You invited the children to make nametags with your childhood art teacher. You gathered seven thousand and assembled them to read, love thy neighbor.
You responded to requests that had been conditioned out of us when we were younger than these children. Such as, let me wear more sequins, doilies––dolls, too! Such as, why can’t my Tuesday skin be a pelt of dyed furs? Such as, I want to put that gramophone on my head! And tomorrow, may I wear only living birds.
Let the wild things out, you implored, let’s have a rumpus! Then, you dressed your dancers with the care and intention of the samurai preparing for battle.
When you called us together, I thought I loved my neighbor well enough, but my gestures were anemic. I only knew this when you dressed me in a costume of inflatable lawn ornaments, and my neighbor in a rainbow of Fraggle Rock fur, and invited us to dance.
You amplified the drums and brought others in, and we threw our arms wider in our spinning, to compensate for the weight and momentum of our fabulous suits.
Love louder, you sing, louder now––all in!
Inspired by the purpose-driven work of Chicago-based artist Nick Cave, who is best known for his soundsuits.
Acceptance is often useful, especially with regards to nature, except. What is may be easily mistaken for an essential state instead of the realization of someone else’s dream.
As a countermeasure, it can be useful to pay attention to the outsider in any given group, the outlier in any set of circumstances. Each may call into question certain assumptions about what is possible. A witness may be reminded, sometimes, back to what has been silenced as excess.
A witness may be reminded, through such attention, of their proximity to the border between knowns and unknowns––and, how invisible it often is. The effect is sometimes to highlight how insubstantial certain walls are. In a certain light, a solid-seeming curtain is transparent.
A search is often useful, when it comes to discovery, so long as regular attention is paid to some larger questions. Chief among these, who is asking?
To show this felt presence, the undiscussed ghost, you let a part stand for some concrete whole, which stood in for the imagined whole we had once dreamed to approach, when the choir sang, Nearer. My God.
Consider your figure at a gas station, far from history, community, from any sense of connection to any other moment in time. There is no house, no other human being, not even a passing car in the frame. No trees live here, only this undefined scrub of the beyonds, leaning away. We can hardly see what he does.
Another, flanked by the shadows of buildings in a boomtown, far from any landscape, the hoe replaced by the rake. His action like a still, somehow the stuff of a life, but what is it?
Here is a particular American bleakness: the cold light, harsh angles, a mechanized blandness, a puritan stiffness of rigid self-containment, waxed fruit shining in a bowl, at the center of an empty room, beside the stylized body in space. We are far from her, and she is far from herself.
Inspired by (and with borrowed phrases from) Linda Nochlin’s description of the work of Edward Hopper in this article, “Edward Hopper and the Imagery of Alienation” (Art Journal, Summer 1981). Citing an observation by Brian O’Doherty, Nochlin highlights how “the alienation that viewers feel in Hopper’s pictures is not the simple alienation of human beings from each other, but of individuals from themselves.”
The poets arrived after the disaster. We learned to change colors for camouflage, as chameleons do. Sure, we were terrified, but we were also drawn to it, the gravity of this widening gyre––out, out. Where was the invisible falcon, the one who could no longer hear the old calls? These were creatures who could see what we couldn’t, and we wondered when they scanned the below of wherever they had flown to, in the unwinding beyond far from the center where we had once thought we knew ourselves––if they saw us in it.
There was an ongoing project, and it had to do with how to free a human being, and the artists had their role. Earnest intentions to fulfil it raised certain questions. For one: was this a matter of showing the way to a new world, or revising old habits of seeing the one at hand?
It takes not only humility, but vision and skill to deskill the presentation of a work. To see a great dancer’s performance of clumsy is very different than watching an ordinary pedestrian fumble around.
A sense of humor is also necessary, to appreciate the way a good laugh laughs harder against the shattering of a coming end.
Art is so easy to love when it showcases skill. A common litmus test: Can my kid do this? But most have little idea what their child may or may not do, because we only ever see a sliver of possibilities for becoming.
What are the skills no one is listing? Perhaps we need these now. Thanks to any artist that offers pause over the question of what a child’s hand might render, by separating creation from the tired showcase of established measurements of our worth.
Inspired by artist John Baldessari’s praise (as presented in an interview with The Met, as part of the museum’s Artist Project series) for Philip Guston’s Stationary Figure (1973). And by his invocation of the classic advice, “Don’t be a showoff.”
Everything happened after my birth, you said, as you left on the boat of the herons, a new Eve, refusing to be devoured as anybody’s muse. You had spells to cast, self-portraits as alchemy, your spine a hearing trumpet, listening between the worlds; mère, mer; now mother, now sea.
The solar systems of your eyes kindled by your own light, you rode the seventh horse away from the house of fear, passing through the stone door to the land where the serpents sing stories from the well to the pilgrims ascending the memory tower.
Inspired by the life and work of artist Leonora Carrington, with phrases borrowed from the titles of her paintings and stories, as well as her interviews.