Material Concerns

In the garden of mirrored monsters.

In the end, it was the materials that killed her. But isn’t this always the case, these days? she might have said, taking aim at another plaster sculpture. In the beginning, her thing was to hide bags of paint inside, to bleed an aftermath. 

When she was done with shooting, she became mother to the monsters. It was a dream vision. Why? someone asked. They locked her up. In lieu of an answer, she returned to her creatures.

See the sphinx, a flower blooming from one breast, her insides shards of mirror. But why? Inquiries persisted. The monsters grew. To heal, she said. A joyland, she named it, locus for a new kind of life.

What kind? someone wondered. 

One where when your face breaks, it bursts into a tree.

Someone called it an apocalypse in paradise. She did not object.

***

Inspired by the work of Niki de Saint Phalle.

Casting the Reach

Bodies in moving clay.

When the artist tunnels naked through clay, one result is this: an elemental frame of bone-white force, stilled in the moment of its most violent eruption. She’s never sure what she’s made.

Not until I remove it from its casing, she says. Here, for example, are some heads. They are made of the impressions of hands.  From these, a sculptor thinks. Most of her bodies are headless.

Here is an arm. It points toward a dense nebula, adjusting as the planet beneath it spins, its constant movement borne of an intention to remain still.

***

This post is assembled from phrases and images found in this recent BOMB article by Brecht Wright Gander profiling Juliana Cerqueira Leite, whose DECAPITAR is on view at New York City’s PROXYCO until October 29.

Questions of Measurement

The reach of an image.

How do you find a painting?

There is a process. Look. Cut. Collect. Look. Repeat.

Does it always work?

Nothing does.

Whose dream is this world, and how did we get here?

How do you handle accumulation with care?

How does an image become a backbone, 

and how much will it hold?

Consider some rites of passage.

What are the rites of the soul?

When the oracle shares a meal with the nurturer, 

what do they discuss?

And who cleans after it’s done?

An architect and a protector meet at a well. 

Who is the first to offer?

How do you paint with the materials of a given day?

If the soul is a translucent heart, beating, what is

the reach of its vessels?

***

Inspired by the mixed media art of Amber Robles-Gordon

Interested Party

Notes on the hero artist.

We who knew him called him friend, and we did this with relief, in celebration. Look, we were saying, there are still some who make their own rules. It is still possible to live a dream.

No, he would say, it is not possible. Only necessary. As he saw it, this was the point.

Why would he spend so long, some wondered, in certain conversations? We could not pull him away, and all he had to say for himself was, it was all so interesting.

***

Adapted from comments made by Betsy Sussler in celebration of the life of Michael Goldberg, appearing in BOMB’s Summer 2008 feature, In Memoriam: Michael Goldberg.

In Passing

Overheard between dreamers.

You look cold. Here’s a bonfire. I’ve been carrying in around in my chest all this time. 

You sure?

Take it. Really, I have no use for it but this.

Thanks. I keep falling into wells.

But you always climb out, yes?

Yes, but wet and cold.

I am trying to be more of a tree, really. But the fire keeps getting in the way.

Hmmm. How?

I mean to put down roots and draw some order from––everything, which is too much.

That is a lot.

But at the top, see, there’s the crown. The leaves. If I get it right, I could be a sort of mediator between the soil and the leaves.

Huh.

Here. Check this out. It’s my first clear vision of reality.

Um. It looks different. Not like any reality I’ve seen. 

That’s kind of the point. 

***

Inspired by this feature in Daedalus: Statements and Documents: Artists on Art and Reality, on Their Work, and on Values (Winter 1960).

Lost in Translation

Meaning-makers in transit.

It wasn’t like each word was a moving train on schedule to a given destination, the challenge a matter of timing the jump. We thought our losses happened in our leaps from one to the next, like keys falling from sideways pockets.

But words themselves were the vessels, and they held their own gaps within them, and us too, but only tentatively, like so much loose change. So we were always falling out, into sky.

Abiding Patterns

The work of hands and hidden forms.

I am trying to clarify the pattern, the artist said, in reference to the shape of living here. The artist was after this great unconscious form. The artist saw this form everywhere. It wants uncovering, the artist said.

And what will happen when you find it? Someone asked. I can tell you one thing, it won’t be a retrospective. Then the artist posed a question: ever been to a Shaker retiring room? Tell me you don’t see it.

Point being, the ideals of a people are to be found in what they make. To enter the room is to see belief in action. Among these, to work is to pray. Among these, a reverence for simplicity. The wood is pine, abundant and unvarnished.

It evokes the old reminder: never paint a ladder, because you won’t see the cracks in the wood. Here is made by climbing hands. You can see them at work in every joint, in the weave of the seat, the file of the arm of the chair.

Feel them, even in this room empty of all but the furniture they once made, for the living. 

***

Inspired by the work of artist Tom Sachs, especially his furniture.

The Arch Listener

Artist as audience for the song of the world.

You are drawn to archways, those portals between worlds. You are drawn to the other ones like distant kin, and you sing us into them, always ending with the choral line, remember who you are.

When asked what you are doing, you say trying. Trying how? Like a witch, like a cat, like a fisher––cast, hunt, pull. You say, some have an agenda. But I am something else.

You mean to remember us back to the songlines we forgot. When you hear the world singing, you recognize the call. Pen in hand, you respond.

***

Inspired by the great American playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, and an excellent article by Michael Paulson about the artist in today’s New York Times.

Bird in Space

With Constantin Brancusi.

Those who tried to know you called you an escape artist, but your sculptures embodied pure presence. What presence, though? Something just beyond.

Here is prayer. Here is torment. Here is the gate of the kiss. Here the sleeping child, beginning of the world. Here the torso of a young man, boundary maker. Here is the eye. Enter.

You worked the substance of your bronze, polishing an intention. Let there be light. All my life, you said, I have sought only the essence of flight. You positioned your bird to catch the sun. 

Some thought it was a tongue of flame, the point where fire becomes spirit. You said only that your task was to unite all forms.

When asked what moves you, you said, love. In this, you saw a light stronger than sun. Being loved matters little, you said. The purpose of a life is to give and give it continually, with all the strength of being.

Until? Until you are beyond this state of being. Until you are something else.

Like a bird? Someone asked. And another, like light? You replied only, like any One that contains all forms.

***

Inspired by the life and work of Constantin Brancusi. I spent time this morning with this article by Sidney Geist in Notes in the History of Art: Brancusi’s Bird in Space: A Psychological Reading (Spring 1984). 

Bones of the Earth

With Isamu Noguchi.

Here is a survivor whose work breathes beyond current styles, with a character all its own. Here is a wanderer, an activist, often in motion, and yet the work exudes tranquil elegance. The space from which you create is neither here nor there. It is another space.

To be part of all phenomena means that you may be anywhere, in contact with all other phenomena, means a kind of freedom that means you do not belong anywhere.

Here is an ambiguity that is conscious of its refusal to lift the veil. How can forms so carefully defined elude exact interpretation, except by design?

When asked what you are after, you say only, emergence. Perhaps you anticipate certain questions about your meaning when you decide to add, as if by way of explanation, only this: rocks are the bones of the earth.

***

Inspired by the art of Isamu Noguchi.