Post #521 • April 20, 2005, 7:10 AM • 25 Comments
Last Wednesday I attended the last Urban Art Access event, which took place at Locust Projects. Artist Frank Haines spoke along with Gean Moreno and Jane Hart of Lemon Sky Editions, the latter who collects his work. Haines created a floor-to-ceiling mural cut from acrylic felt that depicted Vikings, scary white trash Floridians, a hell scene, and medieval warfare. Not the kind of thing I go for, but there was no question that it was done. It didn't want for more labor or vision. I continued to notice the shapes of chairs, and the way rafters fit into the ceiling. I noticed the volume of someone's eyelids. I thought about the logistics of Urban Art Access, and what went into its making. I wondered where Locust built that new apartment for putting up artists in residence.
Something in me, the part that reacts to art, had shut down.
It probably sounds like I'm criticizing the art; that it didn't move me. No, the problem lay on my end. I wasn't reacting. And I thought back and realized that I had hardly reacted to any art at all. For a month. Including mine - my studio practiced had flatlined.
Anyone following this blog during March will remember what the issue is. Since then, more troubles have arrived, none of that seriousness, but enough to kick around the damp cardboard box of my psyche.
I'm fortunate, though. I have received excellent spiritual counseling, and it has penetrated my thick cranium. The numbness I experienced at Locust has given way to something resembling equanimity. My memory of the show acknowledges its existence. Not good, not bad. Nothing to judge. This may spell curtains for my art criticism career, but I felt relief in not feeling pressure from myself to form an opinion about it. And as anyone removed from this business could have told me, the world continues to function in exactly the same way without my opinion about it.
As for my art, I have just taken my first class at Miamintelligence in traditional Chinese calligraphy and painting. That's right - more gaijin calligraphy, although in this case, strictly speaking, we're talking gwailo calligraphy. I learned that I hold a brush like a caveman and load it like a janitor swirling a mop in a bucket of fouled water, the latter of which made my teacher gasp in horror. I have corrected both of these problems. She started me on bamboo, the first of the Four Gentlemen. By the end of the class my leaves were beginning to point properly and my stalks no longer resembled ashen hot dog links. (Pictures? Not yet. We need to have a talk about that tomorrow or Friday.)
More importantly, I reconnected with an intimation I formed at the Upaya retreat - art isn't a world. We call it an art world out of convenience. But art is only taking place between the heart and the brush and the paper. (Chinese conveniently has the word xin, which covers "mind" and "heart" in one go.) It takes place between the xin and the viewer and the xin of the object. (My heart being so pained over the last month, I forgot about that. Breathing, forming a pile of errant bamboo leaves, I remembered.)
Everything else is a business transaction.
I enjoy looking at the business as business; in fact, the real business end of art I'm starting to find fascinating. But the rest of the business, like the silly item in yesterday's post, well, there's no reason to react to that. My mistake was in becoming irritated. I should have laughed.
Relatively, things succeed and fail. Absolutely, everything succeeds at itself, or looking at it another way, fails disasterously, or beyond that, neither succeeds or fails but manifests as motion, like ink turning into bamboo leaves. Both absolute and relative sides operate simultaneously and you have to take care of both of them. If I had seen this at Locust, I would have looked at the art. Just looked. I would remember some of it. Its good elements would stay with me. The ones that didn't work would pass away. I'd go make something and write something. The motion would continue, like life, a river with no beginnings or ends in it. Some things float, others sink, but everything rolls forward together.