Join the fray as we explore my current preoccupation -- the place of painting in this historical moment.
15 MARCH, 9:53 AM
No ones said it to me yet, but "beware the Ides"
Im preparing for a talk on the biological father that Im giving tomorrow and having a really hard time concentrating on what
I want to say. Im not sure if this is an indication that I simply want to free associate when I talk or that Im genuinely
I can simply work from the same notes as the Interfaith Dinner after all that event went pretty well. This time I actually
I know that my preoccupations with the work are about revelation and the relationship my work has with nature. I know that
I can tie these to historical movements within the arts. I think I might simply be lamenting the hope that preparing for
this talk would hand me a paper that would pout the "artist statement in the can!" I guess I just have to take good notes
after the talk because Im not going to write a whole talk between now and tomorrow morning. Heres to hoping that I can still
lecture from the hip!
This is all over wrought bravado, though, I know exactly where the work stands and can talk about that for hours. The pedagogical
question revolves around engaging the class. Im a good seminar leader, but I have a nagging feeling that I should use my
work to open up a discussion on the history off painting. Its hard to consider how one might do that when, in fact, I have
no sense of the students are. Alas, it wont be the first time that Ive done this. Performance anxiety is a good thing, though,
it forces one to be prepared for contingencies.
On another note, I am completely charmed by Pete Yorn. I cant stop listening to the CD
14 MARCH, 7:37 AM
This from my friend Carl in NYC.... Click the image for a full-size view.
12 MARCH, 8:01AM Another long lapse between entries... The "daily" has come out of the blog. I have been taking notes,
however, and someday soon I'll blow the blog out of the water with ideas!
For now, you'll have to be content with some new paintings...
7 MARCH, 11:07 PM
I've been having a hard time of it the past couple of days, but the trouble seems to be passing. I have noticed that
I do my best painting in the first two hours that I'm up each morning. So, it's clear. i just need to paint for two hours
each morning before work.... As if it were that easy.
Anyway, it'll be Friday in a few short minutes. That's got to count for something.
5 MARCH, 7:33 AM I've been a bad blogger recently, but it's not because I haven't been thinking or working (he says).
It's mostly because I've been distracted by my hopes and dreams. Indeed, Jonathan Cainer's substitute, Bernard Fitzwalter, justifies this position in today's horoscope:
Tuesday, 5th March 2002 CAPRICORN
The difference between the life you've got and the life you'd like is less than you think. Your usual excuse is that you've
never had the time, the opportunity or the money, but the real reason is that you've never dared try. All that can change
now, if you want it to; fiery Mars is in the part of the chart which puts pleasure first and duty last, and that makes it
easy for you to step over that invisible line of good behaviour which you've always so carefully observed, and to see what
happens. Living your dreams is much better than just watching from outside.
Live the dream, Capricorns!
1 MARCH, 6:01 AM
Last nights presentation to the Interfaith dinner group was a lot of fun. I think the most compelling part of the presentation
was not the context that I tried to sketch outthe so-called "artist statement" but rather the work itself. The biological
father work struck an especially high key. I was gratified that two people stopped me at the end to share their adoption
stories and that another was interested in having me present the work in another context.
So, what did I learn by presenting the work? Most directly I think I am learning about how to compartmentalize the work.
I didnt again, mention the queer dimensions off the work. Im not sure why, but there was something about the diversity of
the crowd that drawing that line didnt seem appropriate. Indeed, talking about family, relationship and paternity seemed
like confusing and compelling enough information. I dont think, too, that Ive thought through the intellectual dimensions
of the homoerotic elements of the work which reminds me that I must. Perhaps, I need to do some writing on this soon? Regardless,
the notes from my talk are on-line.
So, its the one-year anniversary of the last break-in at my house. Its hard to believe that so recently I was cleaned out.
Any enterprising thieves reading this should be warned, I have much tighter security now! Why is it that some people can
be such assholes? And why is it that our society does such stupid things like killing welfare that makes house theft an
attractive economic possibility?
28 FEBRUARY, 7:36 AM I'm working on a discussion for this evening on the process of discovery and revelation in art and
spiritual life. I'm not sure I am the person to do this, and I am not sure why I'm always finding myself doing things that
feel like being out on a limb. Certainly, this is something worth pondering
Writing my notes about this has me
re-thinking my "artist statement" and that's probably a good thing. I'm sure my notes will make their way to the site soon
enough. I'm sure I'll be figiting with them all day and have new revelations (ha ha) after I engage the ideas in a conversation
this evening. Trust tthe friggin' process, people!
This leads me to make a plug for the discussion group -- which
seems to be picking up some steam. Perhaps, it's time for you to post?
27 FEBRUARY, 6:41 AM
Yesterday, we had the first real taste of spring --- mid-fifties, boys playing whiffle ball and wearing shorts, hormones running
You get the picture. I decided to take a walk to try to conceptualize a talk Im giving on Thursday evening.
As I was considering the process of discovery and revelation in my studio practice, I was startled to consider this idea:
I work harder and more than I am expected to. It could be that Im a Capricorn and astrologically I am incapable of easing
up. As a point of evidence, lets look at Jonathan Cainers Zodiac Forecast for today:
"CAPRICORN: The Sun's sharp angle to Saturn is beginning to undermine your confidence. You feel as if you keep making mistakes
and this is rendering you vulnerable to criticism. Where normally, you might feel inclined to ignore the barbed comments of
ill-informed individuals with an axe to grind, you are starting to take them seriously. Perhaps your performance does leave
a little something to be desired? Perhaps. And perhaps pigs fly, too. Be less anxious and wear some earplugs today. Certain
people's opinions are simply not worth listening to."
Now, thats a powerfully mixed-message!
It could also be that Im a freak whos over-compensating for some perceived fault in my being. Oddly, I think this is closer
to the truth. For a long time I thought it was because Im queer and that I over compensate to protect myself from homophobia,
discrimination, etc. As Ive gotten deeper into the biological father project, I am considering that the deeper reason for
"over-compensation" is a fear of abandonment. In short, Im not sure Ive ever dealt with the feeling inherent in being given
away by my biological mother. The result is that I try to please people in an unrealistic and frenetic manner.
Time to grow up.
27 FEBRUARY, 6:06 AM
I'm fond of saying that my first boyfriend is a pornographer. He has a new book. Although I've just ordered it, and have not yet read it, it looks like he's making a step away from Blueboy -- which is
Regardless of the smut-level, Bravo, Ken!
26 FEBRUARY, 6:36 PM I've been suffering from insomnia, so the days have been pretty crappy lately.... I'll try to be
a better corresponent / blogger this week.
20 FEBRUARY, 5:51 AM One of my preoccupations is the place / role / relevance of painting (indeed, all traditional studio
arts) in the wild world of art-after-modernism. I invite you to join me in an exploration of this question on a new discussion
board that Iíve established.
18 FEBRUARY, 4:22 AM I seem to have turned my sleep cycle around. Perhaps, itís the copious amount of caffeine that I
ingested yesterday. Or, maybe, just maybe, itís the energy jump from kicking the smokes. Regardless, itís not even 4:30
AM and Iím at my computer, blog-surfing and waiting for both the sunrise and Today Show.
Although itís not due for
a week, Iím tempted to wrap-up my packet this morning. Whatís the good of having time if you canít use it to your advantageÖ
17 FEBRUARY, 5:48 AM
Going through some random email from the last week or so (been kinda distracted) and I came
across these "gems." Usually, I wouldnít post someoneís email, but since Iím getting a lot of these solicitations
I thought it might be useful to make a point.
This is not sexy:
"Saw your personal ad and thought it
might be fun to get together for some fun! I am into oral (giving and receiving) and am told I am very good! Also like to
give and receive warm oil body massage all over until aroused and finish off orally! After a warm soapy shower, starting
all over again! Will be in RI on Thursday. Am free in the morning anytime and in the afternoon after 2:00 pm! Can not host,
hope you can!"
Neither is this:
"I went through your web page recently. Nice to find a person
like you. I am 30 years, sexy and masculine who is looking for a man like you to have great sex. I am sure you you will like
me. Please reply me immediately, we can start fucking job right away."
Email like this is "funny,"
but not "sexy"Ö. Címon, guys, if you want in my pants, at least TRY to win my heart!
16 FEBRUARY, 8:25 AM I realized as I was waking up that itís only a month until I can start working in my garden. The
old wisdom in these parts is that you can plant peas on St. Patrickís Day Ė which in my world means the pansies can be bedded.
This is cause for considerable joy.
Lately, the blog has been the depository for outrageous stories and itís lost
itís "newsy" flare. Today, I take back the blog to document the various developments in my life. Donít be alarmed.
I spent the day in the studio yesterday. I didnít, in the end, get a lot done, but I did get to see
a few people with whom Iíd lost contact. I have houseguests Ė new ones (literally, on the heels of departing Caleb) Ė who
punctuated the day and various trips to the art supply store / coffee runs allowed me to run into two other folks. Padric
even dropped by to see the studio. It was great to catch up with him.
Scott G. was the enigmatic run-in. Heís a
doll, but always seems slightly distant. Iím not sure whether heís afraid of me, shy, or doesnít really want to talk with
me. Sigh. I guess, since we didnít break up "well," itís kinda hard. I donít have hard feelings, thoughÖand itís
been, like, a million years! Heís still a doll.
Today I go back to the studio, which is necessary. I need to paint
today Ė for me and for the fact that a gallery curator is making a walk-though on Wednesday. We must look our best if weíre
to get into the business of showing the damn work! HeheheÖ
Now, if I could only trick my Valentine into dropping
his plans and running away with meÖ. No, wait! I have to be in the studioÖ.
12 FEBRUARY, 9:02 AM Sometimes, no news is good news. If you've been wondering about the dirth of blog entries, fear not.
It's not that I've been hit by a truck, trapped in a spiral of depression or sulking with nothing to say. Indeed, it's quite
the opposite. Too bad I'm not going to publish the details, eh?
If you think I owe it to ya, you can go read this:
8 FEBRUARY, 7:15 AM I spent the evening looking at Lucien Freud and now I feel better about the prospect of spending the
day in the studio. I do know what I want to achieve in the biological father, but, for all my speed as a painter, achieving
my goals is a hard prospect. I think I need to mediate "speed" with discipline. Thank God that Mercury is finally
out of retrograde!
The funny thing is that anyone whoís just reading this is in the dark. Iíve posted very little
of the current body of workÖ.
7 FEBRUARY, 6:26 PM Iím having a crisis of faith about my ability as a painter. I just spent thirty minutes in my studio,
puttering about, ostensibly getting ready to paint. I havenít been in the studio for about a month and looking around I donít
even know where to begin. More devastating, I donít know if I can.
I donít think this is the usual existential crap
that we all go through when we encounter the creative process. In fact, I think I can pin point the source of my angst.
A couple of weeks ago I got a note from a friend whom asked the question thatís been percolating in my little head for some
time. The question is about my use of photographs as a tool in drawing.
This is an old topic and I donít really
want to re-cap the David Hockney "thing" of late, so I wonít. Do a meta-search if you really care. In this case,
the question, as I construct it (and this is important because my friend didnít construct it this way) is whether my use of
photographs as reference makes me a fraud or, perhaps less loaded, diminishes my paintings.
I think Iím at a fragile
place in my development as a painter. I donít really know what Iím doing in the realm of the figurative and still struggle
to establish it as my idiom. The fact that Iím not working from life, that Iím not bringing my images to completion and that
I have this insistent question gnawing at me is pretty debilitating.
The way through this, I know as a teacher,
is to forge ahead, to try new things, and to experiment without a clear sense of purpose. But Iím tired of that crap and
I just want to have some sense of control and mastery over what Iím doing. The sad fact is that I have no idea what the over-arching
themes of my work might be and Iím cranky as shit about it.
6 FEBRUARY, 8:29 PM Iíve been thinking a lot about the Superbowl.
So that you understand the context, let me
just say that Iím not a big football fan. In fact, Sundayís game was the first time I have ever watched a football game from
start to finish. The fact is that I was invited to a party to watch the Superbowl by a cute guy. So I thought Iíd check
out what all the fuss was about.
Like most people I was wowed by the drama of the game. It had it all: a dull first
half in which the favored team was on the skids; a surprise comeback by the aforementioned favored team; and, finally, a dramatic,
last second triumph by the underdog. If you wrote this as the script to a film, youíd be laughed out of the theater.
Which has me thinking.
We want to think the Superbowl is a test of wills, a challenge between the best athletes
we have to put forward. But, what if itís just professional wrestling. Can we imagine that the Superbowl is patriotic theater
constructed to support our current war effort?
It has all the elements of a morality play. I fear that whether
itís real or not, we will believe that righteousness comes from victory. Moreover, if victory comes from a sense of victim-hood
or out of a sense of rising out of an embattled position, we might just get to maintain our seat at the right hand of god.
5 FEBRUARY, 6:55 PM Introduction to the Biological Father
Coming out as "adopted" is akin to coming
out as "gay." In both cases, those who donít share your identity find the information to be simultaneously titillating
and socially awkward. Most people, in order to conceal their discomfort, reflexively offer predictable and patronizing cliches
to establish their sympathy for your plight. If they donít offer this sort of pap, it means that they are conservatives,
and then the fun really begins. Iíve started to believe that Freud was right and that we only learn meaningful things by looking
at the places where normative structures break down. Sure (I already hear the naysayers) you can learn something from positive
role models, but hot damn, nothing, and I mean NOTHING, beats dissecting a tantalizing pathology. Which is why I believe
that the not-adopted find adoptees so fascinating.
It starts young. As children, the subject of adoption is right
up there with sex and drugs. Itís probably because kids have an intuitive understanding that adoption is an outcome of forbidden
sex and often interwoven with recreational substance use. Itís a natural for whiling away those tedious playground hours.
As a matter of fact, I learned about being adopted by making fun of the neighborís adopted children. Apparently, my motherís
deep commitment to secrecy about adoption couldnít abide the possibility that my sister and I might make the neighborís lives
living Hell through a constant whispering campaign. Adults often view adoption in another way, albeit one that is equally
pernicious. Adoption means someoneís infertile, the sex isnít working or perhaps the recreational drug use has fried some
essential systems. Indeed, one can almost hear the whispers, "letís hope the home study is thorough." The other
point of view, which we might call the conservative point of view, is defined by the urge to deny adoption as a psychologically
loaded process. For example, the other day, in the course of everyday conversation, I told someone that I am adopted. The
reaction was predictable. "You know, I have a friend with an adopted child whoís the same age as my son and parenting
is just parenting. After the birth thereís no difference between adopted parenting andÖ.parenting."
awkward stumbling around the adjectives that defines not-adopted parenting? Can it be that our impulse is toward the word
"real?" Or is it that we just donít have a language for biological parenting? Itís like the language around "straight"
people. Itís so unsatisfying. It tells us nothing about heterosexuals. "Gay" at least implies that the sex might
be fun Ė which might explain why so many straight people are threatened by queer folk. "Adopted" immediately conveys
something about a person and defines the terms of their parental contract. Yet, we havenít found it necessary to define or
label biologically conceived, delivered, and raised children. The entitlement of biological families is too deeply engrained
to consider that there might be options to its normative location within our society.
Unlike straight people, the
not-adopted arenít threatened by the adopted. Indeed, some notĖadopted children spend a good part of their adolescence fantasizing
that they are adopted. If a mistake is made, if a not-adopted person is asked if they are adopted itís not considered an
insult or something about which they need be concerned. At worst, itís a reference to their mismatched eye or hair color
and that probably just means that Mom had a thing for the mailman. Whereís the shame in that? Indeed, the not-adopted only
fear the social awkwardness of talking about adoption with adoptees.
The adopted are probably to blame for this phenomenon.
So many of us have made such a public deal about "searching" for our biological parents that itís only natural that
thereís a perception that all of us are obsessed with biological patrimony. As an adult I canít mention that Iím adopted
without someone asking (itís always within the first minute or so) whether Iíve "done the search." This has been
especially true since Iíve started to interrogate the idea of adoption through father and son self-portraits.
be coy and deny that I havenít thought about searching for my biological parents. As an adopted adolescent the alienation
one feels from parents doesnít inspire just fantasy about biological disconnection, you have ammunition. Every time they
say "no," you can believe, really believe, that your biological parents would allow you to drive across country
with your stoner friend who just got his license Ė on the sixth attempt. After all, my biological parents didnít get to be
the royal family of some unheard of, yet economically vital European state Ė say Monaco, Luxembourg, England Ė by avoiding
The last time I considered undertaking the search I was in therapy trying to develop a strategy
for coming out to my parents. Thatís code for saying that I was trying to sort through all the shit that had transpired with
my parents over the previous 26 years. It pains me to admit this, but I started to talk about searching for my biological
parents with the same ardor I had as a teenager. Being smart and probably bored, one day my therapist said, "I donít
mean this to be a judgmental question, but I have to ask it. What makes you think having two sets of parents will resolve
anything youíve been talking about?"
We all experience jarring moments of insight. They allow us to re-align
our understanding and to proceed in a new way. Suddenly I had the working knowledge that I didnít need more parents, I needed
fewer. As I donít have homicidal tendencies, my quest has had to take an unpredictable path. For me, this has meant constructing
an operative, fictional autobiography of my biological genealogy. At a certain point, in this quest, I decided to start to
explore the nature of my adoption at the source. Since my parents are reluctant to talk about anything that might establish
or recognize the relationship between us, I grabbed the opportunity to talk with my sister about it in one of the rare moments
weíve actually talked to each other as adults.
I do know a few things about my biological parents. I know that
they were "students" when I was born, that they are, perhaps, Scottish, English, German or Irish. My parents are
sketchy on this point Ė they didnít commit such details to memory, as they never thought these facts would be important.
Apparently, the social workers of the 1960ís believed that oneís ethnicity, if generally aligned with the adoptive parents,
would switch to that of the adoptive family. Northern Europeans, in this line of thinking, all look alike. Finally, Iím
told that the biological parents gave me up for adoption because they "loved" me. More about this last point later.
I reasoned that if I was able to gather some intelligence about my adoption that my sister might have some, too.
Indeed, I was able to gather a few bits about her adoption, so I reasoned she might have a few more clues about mine. What
I didnít consider in this plan is that my sister hadnít really talked with my parents since she was twelve-years-old and that
my information had been leveraged in my early twenties.
From the start, our conversation was troubling. In my quest
to better understand my origins I had made a commitment to myself that I would avoid no possibility and that I would not judge
myself by the possible nature of my conception. Therefore I was perplexed when my sister seemed distressed at the idea that
her biological mother might have been a prostitute. I thought to myself, "Cool. Now that would be a story to tell at
cocktail parties!" When I gently conveyed my sense of interest in this line of reasoning, my sister started crying.
I hadnít anticipated that the moral nature of oneís biological parents might be inferred to have bearing on my virtue. Iíve
been told since that this oversight was insensitive.
In retrospect I shouldnít have been so surprised by my sisterís
puritanical line of reasoning. This became clear to me one day when my mother and I were walking on the beach. We were talking
about her distress over the nature and tenor of her relationship with my sister. My sister had a troubling adolescence and
her early adulthood wasnít quite up to my motherís standards either. This breach in family life had been a favorite preoccupation
of conversation for about 12 years and was probably the leading factor that kept me from ever moving back to my parents house
once I went to college. Sometimes in family drama you are an active participant, sometimes you are an observer, sometimes
you straddle the line. Iíve always been a straddler Ė mostly because Iíve never been satisfied with whatís on either side
of the line. As a straddler, you are a semi-observer and can sometimes see things that are oblivious to those mired in the
distress off either side. Knowing this was an obvious point in the breach between my parents and my sister, but curious as
to my motherís possible reactions, I asked, "Do you think it has something to do with her being adopted?"
was a pause in the conversation as my mother considered this. I thought, in my overly-psychologically-influenced head, "Yes,
Iíve gotten through to her. Weíre making progress." I donít know how I do this, but sometimes in a split second I can
create an entire conversation in my head. I can construct a line of reasoning, establish a premise for each conversant, walk
through possible permutations, and establish a new consensus between the parties. Itís this genial outcome that generally
gives me the first clue that the logic Iím constructing is deeply flawed. Most confrontations, if they donít come to blows,
end with a grudging agreement to disagree. Consensus is rare. Even rarer is the idea that people can genuinely influence
other peopleís opinions. Which is why I shouldnít have even fantasized that my mother might be affected by the boldness of
my question and I shouldnít have been surprised when she relied, "You know, you may be right. Maybe itís just bad blood."
I have never been particularly good at pulling back, using objectivity, or thinking about what might be the best
course of action when confronted by something that pisses me off. Some people think me to be a good negotiator, levelheaded,
diplomatic, but they have never seen me angry. My mother has seen me angry, she knows what makes me angry, so she shouldnít
have been surprised by my response when, after a startled pause, I said, "So, does that mean you are ready to disavow
your influence on my accomplishments? After all, theyíre only by virtue of my good blood."
Iím not sure whether
my mother thinks me arrogant or just a prick, but moments like this have given her ample reason to assume either position.
Yet, I think the whole matter of adoption, at its best, invites people into a consideration of the very nature of human relationships
and that if youíre not ready to engage the hideous difficulty of your relationship to other people you should opt out of this
particular game. Parenting isnít neutral and when you chose to become a parent Ė as all adoptive parents do Ė one has to
consider the affect that children will have on your life. One canít have children to have their lives affirmed; children
by their nature are challenging, children change lives.
It would be easy to infer from all this that I feel some
injury on the part of the institution of adoption. The truth is that I donít and that I am grateful to have been adopted
by the parents that I have. I do feel that my parents have been injured by the institution of adoption and I have some considerable
anger about that. Instead of being brought into whatís possibly a transcendental process, they were sold a bill of goods.
They were trapped within a discourse thatís sole virtue is putting the not-adopted at ease. They were told that adoptive
and biological parenting is the same. They were told that they should keep the fact of adoption secret. Their fears about
their own fertility were confirmed by this discourse and in being told they were no different from biological parents they
were able to infer the judgment that is implied in the very distinction.
For me, adoption has become something of
a curiosity. Iím curious about my biology Ė especially in the ways that everyone makes such a big deal about it. The biological
father isnít about me whining that I donít know my biological parents. Indeed, itís meant to be an entry point into considering
the relationships between biological families and, by extension, a meditation about relationships (deep, intimate, meaningful
relationships) that we can form outside the realm of biology. In truth, itís an attack on the notion of families and the
damage that tribal units render on this world. Families are not unqualified. Weíre to believe that securing the family unit
is the savor of our declining society. Indeed, I think the unraveling of families is an instinctual move. I think we are
looking for meaningful relationships and trying to unshackle ourselves from the bounds of the biological family. Perhaps
when that kind of choice is available, biological families will have to consider their intentionally. They will have to understand
that biology isnít entitlement. Image discourse on race, gender and sexual orientation that starts from that frame. The
inevitability of ethnic and nationalist conflict would be challenged too --, as would our self-satisfaction with culture.
After all, what does it mean to be a 3d generation Irish-American when youíve grown up in a CT suburb and never been to the
island? Does claiming that identity mean anything other than appropriation?
So, the biological father is about considering
our relationship to biological identity and the discourse that is created by biological determinism. Itís this idea/question
that really fascinates me. I think the power of painting to provoke, to change things comes from this subjectivity. It defies
the nature of "research and engages individuals in the process off constructing meaning. It may have language and discourse
of its own, but it might also be able to defy those boundaries better than other languages. It might yet defy the idea of
expertise and inspire people to step out of their fear of being inadequate, not smart enough, powerless. It might inspire
people to engage with the world.
Finally, having never met anyone to whom Iím biologically related Iím fascinated
by the idea that a human soul can look into anotherís face and see themselves reflected back.
5 FEBRUARY, 6:28 AM Iíve gotten into the habit of working in the morning. I find that I can write lucidly when I first
wake up Ė at least a lot more lucidly than when I get home from work at night. So, I write until about 10, when I start my
regular workday. It works well in that few people want to see me at the office before ten and a lot like to see me after
Letís see is the muse will be good to me this morning as I embark on trying to unravel the biological father
project in words. Hopefully, something will be posted, too. Also, donít forget to check the "tobacco wars"...good
3 FEBRUARY, 11:39 AM In an effort to quit smoking I have declared a
3 FEBRUARY, 6:53 AM "Iíve prayed to God everyday that youíll change," my motherís voice cracked over the phone.
This was jarring. I thought I had left my parents in a "good" place, a scant five days earlier, after
what I thought was a "successful" coming out. This God-talk seemed out-of-the-blue and, frankly, disconcerting.
At best, my family had been country club Congregationalists and I, in my own way, had rejected even this social-climbing-through-religion
at a young age.
My critique of organized religion had developed through years of childhood observation and research.
I was more troubled by my parentís off-the-cuff theology than I was by the "Jesus Christ Superstar" pedagogy that
passed as religious instruction. It was the seventies and I couldnít really expect more from the wannabe hippie, Jesus-freak
Sunday School teachers who had recently found themselves "with child," married, and re-ensconced in the suburbs.
Sure, it was disappointing that the answers to questions the Universe were, at best, scripted by Andrew Lloyd Weber, however,
it was my parentís uneven attendance in church, and their concomitant rationale for shoddy church-going, that got my wheels
One day I decided to ask why it was that we were dragged, I mean, that we attended church only in the fall
and winter. Why was it that we Ė and, seemingly, every other family in the congregation -- didnít go in the spring and summer?
My mother, in what I believe was a good-faith effort to appease any fears regarding Godís wrath, answered "God knows
we have other things to do when the weatherís good." This was troubling; but the weather was good and I much preferred
Sunday mornings that involved going to the beach to Sunday mornings that involved sitting still in uncomfortable pews. I
kept further theological questions to myself until they required me to actually consider my commitment to the whole church-as-social-obligation
Typically, Western religions all throw some bone to the notion of the age of reason. Most religions,
as far as I can see, do everything they can to tie-down baby souls as early as possible Ė baptisms and circumcisions come
immediately to mind -- yet, perhaps due to conscience or a fear that God will see through the shallowness of most childrenís
devotion to the cause, thereís the second phase of recruitment that comes when youíre twelve or thirteen. In my parentís
church itís called confirmation.
Iíd already sat through several generations of confirmations as a child Ė big affairs
with the young inductees being compelled to stand in front of the church and swear allegiance to Jesus -- and I had used the
opportunity of my sisterís confirmation to gather further data. Apparently, preparation for confirmation consists of bringing
all the thirteen-year-olds together on Thursday evenings, gathering them in a room and re-playing the "Jesus Christ Superstar"
records. The minister then answers any questions and the kids nod knowingly. Afterwards, the minister goes to his office
and the kids smoke dope before dutiful, Christian parents arrive to drive them home. While the arrangement had its appeal,
I was concerned. In retrospect, I wish I could have confirmed my parentís belief that I didnít want to go to confirmation
because I had something better to do or that I didnít want to miss something on television. The honest truth is that I didnít
have anything better to do.
Well, thatís not entirely true. This confirmation nonsense allowed me the perfect opportunity
to engage in one of my favorite activities Ė antagonizing my sister. She had hated confirmation Ė with its weekly meetings
and the complicity it caused her to feel with our parents. She hadnít been able to find a way out, and if nothing but to
spite her, I would not go to confirmation.
Even thatís not completely the answer, though. It was the complicity
that confirmation enabled between parents and children that bothered me. It was like a legal or financial transaction Ė the
passing of the country club membership or a low-numbered liscence plate Ė between one generation and the next. Why was it
that no one seemed to be talking about real theological questions? I truly was disturbed by the idea of "accepting Jesus
Christ as my Lord and Savior." Who is this Jesus guy, anyway? The Gospel according to of Andrew Lloyd Weber seemed to
imply that he was nothing but a good song and dance man who gets a raw deal in the second-to-last act but transcends everything
as the curtain falls. The sacrifice Ė all the dying on the cross stuff Ė gets expunged in oneís imagination by the simple
fact that he rises on the third day and sits at the right hand of God. Thatís a pretty good deal Ė for eternity! How does
this save me? How does that help me understand my place in the Universe? How will this prepare me for my place in a top-rated
Jesusí dutiful son bit Ė following your fatherís orders even if it means great pain Ė wasnít for
me, either, and, when the time came, I made it clear that confirmation was not on my thirteen-year-old horizon. My parentís
disagreed. To their credit, they spent a long time talking with me about my reservations, but every time I thought that my
point was being heard, that my parents might be reasonable people, my mother felt it necessary to punctuate the conversation
with, "Then itís settled, youíll go to confirmation."
Iím told this isnít unique to me, but I like to think
that itís a special, personal trait that I get cranky when people back me in a corner. I get especially surely when some
one with power over me seems to be listening but has no real intention of considering my point of view. Indeed, as an adult
Iíve come to learn that this is something called "abuse of power." It irks me. Iím scrappy, though, and very patient.
These are not traits that my mother ever particularly liked in me and it was on this occasion that her fears that I was going
to be a handful were confirmed. After some pause I consented to going to confirmation classes. They werenít, after all with
out their charms. Musical theater can be delightful and I was rather eager to learn more about getting high. How hard could
2 hours a week really be? However, I added a condition. It formed on the tip of my tongue as I was speaking and, without
the ability to "edit" and witth the need to end the negotiation in a dominant position, I thought it useful to add
it to the conversation. I would go to confirmation CLASSES if at the end of them both my parents and I would have a private
conference with the minister and discuss my concerns about taking the oath.
It was a good "deal," it
allowed my parents the moral re-assurance that they were attending to my religious education and it allowed me to seriously
investigate my reservations about God. I thought it a compromise that would attend to everyoneís needs. Indeed, the silence
in the room, the looks exchanged between my parents seemed to confirm my intuition that I had resolved the crisis. The arrangement
was even guaranteed to further antagonize my sister. I had at least four months to point out and speak at length about my
deep concerns regarding the shape, form, and content of our parentís (and her) religious devotion. I could taunt her with
the possibility that still I would not be confirmed. Indeed, this arrangement allowed me months to inflame my sister, while
a clean win at this stage would have been forgotten in, perhaps, a weekís time.
We took a break from negotiations.
I smugly retreated to my room, grabbed a stack of comic books and settled in. "This is good," I thought, "I
need to remember this, this Ďeveryone-winsí strategy." I was certain it might come in handy again. Before I could imprint
itís logic on my rapidly developing adolescent brain, my father called me downstairs.
My father has always enjoyed
arguing with me. I think he thinks our disagreements have always been debates and, although heís slow moving from his dug-in-the-heals
positions, I truly believe that he thinks weíre working toward understanding when we "discuss" important issues
concerning religion, politics, and anything I hold to be important or interesting in life. This day, I think he re-entered
negotiations in good faith as he repeated back to me the agreement weíd come so close to crafting. Having learned that adults
often pulled fast ones with rhetorical tricks, I, too, repeated our proposed arrangement to insure irrevocable agreement.
"Ok, so, Iíll go to confirmation classes, learn everything they have to tell me and then weíll go see the minister
and talk about it, right?" Without pause, my mother calmly added, "And then youíll get confirmed."
are a difficult thing. Theyíre a game of balance and require each negotiator to have a genuine commitment to and stake in
the shape of the final outcome. Up until this point, my motherís commitment to the nnegotiation had seemed tenuous, at best,
but now my fear was confirmed. She was unconcerned with reason, she was unconcerned with my trepidation about religion, to
her, confirmation was not a matter for questioning it was something to be accepted. It was something that was expected of
her and had little to do with me. My confirmation, simply put, was a term of her membership in the club.
arenít undertaken in good faith they lead to a different game, brinkmanship, and my mother had now taken this precarious step
toward the abyss. Matching my motherís calm, I repeated, "Ok, so, Iíll go to confirmation classes, learn everything
they have to tell me and then weíll go see the minister and talk about it, right?" And without pause, my mother repeated,
"And then youíll get confirmed." I paused, I looked around the room, my father was frowning, my mother stood resolute.
When I opened my mouth somehow the words came out. "OK, Iíll go to the confirmation service," pause, "and when
the minister asks me if I Ďaccept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior," I will say ĎNoí in front of God and everyone."
We never discussed confirmation again.
Which is why my motherís claim of "prayer" seemed so
alien. It had been fifteen years since my parents and I had last discussed religion and I wasnít used to the absolute corner
that religious language creates. Do you disavow the belief? Do you thank the person for caring enough about you to remember
you to God? Do you simply listen and not respond? The context of my motherís statement of prayer also made any response especially
charged. Because she was praying that my sexual orientation would change, she was cutting especially close to disavowing
an essential part of my identity that I had recently come to particularly enjoy. It also seemed unfair. I had taken great
care in preparing come out to them. Two years of therapy, innumerable wrenching conversations with friends and lovers, and
extensive reading all led me to the day that I uttered the words, "Yes, Iím gay." I even brought them a book to
help them "cope, grieve, and learn."
Coming out to your parents is an act of liberation. Itís not about
being accepted by them, itís about accepting yourself and learning that you can affirm your unique place in the world. It
also teaches you that all the hand wringing and self-loathing in which you engaged before you came out to your parents is
a fucking waste of time. Before coming out, a lot of queer people are angry at the world for its lack of understanding and
tolerance. Why canít the world accept me for who I am! Where is the justice in the world! You delude yourself into thinking
that coming out to your parents, to the people you live with, work with, go to school with will bring some greater sense of
justice or fairness to your life. You believe that coming out will actually matter. After you come out, you realize that
it only matters to you and that the world continues to be unjust, mean and hateful. Itís the ultimate reason to come out
early. If you think about it, thereís never going to be a better, fairer world in which to come out, so, itís a waste of
perfectly good energy worrying about being treated fairly. Itís energy that can be used for having sex. Good sex. Young,
Which is precisely what I did the night before I came out to my parents. I reasoned that even though
I had to drive two hours to have lunch with them, I could make an early night of it, go out, dance for a while and be asleep
by 1 AM. It would leave me plenty of time to sleep, to gather energy for the coming day. I also reasoned that a deep dose
of queer culture would fortify me, reassure me that my identity was worth affirming. So, I made my way to a bar called "Generation
GenX, as we called it, was not much more than a glorified suburban rumpus room. It was in a abasement,
remodeled badly, and itís most redeeming physical feature was the large tropical fish tank built into the wall behind the
pool table. It reminded me of childhood sleepovers in converted basements -- it was dark, damp, had a distinct smell, and
somehow encouraged boys to touch each otherís private parts.
I had gone to GenX with a sense of purpose and clear
resolve. I was there to dance, to let off steam and to drink heavily. It was a night about resolve and my coming out was
to be a serious political act. My queerness was constructed on a firm foundation of theory; it wasnít based on my sexual
yearnings. Then, next to me on the dance floor, I saw a boy.
My taste in men runs along certain, predictable lines.
There are the men I long for and there are the men I have relationships with. Men in each category have a distinct place
in my heart and are important to me. The men with whom I have relationships are handsome, passionate, and responsible. In
short, theyíre good at cocktail parties and pay their own bills. Among my little yearnings, though, I have an inalienable
attraction to punk boys. Dancing next to me was just such a guy.
He looked tough yet vulnerable. He was part boy
and part man. He had a silly haircut (always attractive) with the sides cut short and the top was long and pulled into a
ridiculous ponytail that trailed down the bback of his head and stopped just short of his shoulders. He danced with a lot
of energy and angry and it was precisely this anger that attracted me to him. His anger was the anger of one who had not
come out to his parents.
I donít remember meeting him or when I learned his name. I do remember dancing with him,
asking if he needed a ride home, going out for food, going back to his grungy third floor walk up, drinking home brew and
awkwardly talking until he made a move. Given my earlier resolve about being prepared for the impending conversation with
my parents, the idea of having sex with this guy had seemed improbable at best. Men like this rarely find me attractive in
the first place and I learned long ago to tuck away my desire for them. Why I was still there after dancing, driving, eating,
drinking and awkwardly talking is beyond me, but there I was.
At 5:30 AM, sweaty and sleepy, I remembered that
I had to be on the road by nine. I got up and started to leave. He convinced me, groggy, to sleep with him for a few hours.
I agreed and slept fitfully until 8:30 when I, again, started to make my way out of the house. He bolted up, "Shit!
You have to drive me back to my car." I wasnít aware that he had a car. At least, I recall asking him if he wanted a
ride, which might be different than asking if he "needed" a ride. "Do you think they towed it? Shit, shit,
shit, I canít afford it if they towed it!" I drove him to his car, exchanged numbers and, having lost precious time,
made my way home to merely change my tee-shirt.
For years, on the way to my parentís house, there had been a progression
of signs, spray-painted on two consecutive highway overpasses. These signs seemed to be made with the expressed desire to
taunt me. The first asked, "Whatís gonna set you free?" It never failed to trap me in a cycle of self-loathing.
I knew perfectly well, or at least could clearly hear my therapistís voice telling me, that coming out to my parents would
add to my sense of freedom. Why did the Interstate seem so intent on harassing me? Adding salt to the wound, the answer,
about a mile down the road, didnít offer useful strategy. Indeed, enigmatically, it only said, "How about cookies and
a nice glass of milk?" I have no idea if the signs were painted by the same person or if comfort food leads to any sort
of freedom, but on this day I chose to hold onto the resonance of the first and to avert my eyes to the second.
nothing else, the signs had become a ritualistic part of visits to my parents. Such visits are like a three paragraph essay;
they have a predictable introduction, substantiating middle, and conclusion. Given my intentions, I thought that doing
something to break this cycle might strike the right note. It would foreshadow my intentions to re-orient their understanding
of my orientation and, therefore, soften the blow. Not thinking very clearly, I suggested that we go for a walk after lunch.
My parents are intrepid walkers and they decided to show me their regular route. Itís about five miles and, after
about a block, I found myself wondering how seventy-year-olds could do this on a daily basis. Then the folly of my strategy
became clear. I was winded and they had home-team advantage. Adding to this, I knew they sensed something was up. How could
they not? Iíd never before scheduled time to have lunch with them on anything other than a holiday or birthday, yet, here
I was. To avoid my intentions, they engaged their best strategy.
Somewhere along the way they had realized that
conversation and interaction with me never resulted in anything that they liked, might be happy about, or, even preferred.
Rather than attempt to engage me in a conversation that might re-frame my point of view, they had decided that they would
simply give me no opportunity to bring up any details of my life. So, having a clue that I had something to say, they became
especially chirpy. They showed me where the trees had been especially colorful the previous fall, where theyíd seen a fox
a few weekís earlier, where they could hear but not see the red winged blackbird. In short, they told me about everything
that had ever happened to them on their daily walk. This made breaking-into the conversation difficult. Not only did they
have endless anecdotes from their ten years of daily walks Ė content and interest wasnít a criterion Ė they had, somewhere
along the way, become Jedi masters at dominating conversation. Not only was there no pause to insert the phrase "Your
sonís a pansy," but the simple everydayness of their observations made them seem particularly human and vulnerable.
I was trapped. Their ultimate "parenting" strategy, seemingly, was to inspire pity in me.
we got back to their house and, in their effort to re-assert the predictability of our visits, sat down in the living room.
I sat in my regular seat and my parents in the same seats they occupied when we negotiated about confirmation. "Oh,
here we go," I thought, "Itís the same old thing." I was suddenly thirteen. It was at that moment that I consigned
myself to the inevitable. I was going to chicken out.
I hemmed and hawed about nothing. Then I noticed something.
I hadnít the time before leaving to take a shower and the sweat worked up from the walk was now causing the smells of the
previous night to waft from my torso. I started to get hard. Senses are funny things. They remind us without intention
and are able to help us construct meaning. Theyíre sort of like a Greek chorus Ė providing context that we chose to ignore.
The sense of smell is especially potent. It ties together memory and context; itís completely about desire and repulsion.
For me, the smell of male phermones is unlike anything else. It can make me do things I would never rationally do and, in
this instance, it proved that the jizimís lingering power could inspire me to tramp on my parentsí hearts.
like I actually connected the smell off cum with the outcome of the conversation. I didnít harbor the delusion that somehow
if I told my parents that I was a fruit loop that I would suddenly get some head. It was more like this. In that moment
I realized that the statement I was making wasnít political. It wasnít about a new relationship with my parents. It wasnít
about people accepting me. It was about sex. It was about the fact that I have sex with me. It was about creating more emotional
space in my life to pursue sex with me.
My parents were oblivious to my train of thought and had again steered
the conversation to some neutral topic, but when I finally sensed that I could make a break, I made my move and asked them
why they thought I didnít have a girlfriend. My father had a couple of theories; most revolved around a broken heart or my
ineptitude in wooing my ex-girlfriend -- who I hadnít seen in five years. He assured me that if I bucked up she might still
take me back. Somehow it didnít matter to him that she was perfectly happy with another guy and living across thee continent.
My mother was cagier, asking a few questions back to me. Finally, she said, are you trying to tell us that youíre gay?
Oddly, the rest isnít very important. We exchanged some history. I assured them that I was "safe." With a
resignation that it was too late to do anything, they anemically assured me that if Iíd told them sooner theyíd have gotten
me to therapy. I explained that Iíd been to therapy and that we talked about them and not about being gay. I gave them the
book. We said the obligatory "I love yous." I drove home assured that I had had underestimated them.
five days later, I called to check-in and the discourse turned to God.
Today, our relationship isnít very different
from the time before I came out. While I hoped that coming out might change our relationship, I learned that all it did was
make them wish even more that I were straight. They knew I was gay before I told them and I think they wish I hadnít spoken
the words. I think they think that it would be easier for them if they didnít have to worry about the unknown dimensions
of my life that make them fearful. The burden would then be on me Ė putting up with the stray question about being single.
I wouldnít have to end every conversation with my father with the admonishment that I "need to take care of myself."
My mother wouldnít have to interject into every conversation in which I mention a manís name the phrase "enough said."
I wish I could reassure them, but they donít like to talk about it and, at the age of thirty-six, I have no wish to re-enter
1 FEBRUARY 2002, 7:58 AM Rabbit, rabbit.
As a kid I was told that if you say "rabbit, rabbit" as the
first words uttered on the first day of the month that you'd have good luck all month. Being a "little" neurotic,
I'm nervous for the month if I miss the mark. After all, "rabbit, rabbit" is an awesome power available to us all
that acts as a prophylactic against bad luck! The only moral dilemna is, as usual, to be sure not to abuse it. I'm thrilled
to report that a remembered this AM.
It turns out that this is derivative of an old folk belief that if WOMEN uttered
"rabbit, rabbit" on the first day of the month it would transfer unwanted pregnancy from them to the rabbits (it
runs out that this gesture isn't too lucky or available to rabbits). I learned this as a young man when I was still dating
women and it still seemed like a good prophylactic. I soon began to realize that such matters weren't so much about "luck."
Funny, how a late period can change your world view....
Why do I do it now? I'm not sure. But, I'm not taking any
crisis of faith
30 JANUARY, 5:53 AM Iíve been thinking a lot about my "career" as an artist, which, to this point, has been
pretty abstract. Iíve pretty much avoided major shows and I donít really have a major body of work. It makes it a little
difficult to think of myself as an artist. Even the web site, with all itís "conceptual art" pretensions, doesnít
push beyond what others have done (better) elsewhere on the web. Letís admit it, everyone has a blog these days! So, the
wheels are turning as I try to conceptualize the next step; try to figure out the next iteration of the site. I seem to have
tied my stake to the site for the foreseeable future, so I should probably develop my thought about it in a more coherent,
less slapdash way.
Itís supposed to be a thesis, but thatís vague; not to mention boring. If itís only a thesis,
I might as well close-up shop. Being a thesis constrains it too much Ė it makes it into a specific, articulated product the
purpose of which is to be evaluated and judged. It becomes about performance Ė jumping through hoops Ė and less about intervention
and performativity. More disheartening, if it is about a thesis, it canít hope to construct new knowledge; it can only strive
to regurgitate what others expect it to be. Itís the trap of graduate school Ė no original ideas.
seem to be a preoccupation of mine these days. I think itís in reaction to the America flag. Iíve been trying to understand
my discomfort with it. Itís not a new feeling. Iíve always had a contentious relationship to it. On the one hand, the stripes
and stars are a potent graphic image and Iím a sucker for well-composed photographs of it. My discomfort has only been inflamed
by the shameless parade of Americana thatís been trotted out since 9-11.
Donít get me wrong, Iím as intrigued as
the next guy with the phenomenon. Itís amazing that millions of people who couldnít have given a ratís ass about our national
identity on 9-10 Ė not to mention on election day less than a year earlier Ė are all suddenly "patriots." More
amazing is that if you question the flag waving, those most offended by the question are the most vulgar in their uses of
the flag. Itís like Southern politicians who pander for votes by supporting a Constitutional amendment against flag burning
while keeping silent on the use of the stars and bars on Southern State Capitals. Such amendments never use "flag burning"
in their language. Such amendments are based on protecting the flag from desecration. Now, call me conservative, but I kind
of think that decals and snap-on flags adorning pick up trucks and mini-vans presses the like between patriotism and desecration.
Desecration means inappropriate use off the flag or the manipulation and destruction of the symbol for political
(or other) reasons. This is my favorite irony. The Confederate flag Ė which so ardently hangs above gun racks and Southern
State Capitals Ė is the ultimate desecration of the US flag. Itís a manipulation of the symbols of the flag in rebellion
against the Federal government. Somehow we miss that under a Constitutional amendment protecting the flag we would be compelled
to arrest all the good old boys. This drives my ambivalence about supporting such amendments. It doesnít, though, particularly
explain my discomfort about all the current flag waving.
On the highway or the sidewalk you canít avoid noticing
that the American flag has made a comeback. It is everywhere and because weíve been trained to understand it as a compelling
image it makes you think. No, it doesnít make you think. It engenders a reaction. It makes me uneasy.
Now, I know
the counter argument to what Iím about to say is that 9-11 and the shameless display of Americana (I like typing that) have
developed a positive sense of national unity. There are the civic life folks who see this as an opportunity to build a stronger
sense of national coherence and rebuild our sense of community, but this seems shortsighted to me. Indeed, I interpret the
"unity" engendered by the new nationalism as an assault on my subjectivity. Now this may seem like a strange thing
to say, but to me the flag says, "Everyoneís an American now." It offers no opportunity, no space to discuss what
it means to be an American. It makes us all "American objects."
For me, this is a constant tension Ė the
consideration of whether I am a subject or an object. My subjectivity is important to me and I bridle against any incursions
that attempt to pull me into collectivity without consent. Itís not as compelling as "no taxation without representation,"
but I think it is my American revolutionary creed Ė "no collectivity with out consent." I think itís a particularly
American value, too. Itís surprising to me how those who flag wave the most vigorously miss this point. Indeed, how the
most powerful "Amercian" trends have to do with objectifying us all. I could develop this as a screed against corporations
and the decreasing role of the individual in world affairs, but Iím reminded that this started as a reflection on my web site
and my future as an artist.
My practice as an artist intersects my subjectivity and pushes against being objectified.
Itís why the idea of developing this site as a thesis seems less and less compelling. Indeed, the whole idea of a thesis
(or, as Goddard requires, a "portfolio") seems pretty hopeless. Not only does it limit audience, but any intervention
would have limited effect. So, even thought I havenít developed distinct bodies of work on the site (yet) I realize that
the real weakness of the site is its pre-occupation with Goddard College.
I think the Goddard fixation has two points
of origin. The first is the reality that, if I want the degree, I have to produce a portfolio. The second, and more compelling,
is my rage at the dissonance and contradiction I experience within the MFA-IA program. An example is that one canít engage
a residency without being haruanged with anti-Modernist cant Ė especially the tension between process and product. Yet, the
portfolio is the ultimate Modernist product and there isnít a particularly interesting interpretation of how the process of
the portfolio might proceed. One wonders whether this is an oversight or if the Emperor truly has new clothes?
am realizing that my rage about these inconsistencies is holding me back as an artist. I need to move beyond Goddard. Although
I still have two semesters to complete Iím done with the program. I have to let go. I can clock time, use it to my advantage
and look to the next horizon. In many ways this is connected to the ennui that I feel toward my professional life, too.
Iím finding it hard to embrace these institutions because they seem intent on containing passion. I realize that
much of my rage Ė the futility of which leads to ennui -- is linked to my own expectations. I realize that I am the architect
of my own limitations. I have set the horizon to close to my current location and find myself in the position of managing
institutions and processes. Iím apprehensive about being a manager because, although Iím good enough at it, it sucks out
I always seem to be writing about my impatience. It makes me feel like an asshole to commit these sort
of words to the web. Iím reminded that I have an enviable life (can we ever envy our own lives?). I admit it. I have lots
of privileges. Somehow, the privileges that I have donít seem enough. When I peel away the skin off privileges and look below,
what I find is that I am governed by a slew of internalized limitations. Iíve traded my freedom for a set of privileges and
this scares the living daylights out of me. The limitations that govern me are a pernicious system of thought that defines
a perceived sense of success Ė which, upon reflection, may not result in success that equates happiness. Indeed, the most
frightening outcome of this -- dare I say it? -- self-colonization is that it prohibits imagination.
Maybe this is
why I keep thinking that I should go live in the woods. Itís the farthest location to my urban life. Yet, withdrawal from
society wouldnít quiet the insistent voices about which Iím writing. These voices live in my head. The only possibility
that I have is to be reflective about the voices, interrogate them and re-learn the powers off imagination.
another dimension to this, too. I like my urban life, I like my friends and the sense of connect that the city offers. If
I might go out on a limb, too, I like the power that my life affords me. I need to consider whether my trade off Ė between
privilege and freedom Ė is tied directly to my flirtation with power. Itís difficult to admit -- it makes me wonder whether
the nationalistic pull toward objectification isnít simply some version of my own flirtation -- and I wonder whether my desire
for power isnít simply the chief architect of my discontent.
This smells dangerously like an artist's statement...much
28 JANUARY, 7:52 PM Iíve been distracted by clutter lately. When Iíve mentioned it to people
visiting my office they think Iím crazy Ė pointing out that my office isnít very cluttered. I think this is a relative concept,
though. For me, the clutter is the obligations that inhabit my office. I know the phone has voice mail, the computer email
and that the stack from my mailbox is full of letters and phone messages. Itís this sense that my life is so full of obligations
that I can never clear the decks. It makes focusing and committing to fulfilling individual projects almost impossible. Iíve
cleared my calendar for the morning and I want to use the time to get through as much of it as possible.
has become so saturated and Iím starting to realize that this isnít the way that I want to live. I want time. I want space
and I want the opportunity to enjoy what Iíve worked to achieve. It seems logical, but it also seems impossible. It seems
that access has created a certain kind of obligation. If one can be reached we have an expectation that they are obligated
to respond to us. People also seem to have a limited sense of whatís important.
This seems like a bitch-fest and
itís not what I mean. I also donít mean that I dislike all the contact that I have with people. I think itís more that I
want a better grip on the use of time. Iíve written about this before. It seems that this idea is an insistent voice.
The problem is that all this distraction isnít allowing me to do anything particularly well Ė or to the standard that
I know I can set. It might also be that Iím impatient. The things that Iím doing arenít the things that I want to do Ė theyíre
all in service to anotherís goals. I know that I am building a body of work and that each thing I do is in service to achieving
my larger goals, but at the same time Iím hungry right now. I know that I want a change. I want something different in my
life. I also know itís close. I can feel it.
27 JANUARY, 10:40 AM I had a date last night and although I had home field advantage I was still nervous. Iím not really
sure why that is; after all I hadnít even met the guy. Itís not like I was totally invested in making it work. Itís just
that dates make me nervous which isnít a completely irrational point of view. After all dates have a predictable continuum
of outcomes. On one hand, you might meet the love of your life. At the continuumís extreme lives the serious stalker.
Rationally, we should have some fear of the stalker, but somehow I do not. Perhaps itís a delusion, but Iím pretty scary
myself and I generally believe that I can give as good as I get. Failing that, I have no qualms about securing restraining
orders. Itís the other end of the spectrum that scares the living daylights out of me. Which is why, whenever I meet someone
I think I might like, I seem to think that telling stories about my family is acceptable conversation.
Itís a defense
mechanism, really. It allows me to believe that (the inevitable) rejection is attributable to my family (I wouldnít date
me with the possibility of "holidays" on the horizon!) and not to my lack of social graces, good looks or conversational
depth. In short, my family, after years of actively constructing my neuroses, is now conveniently used to insulate me from
the painful consequences of being a freak. And, stories about my family can be amusing.
Itís not so much that my
family is intentionally amusing or even really aware of it. Indeed, whatís most amusing is that gaps in awareness and communication
between us. For example, my sister and I didnít talk to each other for ten years when I received a phone call from her. It
was fatherís day and she called to ask, "Do you know where Dad is?" I replied, "Yes." The ensuing silence
implied that, although not eager, I might consider answering another question before replacing the receiver in its cradle.
Now, I should have known better because itís just this kind of subtle rhetorical game that my therapist taught
me is a "trigger," and itís just such a trigger that caused the ten-year breach. It happened when I was 15 on a
late summerís evening as I was waiting for my friend John to pick me up for a concert. My sister was going to the same concert
Ė which I cringe to admit was the US tour in support of the release of Chicago 15 -- but the previous summer she had been
in a car accident and spent most of the last 12 months in traction and physical therapy. Although she had a driverís license,
she was now, like me, beholden on the driving sympathies of her friends. She was also waiting for a ride, but used the time
to eat an al fresco dinner as I waited in the breezeway.
I had used the opportunity of my sisterís hospitalization
to undergo a puberty-inspired growth spurt and to sharpen my resolve that I would no longer put up with her shit. As crutches
mediated the possibility of having the snot beaten out of me, I was engaged in a game of actively testing my sisterís limits.
The problem is that my sisterís limits are a moving target and this particular evening they were gunning for me.
family wasnít particularly large, but it had a certain element of disorganization. I generally found it glamorous and a little
enviable. Whereas my mother was always on top of every detail of my adolescent life, John and his three siblings always seemed
to be two or three steps out of synch with his parentís intentions. This often made him late. This night I had already been
waiting for 20 minutes for him to pick me up. So, when my sister asked the question, "When are you leaving," my
testy response was, "Whenever John gets here!" Iím not sure whether this statement was a last straw or if, indeed,
it was a consequence of my sisterís complete lack of rational capacity, but my response generated an unexpected opportunity.
It was at this moment that she offered to disown me.
There are moments when youíre offered a choice. You can apologize
for something youíve never done or you can accept the consequences of sticking to your ground. As a surly 15-year-old, the
choice was clear and, seemingly, resolved by Johnís car pulling into the driveway. Indeed, no choice had to be made; I could
just walk out the door. As I exerted pressure on the door handle, my sister shouted, "If you donít apologize right now,
it will be like I never had a brother." I turned, looked at her, notices a tiny bit of foam at the edge of her mouth,
and, finding it was the only response I could think of, whispered, "Fuck you."
Like animals sizing each
other up, my sister and I circled each other a few times during the evening. She has a fierce glare that she had used to melt
my most joyous childhood moments. Itís an amazing thing that a single look can communicate a personís complete disdain for
everything you find fun, interesting, and life affirming. Itís the look that, ironically enough, kept me in the closet for
an extra seven years. However, this night I wasnít giving in. This night I was two inches taller than she, stronger, and,
barring the use of physical violence, which, given her use of crutches, wouldnít curry favor to me in any quarter, I could
still run. So, I glared back and walked away.
When youíre a 15-year-old boy you break curfew. Itís expected. My
father expected it and devised a system to keep him oblivious of it. Because my parents didnít trust my sister with house
keys Ė it had something to do with a keg party she threw when she was 15 and her use of keys to lock the dog and my 12-year-old
ass in the den throughout the event Ė my father came up with the note system. There was a note in the kitchen with both of
our names on it. The first person home would cross their name off the list, signaling the second person to lock the door.
When I arrived home the house was locked. The system had been sabotaged.
My sisterís never been as resourceful
as me and Iím sure it never occurred to her that I had contingencies. Breaking into the house was no problem and I actually
found it amusing. It wasnít until I got to the kitchen and found that sheíd not crossed her name off the list at all. Sheíd
thrown the note away. The stakes of the game had changed.
My response, admittedly, wasnít in the service of resolving
our conflict. Throughout my childhood I had developed the skills of mediation and was the one who smoothed over the tense
relations that pestered our domestic arrangement. My sisterís long hospitalization had made me less sanguine about this role.
Her absence had removed the tension in the house and the summer she was "away" was actually pretty easy. Clearly,
I theorized, she was the root of the problem and new steps had to be taken to contain her. In short, I escalated the crisis.
The details of the escalation arenít important (or pretty), whatís important is that they resulted in finding myself on the
phone ten years later talking to a sister I barely knew.
Of course there had been gossip. My parents, unlike me,
werenít happy at all that my sister and I had cut each other off. I suspect that they, go figure, construed our estrangement
as a pesky detail that they had to explain to friends and that might result in whispers behind their back. No one wants to
consider that the actions of their children might be construed as "bad parenting." The result was that most visits
with my parents inevitably wound around to some, seemingly interminable, conversation about my sister. The funny thing is
that my parents didnít know anything about my sister.
When we were kids my sister would brag that she was moving
out of the house the minute she was eighteen. She wasnít going to hang around into her twenties the way the neighborís kids
had. No sir, she was getting out as soon as she could. I hadnít really thought about what Iíd be doing at eighteen and the
irony is that I was the one to move out at eighteen never, as it turned out, to live there again. This incensed my sister
who, as it turns out, didnít leave until she was twenty-four. She moved out when my parents were on vacation, left a note
with a phone number. When asked where or with whom she lived, my parents were vague. Theyíd never actually been invited
to her apartment nor had they met "Sue," the woman no one had heard of before my sister moved in with her. These
"facts" were the full extent of our knowledge of my sisterís life.
I remembered all of this in the ten
seconds of silence when my sister called looking for our father. I remembered the idea that I might be "triggering"
something with the silence and jumped in with, "Do you want his number?" "Yeah," my sister replied, "Are
they on Cape Cod?" "Yup," I said. And we were silent again. Sensing an opportunity, I said, "So what
are you up to?"
Itís at this point I learned that she and "Sue" had just moved from an apartment
in the city to a ranch house in the suburbs. I was intrigued, yet, somehow wasnít stalwart enough to articulate the phrase,
"So, youíre a dyke?" Instead, I offered that the particular suburb they chose was probably nicer than the one we
grew up with. She agreed and we hung up.
When my parents arrived, and the conversation inevitably turned to my sister,
it was me who initiated the conversation. Had she called? So, she moved into a new house? What do you think of that? Itís
at this point that my grandmother interjected.
My grandmother was a sharp ticket. She knew how to work a room and
she knew how to manipulate a conversation in a way that no one knew she was even aware the conversation was taking place.
Excitedly, she asked me, "Did I tell you my exciting news!" "No," I replied smiling. "Danny-boy
had puppies!" she sparkled back to me. I knew I was in for something good.
Danny-boy was her tenantís dog, an
Irish sheepdog, that, to this moment, I was sure was a boy. So, I asked.
"Oh no," she said, "it
was the funniest thing. I was in the kitchen baking when I looked out the window. When they bought Danny, they also bought
a girl dog for Wendyís father. The two of them were playing in the yard. Then, Danny started hurting her."
Can this possibly be going where I think it is? I smiled and glanced at my parents who are not smiling. I look back at
"So, I went down to break them up, but Pat stopped me and told me what was happening. I had
never seen anything like it in my life."
The silence in the room was a knowing silence. My parents and I had,
indeed, put together that my grandmother was telling us a story about copulating dogs. I was delighted. My parents were
slack-jawed. Yet, this story was unexpected, told via indirection, and clearly with the intention of delighting me while
disorienting my parents. My grandmother knew something; she smelled that I knew something, too. I swallowed, preparing to
take the next step in complicit tango that we had started, when my mother broke in.
"Mom, I grew up on a
farm. We saw things like that all the time."
"Shirley, I had never seen anything like that in my life,"
my grandmother countered sternly, gathering every bit of propriety she could muster.
"Mom, donít you remember
when the cow had a calf, the horseÖ" my mother countered. I could see in her eyes that she was invoking some association
technique she probably read about in Readerís Digest. She was testing for Alzheimerís.
"Shirl, I never saw
anything like that in my life."
"What about the cats and dogs," my mother offered, rapidly conjuring
a barnyard bordello, in her effort to get her mother to admit that she was familiar with animal husbandry.
I have never seen any thing like this in my life." Pause, breath, "And, besides, I donít know what two women would
do together any way."
Now, be honest, if this was the conversation, would you go on a second date?
but, they took me to lunch!
26 JANUARY, 2:37 PM In ninety minutes Iím returning to a career conference at the University at which Iím the moderator
of panel discussions on jobs in the not-for-profit world. Events like this are part of the territory of being the director
of the Swearer Center and I generally enjoy them Ė todayís no exception. Itís funny, though, talking with large groups of
scared graduating students who have no idea where theyíll be, what theyíll be doing or whether all the work theyíve done to
graduate from a top ranked school will matter in a few short months. It makes ya think.
So, I had to tell my sorry
story of finding (and keeping) my job. Iíve been gainfully employed with the SC for the past oh-so-fleeting fourteen years
and its director for almost ten. Itís a great job, a real calling and I wouldnít trade the experience for anything. Indeed,
itís a great gift to have found work around which I feel great passion. So, itís surprising, when I tell my story, that the
punch line is that I didnít want the job.
As I was graduating from RISD, I, too, was a scared little guy wondering
who would feed me, who would clothe me and where would I sleep once the gravy train of higher education reached the graduation
station. With few prospects and little skill in the areas of "networking" or "portfolio presentation"
the idea that I might actually generate wealth through my skill as a painter and draftsman seemed unlikely. Although clueless,
I wasnít a slacker and I quickly figured out that the higher education chuck wagon had at last a connecting train, so I made
preparations to get my transfer ticket to graduate school.
During the final two years of school I had started to
so a lot of community-based work. I did this mostly for two reasons. First, I was generally passionate about addressing
social problems and committed to the idea that each of us has a moral obligation to step outside of ourselves and contribute
to the world in which we live. Second, I had to get away from school because the students and faculty were making me crazy,
what with their black turtlenecks and Euro-fashion ways. In my journeys through Providence I was introduced to the fine folks
at the Center for Public Service (late renamed the Swearer Center) and they were nice to me. They understood me. They listened.
They took me to lunch.
One day, late in second semester senior year, as my friends and I were beginning to become
truly insane (fights, gnashing of teeth, pulling of hair, throwing of crockery), I got a call from one of my friends at the
Center. She told me she was leaving her position (for graduate school) and was calling me, on the advice of the director,
to invite me to apply for the job. I was intrigued.
Now, there were some, arguably, sane people in my life with
whom I talked this over. I was pretty committed to going to graduate school, getting out of Providence (it was the pre-Renaissance
"walkable" city) and getting on with my life (hey, I still had to find the time to come out of the fuckiní closet!).
But my mentors convinced me that I should apply Ė if only for the experience. So I sent along my letter and resume (which,
as I recall, still had a reference to my glamorous summer job as "snacky" Ė the intrepid side kick of Captain Snack.
Yes, I was the guy who fried burgers and scooped ice cream at the local "country club").
A few weeks later
I got a message that the Center had called to set up an interview. This is what potential employers donít understand. The
intervening weeks between applying and "the call" are weeks filled with self doubt Ė"theyíll never call"
Ė which moves to self loathing Ė "of course theyíll never call, what was I thinking, I went out of my league" Ė
to, finally, deep anger over the stupidity of the potential employer for not seeing your genius. I was firmly in the terminal
"stage" of this cycle and even more deeply committed to the verdant fields I had imagined graduate school to be.
I didnít return the call.
They called back. I was surly. The interview really didnít fit my schedule, could we
meet on the weekend? Yes (damn).
Emotions aside, I was incredibly humbled by this experience and unable to say,
"Iím going to graduate school so I donít think I can interview." Theyíd been so nice to me Ė remember all those
lunches? Ė and I didnít know how not to go to the interview. So, one Sunday afternoon I trucked myself over to Brown and
had an interview.
Now, hereís what I still donít understand, the interview changed everything. Iím not sure whether
itís my competitive instincts or it was the clearing away of some obstacle that allowed me to hear my calling. Either way,
once I started free-associating in the interview (I hadnít done any preparation, I didnít want the job) and constructing theory
about the importance of connecting university study with real world work, I really wanted the job and I pushed hard to convince
them that they wanted me.
A few weeks later, again, convinced that I hadnít gotten the job, I called them to thank
them and to let them know I was moving out of town the next day (graduation). They offered me the job. I accepted Ė with
the mutual agreement that it was a one-year, maybe two, appointment.
Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees.
25 JANUARY, 11:23 AM Iíve been meaning to write about this for the last ten days, but havenít quite had the time or intellectual
space to get it together. Todayís the day!
I got my faculty response to my G-3 report. Thereís nothing to bitch
about (which, after all, often seems the purpose of my blog!) because itís really supportive and thoughtful. Yet, there are
clues in it that Iím having some time deciphering. I could just write the writer and ask for elucidation, but whereís the
fun in that? Iíd rather ruminate and try to theorize my own through the puzzle.
We start with this cryptic insight,
"We noted in your reflections on your painting practice, some provocative tension between product and process, and we
encourage you to pursue this edge in your learning." Iím especially, of course, taken with the words "provocative"
and "edge." Yeah baby, Iím edgy! Itís funny though, I have no idea what it means. Can it be the faculty see through
the essential truth of my painting practice Ė that I love the act of discovery and the physicality of painting but that I
never actually finish any work? Itís true, I have hundreds of paintings that are "in process" and only about a
dozen that are complete! I really donít have any inclination to show my work Ė although Iím realizing that I need to if I
want to establish myself as an artist.
Itís an interesting thought. The process of making is wonderful, but the
act of declamation, the finality of an installation seems so limiting. It seems that itís about containing the ideas in the
cube of a gallery. Iíd much rather have my paintings integrated into daily life Ė on someoneís living room wall, leaning
on the side of a wall somewhere. Thereís something really sexy about the idea of encounter Ė about the spontaneity of finding
or running into an idea. Itís a little like cruising. You donít go out to find a particular person, itís the possibility
of discovering someone and their view on the world that makes me go out. Iíd like to find a way to integrate my paintings
into such a process of encounter. Heaven forbid that they become dead objects in a museum Ė stripped of the possibility of
becoming something more.
Perhaps this is why I donít like to finish paintings? Perhaps, itís that while they are
still in process there is the possibility that they can still become more than what they are. The metaphor seems potent and
obvious. Iím scarred to death of become "finished" or growing stale and for that inevitable moment when my intellectual
life comes to a standstill. I donít ever want to be that guy about whom people say, "he was really smart in his prime,
but heís not had a new idea in years."
Itís funny how this connects to a recent correspondence Iíve had with
the ex boyfriend. He mailed me on my birthday and we exchanged some news. I told him of my various states of ill-ease about
the direction of my life and work, I tried to open up to him (which I could never do when we were together) about my own insecurities
and ennui. He replied, "youíve reached 36, canít you be satisfied with anything" (or something close to that).
Sigh. No, I canít. I donít want to be, I donít want to be satisfied, I donít want to finish my goddamn paintings!
That is pretty edgy.
The G-3 reply goes on to say, "We are confident you will use your remaining time in
the program to push hard at the edges of your learning, to explore more deeply the challenges of audience, and to add your
articulate voice to the larger conversation about the role of painting in this historical moment." Themís some fighting
words! Iíll get to it this afternoon. Seriously, though, itís an amazing challenge and a weighty proposition to consider.
Incredibly flattering, too, to consider that someone(s) might think I have the wherewithal to undertake such an investigation.
Iím not sure that Iím that smart.
The idea that painting after modernism (and arguably after post-modernism) might
yet be conceived is incredibly exciting. I wonder, sometimes, whether Iím too much of a modernist to take on this proposition.
For all my bravado about not wanting my work to be contained in the gallery/museum, I have the same internal voice as the
modernists. I want to be acclaimed, I want my work to be appreciated. More than that, though I want my work to speak to
I donít fetishize my paintings as precious objects, though. Indeed, most curators who I know would
cringe if they knew the rotten care I take with them as objects. I easily throw them in the back of the truck and haul them
wherever I need to. Sometimes they warp, etc and I think, "well, if I have to show this one someday I can cradle it
and work out the warp." Itís always about the utility of the object to tell a story. Does this make me an illustrator?
Heavens, in art school that was a dirty word (even thought my degree is a BFA in illustration). Itís just too (in the modernist
vernacular, pre-rehabilitation) Norman Rockwell. Funny, though, that I want my work to be the entry point of personal imagination.
The biological father isnít about me whining that I donít know my biological parents. Indeed, itís meant to be an entry
point into considering the relationships between biological families and, by extension, a mediation about relationships (deep,
intimate, meaningful relationships) that we can form outside the realm of biology. In truth, itís an attack on the notion
of families and the damage that tribal units render on this world. Families are not unqualified. Weíre to believe that securing
the family unit is the savor off our declining society. Indeed, I think the unraveling of families is an instinctual move.
I think we are looking for meaningful relationships and trying to unshackle ourselves from the bounds of the biological family.
Perhaps when that kind of choice is available, biological families will have to consider their intentionality. They will
have to understand that biology isnít entitlement. Image discourse on race, gender and sexual orientation that starts from
that frame. The inevitablity of ethnic and nationalist conflict would be challenged too -- as would our self-satisfaction
with culture. After all, what does it mean to be a 3d generation Irish-American when youíve grown up in a CT suburb and never
been to the island? Does claiming that identity mean anything other than appropriation?
So, the biological father
is about considering our relationship to biological identity and the discourse that is created by biological determinism.
There, Iíve said it.
Having said it, it seems more like a book than a set of paintings. Itís not research, itís
opinion. Itís this idea/question, and itís subjectivity, that really fascinates me. I think the power of painting to provoke,
to change things comes from this subjectivity. It defies the nature of "research and engages individuals in the process
off constructing meaning. It may have language and discourse of its own, but it might also be able to defy those boundaries
better than other languages. It might yet defy the idea of expertise and inspire people to step out of their fear of being
inadequate, not smart enough, powerless. It might inspire people to engage with the world.
This, of course raises
the shibboleth of audience, which is a demon that I try to avoid whenever I can. This rant probably reveals a lot of my fascination
with the internet -- especially as a painter. Audience is only slightly in my control (although this is a dodge) and the
iterative quality of tthe medium allows me to duck and weave around the issue of completion. On the web, everything's in-process!
God, I love playing here!
So this is my first shot at theorizing about the role of painting in this historical moment.
Let me know what yíall think. The theory wonít come together without some provocative poking from the world.
23 JANUARY, 5:36 PM I teach a class called the Self and Society (the syllabus is under the "risd" link). Today
I was outlining a thread of American thought and talking a lot about the American Transcendentalists. I made a reference
to Margaret Fuller, but couldnít remember her name. I was overtaken with a wave of sadness. How could I forget the name
of one of the most potent women in 19th century America?
I was also overcome with a memory.
ago, Bill and I spent the new year in a cottage on the Atlantic coast of Long Island. Some friends came out from the City
on New Years Eve to celebrate and we all got a little drunk -- some more than others. At midnight we went to the beach to
look over the Atlantic.
This particular beach holds a lot of meaning for me. The summer before we spent the summer
here and it was the summer that a jet exploded a few miles off the coast. For weeks we were warned away from the beach and
told that all manner of "remains" might wash ashore. Coupled with the tragedy of the event was the horror of encounter
with the flotsom.
That night those fears and their accompanying sadness focused my drunken haze. They also reminded
me of the journey that Henry David Thoreau (dispatched by Ralph Waldo Emerson) took to this landscape to search for Margaret
Fullerís manuscript, washed ashore here when the ship she, her lover and their son ran aground and sunk just a few hundred
yards from shore. A companion had no similar memories to focus her drunken haze and she staggered, fell and asked for my
help walking back to the house.
As a held her I realized that her capacity was lower than I assumed and she asked
that I talk to her to keep her awake as we made our way toward the dunes. I started to tell her the story of Margaret Fullers
Fuller was one of the Transcendentalist circle, a distinction for many reasons, but more so, in her case,
because of her gender. In 19th century intellectual life women were not embraced by the academy nor did they have options
in the public sphere. For all their progressive ideas, even the Transcendentalists accepted her with trepidation. Emerson
embraced her for her intellect and encouraged her. Horace Greeley, too, in his expansive vision of human rights, embraced
Fuller and gave her a position with the Herald Tribune. She became the first woman to be an international correspondent for
an American newspaper.
In Italy she became involved with revolutionaries, took one as a lover and had a child out
of wedlock (which seems a strange word to type in 2002). She also wrote a book which brought together, she intimated in correspondence
with Emerson, her system of thought. Encouraged to return to the states (coupled with the danger her lover faced) she and
her young family embarked for New York.
Itís unclear why their ship ran aground, although likely that the captain
was trying to out run the tide, make better time and cut too close to the shore of Long Island. Many swam ashore. He lover
could not swim and certainly her two-year old son could not either. Weíll never know those last minutes, within view of the
shore, Fuller shared with her family or her purposes in not making for shore herself. We can only conjecture that solidarity
with belief and value kept her by her familyís side. They all perished as the dawn emerged.
For days, the people
of the south fork, long accustomed to scavenging the remains of ships run aground, collected the various effects of passengers
and cargo. Thoreau arrived too late. The manuscript was never found. If it came ashore, it probably became kindling for
a fire that warmed some intrepid farmer or fishermanís family. The loss of the manuscript doubled the tragedy of Fullerís
demise. We lost not only her presence, but also her voice.
19 JANUARY, 10:57 PM So, what happened to Fletcher Christian?
I watched "The Bounty" tonight and
was captivated by the mystery of freedom and the tension between the human spirit and systems of thought. How is it that
we willingly bind ourselves to ideas, cultures that have nothing but our enslavement in mind? From where do we find the power
to break the tethers? And, as with the mystery of Fletcher Christian, are we able to truly free ourselves? Do we secretly
return to the site of our enslavement? Or, do we die faceless in the effort to be free?
Sigh. Troubling thoughts
imbed this snowy night.
At least Saturday Night Live is on soon.
9:45 PM Itís snowing and even if I
wanted to go out there would be little purpose. Itís a night best suited to hunkering down and embracing the warmth of home.
19 JANUARY, 1:47 PM I finally gave in and started to pay Tripod the $5 / mo. to remove the pop up ads. I did it for you.
19JANUARY, 10:48 AM On Thursday evening I went to a "conversation with" Ann Hamilton. She rocks.
to the talk reminds me that I live within a rich landscape of intellectual discussion Ė which I should make a greater effort
to engage. I really had to drag myself out to see Hamilton because after a day (what a week) of work I was exhausted. Seeing
her, though, revived me. I suppose thereís a lesson in this.
While listening to Hamilton, I generated a lot of note.
Some are her ideas, some are those of her interlocutor and some are my own musings. No footnotes and no claiming of ideas
are intended in this blog. Theyíre reminders of what Iíve taken away from the talk.
When she was asked about her
various travels and short stays in different parts of the world, Hamilton placed the question in the context off a no-linear
reading of text. That is, she attributed the value of such diverse travel as related to "inspiration coming from unexpected
places. "You work from what you know to what you donít know;" and "you often only know what youíre deciding
not to do." Finally, she made the point that "if you wait, it will appear." (I think she implied a need to
be engaged in your practice while youíre waiting.) "Oneís thinking all the time and all the fragments of thought form
the landscape of your experience Ė itís out of this that work emerges."
The common themes that have emerged
in her work over the past decade are voice, text and material. Language and landscape define her work. Especially important
are figures in the landscape. Embodiment is the way we project our presence in the world Ė the mouth allows us to say and
the hand refers to making Ė these two parts of the body are preoccupations in her work. ["Thee mouth is not a thing,
it is an empty space."] "Words are all we have and they are not enough." In terms of process, she undertakes
and "immersion in reading to create an imaginative landscape in which I work." This imaginative landscape then
connects to materials. "How words come to mean matter and make matter."
When asked about craft, she
subverted the question to say that for her it means " looking for labor and work." It presupposes the question
"what does Ďmakingí mean in 2002." "The literal act of making can be the Ďcraftí of it." "Work
is mourning the lack of labor" in our contemporary lives. "Is the longing for making about nostalgia or is it related
to touch and embodiment?" Making is a way of extending yourself and making the world part of your body.
early preoccupation: "Is one of the roles of the artists to animate? What does it mean to animate?"
preoccupation: "I could be the subject and object of the work.""
"Itís in the gaps that you find
what you need."
"The act off reading leaves no material trace Ė how can reading become the Ďmaterialí of
With a poet: "We are reading together as a way of Ďwritingí Ė investigating a new form."
Hamilton doesnít work in a studio, per se. ""What is the studio for me? What is Ďdrawingí to me Ė without
a relationship to the pencil?" "Going to the flea market and book store is my studio."
insinuate a social, reciprocal relationship. Tables are the site of labor and association." "A table and chair
equal figures in the landscape.
"Moving [in my preoccupations] toward the aural and air brings sparseness to
the work.." What is left is the sound. "What is the place of voice in work?" How do we make words tangible?
How can words be known through touch? Sound, music, voice canít be contained [as visual media can be]. "Our borders
to sound are limited."
"Collaboration is hard because you spend a lot of time trying to understand the
meaning of a word that you use in a very different way." [But through collaboration] the conversation allows the work
to become new [again] to the artist."
16 JANUARY, 7:38 AM The weather is gray and so is my mood. Itís amazing to me how rapidly I can swing from enthusiasm
My RISD class is a bright spot on the landscape, though. It reminds me, perhaps because weíre reading
Foucault and Kenneth Gergenís The Saturated Self, that the modern world is overly eager to tie us down with extraordinary
amounts off data and demands. If weíre constantly engaged in doing someone elseís work then we never get to our own. Iím
struggling right now to figure out how to turn the tide and get more control over the ways that I spend my time. It all seems
to be slipping through my fingersÖ. Ah, systems of thought, it doesnít make it easier knowing about them.
challenge in my class at the moment is how to get my students to move from sophistry to philosophy. I need to make the shift
next week. Otherwise weíll spend the term spinning our wheels. Theyíre engaged learners, though, which is refreshing. We
just have to get focused. Perhaps, I need to make the distinction for them and offer some possibilities for epistemological
There are some distinct themes that have emerged this week:
How do we locate ourselves as artists
within existent systems of thought, but, more importantly, how do artistic movements relate to systems of thought? Is it
possible for us to engage these systems to re-invent our locations? I believe that authenticity off voice is based on knowledge
of influence Ė that is, how we are able to speak through or resist traditions.
The class reminds me that a preoccupation
in my work is the body. I believe that the body scripts systems off thought and the discourses in which we live. I suppose
thatís what the daily photo is about Ė acting in and playing with the discourse in which I live my life. I should remind
myself that I can play with this in a more direct, rougher way.
Another question regards the ways that we, as artists,
both read and write meaning. We enter conversations about meaning all the time and either add to a particular discourse or
we push against its assumptions. Like above, I still wonder whether we hold the possibility of defining the discourse or
are simply the illustrators of it?
The process of becoming an artist is in part based on coming to understand our
location in the world and then speaking from that point of view. The declamation of point of view leads to authenticity and
its difference from that in which we are located (that is the new that is created out of our juxtaposition with that which
has come from elsewhere) leads to distinctiveness (and perhaps even genius).
The idea of nature Ė its dualistic construction
Ė is useful in protecting us from the elements (and being eaten by bears) but is destructive in its erosion of a holistic
understanding of self.
Genius occurs when one steps outside the expected, conventional and delights with a new approach
/ idea or way of seeing the everyday.
Iím not sure why Iím concerned with genius but it is a preoccupation.
From whence comes passion? Why do we feel it for a particular idea and not another? Person?
How do we drive
ourselves toward the clues that we need to complete our work? Is it our subconscious pushing our consciousness toward understanding?
(Is this idea too contained in psychoanalytic discourse?) Iím really awed in the way answers / teachers emerge just as one
is ready to learn.
At least I can walk to work this morning. Maybe exercise will bring new energy.
15 JANUARY, 8:56 AM I'm back and the world is kickin' me in the ass. You take three weeks away from the office and the
least you might expect is that the world might take care of itself while you're away. Geez.
So, once again, time
is my enemy. I vow to sort it out today and get back on track. More tonight. The good stuff. I promise. I've been taking
12 JANUARY, 3:39 PM We got back from Goddard last night and passed the evening de-briefing, eating good food, and drinking
wine -- a very pleasant evening.
Today I am taking it easy, preparing to actually unpack all the information gathered
during the past week. On top of that, Iím easing back into being in Providence. Indeed, tonight is a birthday party (for
me Ė tomorrow Ė no gifts) and Iím looking forward to seeing folks. How can you complain when people are gathering to offer
toasts to your existence?
Itís funny to be back on the web. Although I was making posts and stuff when I was away,
I wasnít surfing my usual haunts. Itís funny to see that cyber space moves slowly Ė just like real space. Still, itís reassuring
to be back.
More after decompressionÖ.
NOTES ON GODDARD
11 JANUARY, 7:44 AM I crapped out of performance night at about 9 PM last night. Things were fine, but I was not.
I think I really needed that 10 hours of sleep. If nthing else, this lingering illness is taching me that I need
to find some better balance in attending to my health.
I have to say that I am sad to be leaving Goddard, bitching
aside, and not so psyched about returning to the world of Brown, et cetera. The sheer volume of idiotic email waiting
in my mail box is staggering. Email has made all of us think we can assuage our responsibility for a mayyer by
passing on he information. I don't mean to write that line too broadly -- god knows i pass on my fair share of
drivel -- but I do have some questions about access and speed. When people write several times about the same thing
because yous haven't responded to their request (when it's not really yur concenr anyway) and you're on holiday
from your job, it bugs the shit out of me.
Anyway, I like being a student.
10 JANUARY, 7:49 PM It's the last night of residency and we're about to go to performance night. It's always a fun evening,
but I have to admit to fatigue. I'm not sure whether it's lingering illness or malaise of another sort. There's something
about gathering for the predictable unpredictablity that's dispiriting. Does that make sense? I suppose it's like saying
I'm intimidated by the language. The performers always freak me out a bit because my lack of familiarity makes me feel stupid.
It's a good object lesson for me -- I need to learn to modulate my language and to release my work (the stuff I'm good at)
in measured doses, too. If nothing else, this residency has taught me how scary I can be to folks who aren't used to my yammering!
It's been a good residency and I could use a few more days -- of the good stuff. I am tired of this place, which
in the summer is magical. In the winter, though, one notices the decay and lack of attention to human needs. It's tragic,
actually, the ways that this institution is unwilling to look to basic infrastructure. The irony, of course, is that it can't
meet it's loftier goals until it does. Indeed, the most shocking thing I've had to consider this residency is the possibility
that one of the most interesting and challenging new students might not come back to Goddard because he's so offended by the
accomodations. It makes me wonder why, indeed, I've been willing to overlook the problem. I'm not sure whether it's because
I'm a trooper, willing to overlook in service to learning, or a coward for not standing up for what's right.
9 JANUARY, 4:02 PM I got sick driving back to Goddard. I donít know what it is Ė kind of like the flu, kind of like what
I had over Xmas. I suspect that my body never entirely fended off the last attack and given the physical and emotional stress
of the past few days Ė not to mention to extraordinarily bad accommodations and food at Goddard Ė that my body was overwhelmed
by the infection. I am feeling better now Ė after 16 hours sleep last night and a somewhat low-key day today. Iíll get dinner
and then make my way to bed. Only two days left to the residency and Iíd prefer to feel well during them.
the site in peer group today. I think I may have dumped too much on the group. I seem to forget that Iím always working
on a lot simultaneously Ė and that explaining its interconnectedness isnít easily done in 10 minutes.. It will be interesting
to see whether I get correspondents from GoddardÖ
7 JANUARY, 7:23 AM I suppose everyone feels lonely. Last night, after a graduation party for Faye, I walked friends back
to their dorms. As I walked back toward my dorm, in the snow, I was overcome by an existential loneliness. It didnít last
long, but it did force me to ask why I keep myself apart from people. Why is it so hard to connect?
to be in Providence right now, preparing for my first class of Winter Session. With the impending snowstorm I was persuaded
to hold my ground in VT and to drive down tonight. I can teach the class tomorrow morning and save a friend the trouble of
subbing for me. Still, I feel somewhat bad for letting my students down. In the end, I think itís for the best. Tomorrow
is a much better day for me to miss at Goddard than this morning and afternoon.
Yesterdayís events again proved to
be potent sources of inspiration. In the morning graduation presentations I started to think about the nature of families
and the entitlement that so many folks have to the genetic / cultural / biological histories. I realized that the entitlement,
the casual claims of owner ship for particular cultural or ethnic legacy angers me, on the one hand, and, on the other, saddens
me as a tremendously narrow dead end. It reminds me that to claim identity from such a prescribed and parochial sense off
location negates the rich possibility of self-invention. More than that, it brings culture to a deadening crawl. Culture
has to be created and re-created constantly to become vibrant. It also dis-empowers folks. It forces them to establish a
sense of self out of extremely narrow categories. This seems unnecessarily limiting. All that humans have wrought and thought,
it seems to me, is available to learn from. We canít appropriate or colonize that which isnít ours, but we can integrate
the wisdom and ideas of others into our own creative process. Donít forget to footnote.
Iíve also been thinking
about this idea of empowerment, well, about power in general. I articulated this to Lara last night. For me to listen, at
Goddard, because of my location as a privileged white guy is a radical act. For women to listen at Goddard re-inscribes a
history of oppression. Yet, when I listen I am also cast as a mysterious person, one who is holding back. There has got
to be middle ground. The development of authentic voice is a seminal question for our era.
is the realization that I am suspicious of events. I am coming to see that I want my practice as an artist Ė indeed, all
of my life practices Ė to be integrated. I donít want what I do, regardless of its power, to be seen as extraordinary. I
think the labeling of the extraordinary is compartmentalizing to me and dis-empowering to other. After all, if my sorry ass
can do something, chances are anyone can. Indeed, this might be the formulation of my theory of genius Ė with apologies to
R. Waldo Emerson.
Finally, I want to remind myself of this clue: can I envision the place in which I was conceived?
7 JANUARY, 12:46 PM I voiced this thought in advising group this morning during a conversation about authenticity of artistsí
voice. The biological father might not just be about searching for my father. It might also be about figuring out the genetically
related world. Itís an investigation of, a placing myself in the experience of the biological family. I need to find the
time to start writing about this.
Iím off to peer groups and then I hit the road for my whirlwind Providence tour.
No rest for the weary, but some good reflective time in the car.
5 JANUARY, 9:11 PM We just finished the first advising group meeting and I am gratified to learn of the amazing points
of view of my fellow students. If we can find a basis of trust, I think we can have a great group.
Inn my introduction
to the group, I spoke of the biological father project and my efforts to explore the genetic connections that I have never
experienced Ė the reflected glance, the familiar gesture. Itís funny, a couple of folks read the introduction and reflected
it back as if I were exploring paternity in a negative light. Certainly, part of their effort was to make a connection between
their preoccupations and mine, but it struck me as odd given the fact that the biological father is, in fact, and idealization
of the father/son relationship. It looks at the possibility of what a positive relationship might be. Iíve actually struggled
with this. I have the sense that the piece is too ideal Ė that it does not deal realistically with the tensions between sons
and fathers. Iíd even consider such concerns to be a block from time to time.
I donít think that I can use my relationship
with my adopted father as a point of reference. Itís a real relationship Ė full of ups and downs Ė but it is also a relationship
that is devoid of the kinds of reflections Iím seeking. I can always rack differences and conflicts to a lack of biology,
an inherent difference of biology. Iíve always wondered whether I could do that if I was looking into some glimpse of my
own eyes or reacting to a familiar cock of the eye? Such, I suppose, is the interesting mystery I am trying to unravel.
Such is the knowledge that I hope these paintings might reveal.
Another point to this is the fact that these paintings
are about self-fatherhood. I know, I know, that sounds incredibly New Age-y. Yet, when I realized Iím the father I also
realized that Iím speaking through the paintings to earlier iterations off myself. In some ways I am traveling back in time
and reconstructing whom I wanted to be as a boy and young man rather than constructing a father. The paternal voice, if you
will, in the paintings is my voice. The glance, gestures and love that the father expresses are the emotions that I suspect
I would project toward a son were I ever to procreate. Iím allowing myself to be the developing person that my adopted parents
prevented me from being.
This seems an important breakthrough.
5 JANUARY, 1:16 PM Janet reminds me, via email, that residency is "enviable," that it pushes and I am grateful.
Thatís a great way to start the day and, it has been a good day thus far. Iím happy to have a couple of free hours between
portfolio presentations to transcribe my notes and to process the flood of ideas that are sloshing around in my head. Retreats
are privileging and you are right, Janet, that my location at the moment is enviable. I am so fucking lucky to have groups
of colleagues who are interested in pushing forward, interested in changing the world.
In one of the presentations
this morning, Margaret made an interesting point: "we change when we feel things in our body." It makes me consider
the ways in which I feel the things that I make. I hadnít thought too much about the phenomenological dimensions of my painting
practice, but this statement as well s some insights from Pam have me thinking about the physical, felt, embodied nature of
my studio practice. I do have a felt, sensual relationship to paint and am never happier than when I am making a painting.
Oddly, itís come to be a surrogate for sex in some ways Ė allowing me the experience of touch, fluid and sensuality. Thatís
probably fucked up, but just wait until you read some of the other stuff I have to report. Regardless of whether this is
a twisted analogy, there is a kernel of truth or fertile ground, at least, in the observation. Surrogate may be the wrong
word Ė perhaps analog is a better thought.
I should return to the beginning of the morning and deal with some off
these notes chronologically. John presented first and he was catalyst for all manner of ideas. I was especially moved y
his presentation style and the way that he transcended his physical image and song making to use story as a transmitter of
meaning. I started thinking about the various media I use to construct and convey meaning. Certainly this is the primary
tool of the paintings Ė to develop ideas, tell stories, invite folks into the construction of meaning with me. This makes
me wonder what the relationships are between representation and the construction of meaning. Representation seems so static
to me while constructing meaning has the potential of a partner in crime. Itís almost as if representation is singular and
construction of meaning implies plural. Of course, we construct meaning alone all the time Ė theorizing, etc Ė but thereís
that I know from the oral history work that a transcendental moment can happen when two people collaborate on the construction
It may be that Iím comparing apples and oranges in this question and Iím OK admitting that. I am intrigued
thought that these two ideas are a preoccupation within my work. I think I am bridling against the idea that representation
is simply a tool in a process of constructing meaning. I believe too fiercely that both can be dialogical.
made a point about the expectation people impose on a graduating student Ė the so-call "what are you going to do now?"
question. It made me think that I need to start to develop the structures in which I will make art after Goddard while still
at Goddard. The audience now is the program Ė and I am afraid that without that motivation I might not easily make art for
my own development. Itís just a note to ponder, not a clear thought.
John made an interesting set of points about
the portfolio. First, the organization of the portfolio is something of a negotiation with oneís advisor. Second that "I
soon expect not to be the person reflected in this portfolio." Both statements speak to the nature o the site and the
ways that I need to exploit the site in the portfolio process. The first line of my portfolio might be, for example, "This
is not my portfolio." This line followed by the 3d semester study plan (introduction writing). Follow that text with
the statement, "My portfolio is a non-linear, hypertext document. For the ideas to be unpacked, the site requires engagement."
This recognition plays to the ephemeral nature of my practice Ė its iterative-ness.
This might get to what Pam was
implying at breakfast. She was trying to describe my work in terms of the ephemeral. This is in relationship to the history
off painting as object and the modernist use of painting within a commercial system. How does one speak to that tradition,
pull it apart and reconstruct painting in new ways. Painting doesnít have to be about the rarified object. It can be approached,
engaged and integrated into the everyday. This is the conversation with Jason, et al.
Margaret developed some work
she called "musings." They juxtapose poetic images with stark statements. Itís an interesting idea with which to
play. Itís related to her practice of walking and taking photographs. I think this would be a good meditative practice for
me and might help me develop the "Providence" part of the site. A daily photo off the city?
question that rises for me at this moment is "did I come to Goddard to learn to play?"
oh yeah, I'll add
this at the end so that only the most attentive of readers will get this oddly revealing and perhaps odd observation. With
houseguests, roommates and the various late nights, i haven't had sex or jerked off in over a week. It didn't occur to me
until I realized that I was having "guy" feelings. This is strange, but I'm developing a new theory of queer sexuality.
I think queer guys understand their fem sidde more because the guy hormones don't have time to accumulate. It's only a theory
-- my theory of potency -- and I'll keep up my observations.
4 JANUARY, 9:51 PM I went to a lecture on the questions raised by 9-11 and 7 October. By and large it was a predictable
talk followed by the usual polemical Q&A. The one interesting point came in a discussion spurred by the question of appropriate
response by a peace and justice movement. The frameworks of the anti-Vietnam movement (which were copped from the civil rights
movement) are the dominant response and yet everyone Iíve spoken with finds them to be hollow. I wonder why we havenít developed
context appropriate responses to the war --- ways the are particular to our time for entering into the difficult work of making
sense of the events around us.
One way to look at this is to blame the mass media for brainwashing us into believing
that this is a just intervention. I think thatís way too easy, though. It doesnít explain why the activists havenít been
imaginative, after all the activists are often those who formulate the critique of the mass media. Indeed, I think itís a
deeper problem of imagination, on the one hand, and, on the other, a symptom of a democratic malaise within the peace and
To the first point, I donít think weíve allowed ourselves the space or the opportunity to do imaginative
work around appropriate response. Weíve fallen back on the tired tactics because they are known to us and they provide a
nostalgic framework in which we can situate our selves. They appeal to the romantic notion that we can (re)connect with the
revolution of the sixties. It also brings out the old lefties who take their moment in the sun and refuse to cede power to
people who might view the matters differently. The real politic of the peace movement includes power politics too.
talk did allow me some time for day dreaming and I started to think about the work that I have to do to bring together my
study plan for the semester. I develoepd a list of projects and directions that Iíll be pursuing (or hope to pursue). I
also develoepd some thoughts abuot who I might like to work with in conversation this winter and spring.
o At dinner
I had a thought when I was talking with Jason. We were talking about where and with whom one might have a conversation about
painting. I invited him to have the conversation with me on the site. He seemed open and excited about it. I gave him the
web address and hopefully heíll still be interested after he reads/views the site.
o Related to a possible conversation
with Jason is the development of the correspondence project at NUA. I need to formulate this a bit more and figure out what
an invitation might look like. I also need to think about whom I might approach. I received an email from JH tonight and
had the wild thought that he might be enticed to play.
o I need to develop the biological father project into the
installation that I am beginning to envision. I know that the form of it will come through the process, but until I engage
that work, I do need at least a schema through which I can proceed. I know that there is a written dimension and perhaps
a performance. It will also probably be an installation. On a positive note, when Janice looks at the snaps of the paintings
she proclaimed me a genius Ė now thatís something to try to live up to!
o I have the idea that writing on progressive
education and my experience with Goddard might be a framing tool for the thesis. I need to start this writing to figure out
if this notion holds water.
o I have the Royce presentation coming up Ė which will allow me the opportunity to develop
a full, public presentation of the biological father as a work in progress. It should provide a nice counter point to the
talk at Maine.
o Finally, my RISD class will be a rich venue for reflection on teaching and the practicum within
it will allow me some opportunity to think differently about portraits and self portraits.
I also need to develop
the intellectual framework to tie the disperate parts of my practice togetehr. I have the theoretical background to frame
this, but the more interesting possibility is to actually do some threorizing on my own. Clearly, the woork is affected by
theories of representation, identity, gender, and sexual orientation. Another way to approach it is via an investigation
of process Ė the ideas that I was toying with earlier. Is this site, is the process in which Iím engaged simply about allowing
me a venue for establishing a greater sense of self? Again in this realm of process, although it is so very post-modern,
Iím interested in the notion of a radical disorientation and the process through which we re-frame knowledge and integrate
newly constructed meaning into our identities.
Itís a lot and does not yet incorporate all that Iíve been ruminatingÖ.
4 JANUARY, 5:23 PM Not as productive or as interesting a day today, as the residency kicks off. Indeed, the day is colored
by the 50 minutes that I spent waiting in the registration line. Of course, this is compounded by the fact that registration
consists of picking up a piece of paper and waiting in line to give it to someone else. Oh yeah, and then you get a sticker
to validate your ID. Sigh. Even Goddard has big school inefficiency.
Iíve been showing my work to folks today and
am heartened that folks find the biological father paintings to be compelling. There is always that linger doubt that what
one produces in the studio is shit. I do think that Iím onto something, but still concerned that Iím fooling myself
This morning I did some reading and a passage does seem to relate to this sense of ill ease. Itís in David Bayles and
Ted Orlandís ART/FEAR: OBSERVATIONS ON THE PERILS (AND REWARDS) OF ART MAKING. "In large measure becoming an artist
consists of learning to accept yourself, which makes your work personal, and in following your own voice, which makes your
work distinctive." Iím also intrigued with this vis-ŗ-vis its implications for the site. Iím starting to see that the
site is a place where my process is about learning to accept myself. Itís almost completely about process writing and playing
with ideas. Sometimes I think that this intimidates folks who read the site Ė at least a few have said that to me. But thatís
a misreading of my voice Ė which can be oh so authoritative. Actually, the writing is about playing with ideas, asking questions
of myself. Indeed, itís about learning to accept who I am and find that voice, those ideas that are distinct to me. The
odd thing is that a journal it is bounded by the need to protect the privacy and integrity of others with whom I interact.
I suppose this boundary is a good one in that without it this might end up like my other journals Ė filled with
the minutiae of the everyday, the little sleights that cumulatively seem to define relationships. Since I canít gossip or
vent hear I focus the ideas more on myself and what I am trying to learn. This has to be a good bracket for my learning!
I realized today, in explaining my work, that an organizing principle for the thesis needs to be my interest in the
practice of alternative models of higher education. I keep remembering that I came to Goddard not so much or this program
as for the experience of walking my talk. After years of commitment to alternative, progressive models of education I had
to do graduate work in a progressive institution. The good thing is that I found a great program in an interesting institution.
Still, I have a critique and an interrogation of Goddard and the ways that it misses its promise! Thatís got to help me think
about my own practice as an artist Ė not to mention help me integrate my oppositional way of thinking into my practice.
4 JANUARY, 10:38 AM Last night was the opening party for the MFA-IA program and it was good to see the community
start to assemble. Itís heartening to feel some connection to this place and these people. I think I resisted that for a
while -- perhaps I still do. I am not great at joining, at being a part of groups. Thereís something that always seems
ideological about that Ė like youíre ceding your will to the lowest common denominator of a group. The irony, of course,
is that I have no problem leading groups Ė as long as I have significant power to define the common denominator. What can
I say? I like to ratchet the bar. Whatís the good of living if you canít push your limits to places you never conceived
you might go?
3 JANUARY, 4:14 PM I spent the afternoon in Montpellier, browsing bookstores and eating lunch. II bought a few books Ė
funny, isnít it how a day off allows you to see books that youíve passed many times and how a different bookstore will give
you access to a different lens on new books. I started reading peter de Bollaís Art Matters and am taken by many of his ideas.
He got me thinking about the site and its pretensions for discussion.
Iíd hoped in making this site that it could
be a locus for engagement. Specifically, Iíd hoped to engage people who werenít necessarily in the daily business of constructing
meaning or looking at art. This of course required that I develop a number of kinds of bait. The bait attracts people to
the site, but, alas, the discussions between me an others remain hidden Ė counter acting my hope for transparency in this
little project. I shouldnít be so hard on it, though; the site has taught me a lot about my own transparency. I wonder whether
I might revisit this idea of the site being a point of engagement? In the spirit of de Bolla, Iím interested in getting below
the moment of "ah" the mute silence that defines the aesthetic experience of being moved by art. Perhaps I should
be more modest in my intentions? Perhaps, no one has been brought to silence by my site. Indeed, the silence may be a kind
of polite embarrassment at the content and presumption of the project?
I might have to think of conversation as a
more internal process. There is a conversation on the site. Itís a conversation between my various voices, my various ways
of seeing and knowing the world. I do believe that I am (and others are) a community of individuals Ė that we can speak to
ourselves. The multiplicity of voices allows us to expand our knowing through an internal discourse. Not unlike having a
conversation with others, if we concentrate on listening to the different voices we begin to see the world through different
internal perspectives. I think, too often, we simply donít stop to listen to the internal, to take note of the importance
of our own perceptions. We are too intent on the thought that others have to be right or that other people have deeper, better
perceptions than we do.
I have a theory about his. I think that women and other oppressed groups have been told
this for centuries and that as we develop a more inclusive politic we have reduced the voice, the internal sense of self-worth
of all people rather than propelling all people to a greater sense of self worth. Itís shame that weíve taken such great
aim at white male entitlement, not that it doesnít deserve some serious knocks. I think that by toppling it we have simple
allowed it to go into hiding. That power base hasnít been diminished. Instead weíve simple, again, limited access to it.
Wow, thatís a diatribe.
De Bolla has an interesting idea about the aesthetic experience. He theorizes that
if one asks the "a painting knows" that one can get between the affective and cognitive description of the work.
It allows us to develop a distinct and, therefore, not minimized experience of the aesthetic. Iím fascinated by this idea
and think that itíll be of great use in the studio. As I start to look at my own work Ė the biological father, in particular
Ė I start to see the values of the question. These paintings "know" something. The surface is a bit pretty at
times, but the relationships, the expressions are knowing. Itís an interesting question for me to consider while I craft
my next study plan.
Speaking of which, I just read the last study plan Ė which was to be the study plan to end all
study plans. I had some trepidation about returning to it because of that arrogance. Apprehension aside, it holds up. Indeed,
as I think about my working group presentation I no longer think that I have to write a new piece on the biological father
Ė which I want to write regardless. I think that I can read excerpts from the study plan, present the cowboys, the biological
father repros and "card" I made that refers folks to the site. If I pose a couple of questions to go along with
it, itís sure to kill 30 minutes and inspire some on-going conversation.
It does still leave the question off how
I approach the formal "study plan" for the semester. I suppose that I can simply write and addendum and attach
it to the "guts" of the existent document. The more difficult issue being what to include in the addendum.
I should probably take some time over the next couple of days to reflect on the site and what I have learned from doing
it. Certainly I have learned something of the limits and edges of my willingness to reveal. Iíve learned something of audience
Ė at least audience of a particular kind. Iíve also learned something of the process of constructing a living document and
the conceptual bases of such "art production." I can honestly stay on this path and not get bored or lack ground
to till. Yet, I also know that there are new territories that I want to simultaneously explore. Iíd like to figure out how
I can pull the biological father into a cohesive show. Iíd like to understand how one brings cohesion and closure to a body
There are other bodies of work that Iíd like to begin, too. Iíd like to get back to the more explicitly
erotic work Ė explore the ways that the erotic and aesthetic intersect. Iíd also like to move toward some other autobiographical
work. Iím also really interested in this idea of "correspondence" and how it might both be web based and a body
of work in real time.
Perhaps, all this energy, all these ideas are an obstacle, though. I feel like I am entering
into a potent and fertile period of creation without the time or resources to see the ideas through. Iíve always had to struggle
with the speed at which my mind works Ė bringing it into synch with the rest of my world. This, though, seems ridiculous!
I am toying with the idea that my life is about work. This may seem strange, but I have a hunch that I am held up by a notion
of conclusion, closure, a finish line. Need, much of my frustration comes from the fact that I often canít see the space
where I can take a breather. Perhaps, that idea of a breather is an artificial construction? Maybe I simply need to get
in groove with the idea that my mind will continue to develop ideas and that theyíll get done as my conscious and subconscious
minds bring them up in the queue? This would be a liberating shift in perception.
Well, I think itís time for me
to face the hordes of people who I can hear assembling in the lobby. Itís check in time and although I already have a room,
I donít have a working key nor do I trust that this is really my room. Ah, Goddard I wish I could say I loved you for your
charming disorganization, but I donít.
So, that went really easily and I have to take back my earlier statement.
A RA named Jim has done a great job working out the little problem. Iím checked in, unpacked and now waiting for dinner
and the "welcome back" party this evening. Ah, ritual, it really does help one get back into the swing of things!
I should feel blessed that I havenít had to endure a day of meetings like the faculty. I actually feel very good about the
day and ready to face the residency.
Free-associating a bit about the work, though, Iím wondering what shape and
form the conclusion of the biological father might take. There is the voyeuristic route in which I actually initiate the
search and document the process of finding or not finding the real father. The other thought is to go back to my original
premise and write the intertwining fictional and real autobiographies. The difficulty with that is that I donít have a strong
back ground in fiction and the idea that I could actually come up with a compelling narrative is suspect.
wish I had access to my library. While writing this I have had the impulse at least 6 times to grab a book and look to it
for some inspiration. Too bad I can be assured that Goddardís library wonít have what I am looking for and I donít think
Iíll easily find Anne Carson in the local bookshops.)
I could write the straight autobiography and intersperse it
with "fantasies" about the biological father. That would allow me to use the earlier "When I was eight I was
sure my father was SupermanÖ" work. It would ground the new paintings into a schema and allow me to use narrative to
deal with the "memory." I could even begin constructing the autobiographical stuff this week.
making that allusion, donít I? The idea that this week is going to somehow be actually productive? Am I deluding myself
with the delight of today Ė a day in which I have actually been able to blissfully, contentedly work? Goddard doesnít allow
for work or product. Itís all about process. Somehow, I want to belay that premise and make this a week about productivity.
Iíve just been perusing the workshop list within the residency schedule. It looks to be an interesting and impressive
set of offerings. In one of Pamís workshops she puts forth the idea of moving from the personal to the political Ė and poses
the question as to whether this is enough; whether such is too small in relation to the power of politics in the world. Itís
as if sheís speaking to me. I suppose this is another frame through which I can view the work that Iím doing. It would allow
me to think differently, strategically about how I want to aim my message. Thatís an interesting way to think about my work
Ė in such overtly political terms. Indeed, I have thought about the biological father paintings as a political work, but
I always fall back to the beauty of the image as my driving inclination. The site operates politically, of course, but I
donít think Iíve necessarily exploited that dimension of it enough. This is fertile ground for me to consider.
really does get me back to Pamís agitation about audience. I havenít thought much about my audience for wither the studio
or Internet work. I havenít been strategic in developing audience. In self-defense, though, I am still in the building stages
of the projects. I havenít completely conceptualized the work and it may take much more time before itís ready of exhibition.
Pamís insistence that I show my work is a good one Ė forcing me to consider how my work is viewed. I know I need to do this,
but I am not sure whether I have the "product" yet to do it convincingly.
3 JANUARY, 10:38 AM I drove to Goddard yesterday, arriving a day early as I agreed to drive my friend and advisor to campus
for a pre-residency faculty conference. Itís nice to be here early, eerily quiet and a little freakish to spend the night
alone in the dorm. At best, I got fitful sleep.
Iíve spent the morning getting my syllabus in shape for class next
week and now, with more than half the day before me have a choice. I can work on the site, do some work of my own or go out
and explore the Vermont countryside. Since I spent the evening in the sleepy city of Montpellier last night, I know thereís
not much to explore other than a few bookshops. Iím probably better off getting a leg up on my study plan, doing some reading,
et cetera before the masses arrive! Maybe, Iíll just reward myself with a nice lunch somewhere.
Iím feeling excited
about the residency and about spending some time thinking about and re-framing my work. That might not be quiet right. I
donít think I need to reframe, but I will benefit from the reflection that residency requires and by declaiming what the work
is about. I am struggling a bit about the way that I should present. Am I now a digital, Internet performance artist Ė all
conceptual and shit Ė or am I a painter who uses the web for reflective practice? Is the web based work really art? Or is
it applied philosophy? Indeed, is that the notion of inter-disciplinarity that I should be demonstrating in this program?
I know the answer, but Iím not sure whether I want to claim labels, et cetera. The impulse will be to contain, to define
my work and I am most excited because the work is just starting to open up.
Itís my fourth residency and when I think
back on the previous three Iím reminded that I spent a good deal of my time being pissed off. I donít feel that so much anymore
Ė probably a result of the relationships Iíve formed and the acceptance that the "program" isnít going to kick my
ass. The program will only allow me to kick my own ass. Thatís a shame, but a powerful lesson for being a practitioner outside
of an institution Ė which, with the clock ticking, will be my fate in a short year.
The truth is that I had hoped
Goddard would push me to work harder than Iíd ever worked before. I had hoped that Iíd be challenged to push beyond my boundaries.
My time at Goddard has allowed me to push myself, but itís been a lonely journey. I donít feel like I have peers here who
are sharing their work or open enough to critique to talk about their process in community. Iíd really like someone to show
me a different way of working hard than the one I already know. I think that really defines it. I want to learn about new
ways off being, working and seeing rather than simply re-hashing the knowledge that Iíve already accumulated. The frustration
comes from the fact that my knowledges seem to be revelations to so many and that I often feel thrust into a teaching (or,
at least, "knowing" role) when Iím here. Iíd rather be exploring the notion and practice of discovery.
that can be my preoccupation while blogging at Goddard!
2 JANUARY 2002, 8:00 AM The holidays are over and the New Year is really commencing. Pretty cool, huh?
just had an amazing three days with a visiting friend, talking about life and art and process and how we seek truth. What
a FUCKING privilege to be able to construct meaning, drink wine and enjoy the company of a brilliant friend!
starts this week and Iím off today. I always look to residency with some trepidation. Itís generally transformational in
some way. The logistics of it all are what really make me crazy, though. Itís just a hassle to get there, settle in, stand
in line, etc, etc. Thereís also a deep sense of urgency about everything Ė and no follow through. I have a secret fantasy
of locking myself in the library and only making command performances. I could accomplish a lot that way. Weíll see how
the week unfoldsÖ.
So, now that the New Year is starting the resolutions are no longer theories. I have to make
the suckers come to life. The smoking thing has been a mixed bag. Iíve quite for long stretches, but keep going back as
a "social" smoker. The next step is to let go of this. Being at Goddard will be hard. There are so many gaps
with nothing to do that smoking helps pass the day. I may suspend my "quitting" until I get back. Ironically,
it will be easier to quit in the everyday than in the extraordinary.
The others demand some serious meditation.
Indeed, as I think about them, Iím adding another Ė I will work toward being more potent. None of them are absolutes, per
se, so I think I can achieve many of the changes that are imbedded within the sentiments.