with the piece, or by becoming so frustrated that they 'set it aside.'  Both of those feelings constitute 'done' in an artwork.  One thing to keep in mind, is that the work you do on a piece does not need to be continuous.  Many artists set a thing aside for months, even years, before working further on it.  It is helpful to set aside a piece for some time (How long? it varies!) and then look at it again, to see if it seems to be asking you for more.  Many artists will turn a painting to the wall for a while, and then come back to it with 'fresh eyes.'  Other artists choose to live with a piece for a while before pronouncing it finished.  I kind of fall into the latter category, but not always:  with some pieces you really know, it feels very certain, that it is done.  As an example of an artist who worked for a very long time on individual paintings, take a look at the work of artist Jay DeFeo. 

Now, how to approach your process with a broader acceptance of 'how' it can be done and 'what' it must look like?  This is even more difficult to answer in a direct way.  For some people, little tricks can help:  Use your non-dominant hand, use awkward tools, try to make a deliberately 'bad' painting that breaks all your personal rules.  This last one is a really useful experiment; to begin it, you must examine first the rules you have accumulated.  I say 'accumulated' because I think the rules we make for ourselves as artists are like barnacles growing on a boat below the waterline- you might not even know that you have adopted rules for making your art.  Here is an example of some rules that one might go about breaking:

Things must be representational.

Compositions should not be centered.

There should not be too many strong diagonals.

Things should not be 'ugly.'

This is the top, this is the bottom.

There should not be too much dark, or black.

There should not be too much light, or white.

The space should be illusionistic.

The painting MUST look like THIS!  (What 'this' is varies).

The materials used should be archival, so you painting of a hamburger or Pikachu will last 500 years (wait, why do I want that to last 500 years?).

Stylizations or abstractions should not be allowed to 'mix' with representational or realistic looking objects on the picture plane.

If you go about inventorying your own list of rules, you will find some very funny little ones.  Maybe you always begin your work a certain way; with a drawing, or maybe you always treat your picture plane a bit like a coloring book- filling in colors after you have established a totally resolved underpainting.  Should you try to break all your rules intentionally, don't worry about whether you like the work; the goal is to look for new ways of seeing and working.  You can always return to your trusty old methods on the next piece.

Lastly, a painting is its own world, with its own light, and creating it can be a very intuitive, flowing experience.  Imagine this:  A blank space.  Add a mark.  Respond to the mark, with another mark.  What would those two marks like next?  And then, now that these three marks are interacting with the picture plane and the four edges (lines) that define it, what is next suggested?  A painting is not just a window, or a picture plane, it is also a record of movement over time.  It need not be choreographed ahead of time, it may feel organic, like a conversation with a friend.

That's all!




Friday, November 11, 2022



Dear Moss Maiden and Tree Elf,

I read your tale, and I love your shoes!  

Friday, November 4, 2022

a letter about things


Untitled, Dan Flavin, 1973.

Dear You,

Hey!  It's me again!  I have bee thinking and unearthing all kinds of detritus and ideas.  Ideae?  Idee? I would like an apostrophe s-less plural here, and I am going to have to make it on my own, I guess.  Anyway, I found an old poem, a pome, a pomme, which I give to you here, but, in characteristic Dodo style, I also want to associate by proximity and whimsy, these other items:  

A song, and

A bit of writing on Dan Flavin's pieces.  

Ooh, now maybe the order is all wrong?  I should have given you the poem first, then the Flavin thing, then the song?  Or, no, you have the image of the Flavin first, or no, the first thing you get is words, in the title, and then the image.  Well, wrong or right, these are the details I consider when I am addressing you.

(found in desk drawer in October 2022; written in, 2009?)

A poem about time’s inner workings.


If you come in here,
I’ll show you a little bit of how
time works.

You turn the world down to one mile-
this would be the old days-
then, more miles, 
less miles,
four miles,
two miles,

Then it’s zero miles, because 
we don’t know what’s going to come 
after that,
I think.