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500

Post #501 • March 24, 2005, 6:44 AM • 12 Comments

May 2003: I discover, to my astonishment, that no one has yet purchased the domain name "artblog.net."

1984: I have inherited my mother's mother's ringlet curls, and at sixteen have let them grow down to my shoulders. I suffer from teenage acne, teenage social ineptitude, and teenage self-loathing, but I draw well. I draw cartoons mostly, and art class is the one place where I feel I belong. My mother, concerned for my future, asks me why I want to go to art school. Because I don't want to get to be sixty years old and wonder if I could have been an artist, I reply.

August 23, 2004: I ask someone via e-mail to clarify why certain changes were made to an article I wrote. An editor answers, "...while I appreciate the reviews you've done for us, to say that you have 'built' any piece is, similarly, a gross overstatement of your abilities. The truth is that we've bent over backwards to work with the material you submit, which, regardless of how insightful you may feel it is, routinely lacks the kind of approach/language necessary to pull in the average reader..." I realize that two years of arguing with people on Artblog.net have enabled me beat the daylights out of nearly anyone in a written forum. In response to denigrating my writing in the most general terms possible, I decide to hurt his feelings. I succeed. For the first time, I am referred to as an orifice in a professional context.

December 1997: I am in Greece, and have angered most of the Aegean Center students with a teaching style I picked up by example from graduate school at the University of Miami. Sitting in my apartment on a quiet Parian evening, I collect my thoughts in the form of lessons. One of them: it is easier to be invulnerable, but it is better to be sensitive.

March 17, 2005: I shave and wash the dishes for the first time in five days. I re-enable Artblog.net comments. A new comment appears in 61 minutes. I find five long hairs around the house, gently curved and dyed black: one for lies, one for the truth, one for sweetness, one for pain, and one to commend a beautiful girl to Heaven. I put them in an envelope marked "Sonja L... A..., 1975-2005," and lay it to rest in a box full of letters. Sonja loved The Pixies, and twelve days after I see her for the last time I still have "Gigantic" stuck in my head, sounding inappropriately loud and joyful: Gigantic, gigantic, a big big love... Looking over my Matisse book makes the bottom fall out of my stomach.

November 1989: Ever since I was a child I have had dreams of cities in which roads end strangely, crossed by canals, and water fills the streets. I am in Venice, unsure of which side of my head I'm on. At the Academia I see Titian's final painting, a Pietá, in which he supplicates Mary for entrance into the Kingdom. Later, in a hidden piazza, I sit down on the paving stones and lean up against some ancient monument and stare into the sky, dizzy and lost.

August 19, 2002: "...I have a need to write, like I have a need to paint and draw. Aside from the people and animals I love, I care about art more than anything. I love seeing it done well, and I hate seeing it done badly. This site will allow me to express my thoughts about art in an informal format that I think will be helpful and entertaining to read."

February 3, 2005: The magnetic woman across the table from me at Lester's Diner in Ft. Lauderdale tells me that she has a tattoo across her back of the Tree of Life, as rendered by Matisse for the Chapel of the Rosary in Vence. She also has one of his cutouts, a blue nude, on the back of her neck. Later, in the far recesses of a used bookstore in Hollywood, she pulls up her shirt and shows them to me. I am so in love I want to put her whole body in my mouth and hold it there. At dinner I see that her wrists are crosshatched with scars. She tells me that the cigarette burns on her left arm aren't recent, they're just taking a long time to heal.

March 2001: I take Buddhist vows. This causes me daily problems hereafter as I am unable to keep them while writing art criticism.

June 4, 2004: an entity calling itself Technological Hamster teaches me an important lesson: regardless of their philosophy or education, people are going to see what they want to see, and some of them are just plain nuts.

October 1987: After spending the early afternoon mixing colors in a beginning painting class at the Rhode Island School of Design, I walk outside on a break. (Carr House, and all the cream cheese you can spread on your bagel, beckon.) A bicycle, gleaming cadmium red light and alizarin crimson in the sun against a brick wall, burns itself into my memory.

March 27, 2003: Rosa de la Cruz calls me, preturbed about an ungenerous characterization I made of her on The Sunburn. We talk for a while, and while we clarify our thoughts to each other, an evil but highly productive part of my psyche pops open a bottle of champagne and toasts itself in congratulations.

September 2000: Bernice Steinbaum hosts a meeting for writers with the idea of starting a Miami Art Exchange magazine. I suggest that given the costs and workload associated with a print publication, we might want to consider starting a web-based project first. Fine, she asks, who here knows how to set up a website? Before I realize what's happening, my hand, and no one else's, goes up.

February 12, 2005: Kazuaki Tanahashi sits at a table in New Mexico and speaks, his voice quiet and slow. "In order to draw the character, you cannot draw it yourself. You have to draw using the energy all around you. You have to take in energy from the whole universe." He demonstrates, holding his hands up in the air beside him, facing each other, relaxed and moving gently. Behind him, a bright window looks out onto a patch of snow.

March 19, 2005: Sonja sat zazen some with the Southern Palm Zen Group in Boca Raton, and they hold a memorial service for her. While sitting, fingers stroke the back of my head, right above my neck, and she comes to me. It doesn't feel haunting; it feels natural, as if she is taking the form of my thoughts. She is sorry for hurting me. She smiles, feeling sad for me. I wanted us to be happy together, I say. She shakes her head no, still smiling - no one, not even her, could stop her from doing what she did to herself. But she is now free from all of her pain - I should feel glad for her and do my best to be happy in this life. She will come back in the form of other suffering people, and it will delight her when I help them, like I tried to help her. I return to my breathing and we sit together.

June 1994: I walk through the graduation ceremony for my MFA in painting. With that out of the way, I go back to my studio. I have no idea what I'm going to do to make a living, but as I load up a palette knife with paint, I feel an excitable joy, certain as much as I ever have been that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing.

Comment

1.

Chris

March 24, 2005, 6:05 PM

This is art writing that I can get into. Aside from all the theory, posturing, and academia, this exhibits honesty and humanity. Thank you.

2.

Jack

March 24, 2005, 8:13 PM

"we've bent over backwards to work with the material you submit, which, regardless of how insightful you may feel it is, routinely lacks the kind of approach/language necessary to pull in the average reader"

Uh, hellooooo, is anybody home? The average reader does not read art reviews, which are presumably meant for people interested in art, but since those people are not numerous enough to matter, I guess this prize of an editor wanted to appeal to...people not interested in art. Makes great sense to me. He's probably now in charge of developing the "expanded" art coverage at the Herald. They'll love him. Perfect match.

3.

Dan

March 24, 2005, 9:49 PM

Thank you for this.

4.

oldpro

March 24, 2005, 10:35 PM

Yeah, your approach and language will hardly pull in the average reader. Screw that. It also won''t take in the average reader. Better on the blog, where the readers, for better or worse, are hardly average.

They bent over backwards? Sure. They want you to bend over the other way.

"'Expanded' art coverage" at the Herald? What does that mean, more hot air? They haven't even reviewed the Olitski show. The coverage is not only unexpanded it is irrresponsible.

5.

V Gripes

March 24, 2005, 11:27 PM

And thank you for carrying on doing what you do.

6.

w craghead

March 25, 2005, 12:53 AM

thanks

7.

Jack

March 25, 2005, 2:47 AM

A small present:

http://www.nga.gov/image/a00007/a0000750.jpg

It's called "Mound of Butter," by a painter I'd never heard of till today.

8.

eddie

March 25, 2005, 6:03 AM

keep your head up

9.

Average Reader

March 25, 2005, 7:56 AM

I am one of those non-artists, one of those not well educated in art either - I am; however, extremely thankful that you keep dedicating so much time to Artblog.net.

You come off so honest, so human and therefore so easy to relate to no matter what the topic, no matter which level of terminology you apply to your writing, that even art illiterate people like myself just want to keep on reading.

Thank you, Franklin, for sharing the excitement, the joy, the frustration and the pain - and please keep writing.

10.

all literature is garbage

March 27, 2005, 5:35 AM

thanks for maintaining an worthwhile blog..... although i too am not an art expert or part of the scene by any means, i enjoy the elevated level of discourse and contributions of the regular posters

11.

RoadMark

March 27, 2005, 8:19 AM

Franklin, this is a moving piece of writing. You collage the past, present and
future of your love affair with art in concept and in practice. Her appearance
and disappearance reads as a transparency passing over/through your life, An
experience of illumination and simultaneously a shadow... so you honor her and your readers with an authentic convergence of art and life, not the staged and strategic kind we are daily forced to bow before in the academic art temples. The authenticity arises for this reader (read viewer) from the willingness to be vulnerable that underlies the confessional form of your writing.

As for the broken economics of art, that is a topic that I feel compelled to
weigh in on soon and separately, as I have given a fair amount of thought and
jaw to the very real similarities between the maturation and erosion of margins
in the microchip economy and the less liquid art economy.
Briefly here,There is a trend in the commodification cycle that the contemporary art market resisted for many decades, but that has finally taken hold as the number of producers and participants has hit a critical mass while demand has remained stagnant. Consumers are increasingly compressed into very "thin" price strata. Directly resonant with the disappearance of the middle class, we are left with good art for sale at Walmart remainder bin pricing or "bonafide" art at fetishized prices. The vaccuum in the middle area is making a big sucking sound that is tearing the clothes off the backs of massive numbers of artists who are victims of the intangible magic of a world economy that has two gears- Hi and Lo.

12.

oldpro

March 27, 2005, 8:37 PM

Roadmark: write some more about this. The art market needs to be seen from a non-art standpoint and it seldom is.

Try to be a little more clear, about things like "thin price strata" and "resonant with the disappearance of the middle class". Just spell it out, real simple-like, as if you were writing for 12-yr-olds. So I can understand it.

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