FRIDAY, 20 DECEMBER, 10:56 AM
Andrew sent me this photograph. I think it's hilarious -- that is with the assumption that someone made it and it's not from the family album! Happy birthday, Capricorns!
FRIDAY, 20 DECEMBER, 8:18 AM
The Rhode Island Foundation invited me to be part of their Lesbian Gay Fund task force. We had the group's first meeting last night and I was excited and surprised to hear what came out of my mouth. When asked why I agreed to serve, I found myself articulating a cogent queer agenda. I realize that I believe that the tolerance of Rhode Island has served to isolate queer folk and to re-inscribe a certain kind of shame in the queer community. It's easy to be assimilated here, it's hard to be queer.
The location is an odd one, and one that I believe engenders a fair amount of shame. It's like being a lovable but naughty child -- tolerated, but with a certain amount of raised eyebrows in your direction. I suppose it's not different in other places. I think interrogating and deconstructing this next closet -- dare I say, the glass closet -- is the next big agenda of the queer community.
Regardless of my political andd personal agendas, I think the Lesbian and Gay Fund is an important project. Getting resouces into the hands of energetic, smart, and resourceful queer folk can only be a good thing -- for queers and for human freedom. This is an important terrain for the promise of liberal democracy.
THURSDAY, 19 DECEMBER, 10:11 AM
Slowly, slowly I'm cleaning up the site's navigation. I've added a few new archives -- like the virtual show -- and tried to make tighter link menus. Slowly, slowly I'll be adding new content, too.
TUESDAY, 17 DECEMBER, 8:43 PM
I've been writing all day. Ok, so I was painting a little, too. And talking. There are big questions in the world.
I'm quite sure that there's somethng fundementally wrong with our society. Yeah, right, no big revelation there. Naming it, though is hard. Is it that we've lost some ability to communicate. Is it that we've not learned to communicate in this moment in history? That's more like it. It's not about forgetting. It's about learning. There is no golden past. There is no answer for our current concerns. We've never faced the moment that we're experiencing, but we keep thinking that the past, our lived experience is enough to guide us through the world.
How can we be reciprocol in a mediated culture? How do we cut through the programming and disinformation with which we are bombarded? How do we find connection and joy when the world seems to be conspiring against connection, seems to be intent on keeping us isolated and disoriented? How can we turn disorientation to our advantage and use it to change our assumptions, to change our approach to living?
MONDAY, 16 DECEMBER, 9:46 PM
We find ourselves in communities, surrounded by people and there are moments that we feel like strangers, unsure how we found ourselves in the enclave. I'm unsure how I find myself here, yearning for a connection and, still, loving those people from whom I find myself estranged. I'm struggling with a subsequent question from Catherine: "So what are you actually resisting? Finding a community rather than always looking for the lost family?"
I'm wondering about the difference between a family and the unfulfilled community. Both lost, no? Or, more precisely, neither actualized, real, embraced. Both seem to be fantasies and I feel cheated and angry that I can't find within me the means to move beyond the resistance and act to create the connection.
I proselytize about the need for community, the work that community requires, but I'm also aware that I'm desperately afraid of intimacy and the loss of control that intimacy demands. I defer, dodge and swerve from connections with smart, queer people. I ensconce myself in communities in which I can trade on my intimacy and difference. It keeps people at arm's length and allows me to avoid accepting my sense of fraud.
If I were listening to someone who were saying what I'm writing i would reassure. I'd probably affirm the sense of inadequacy and disavow the inadequacy itself. We all feel this way. Don't we? We all feel like we're playing at living rather than embracing experience. We all feel like we're playing roles, reading from scripts, playing to an audience for applause. We all need the affirmation of the crowd. We prefer that no one know of our weaknesses -- real or imagined. Don't we? or are these my resistances and pathologies? Is the trick learning to live with these insecurities or transcending them?
I know, I know, no easy answers to these questions and the admission of the fears isn't a way of answering the question.
Resistance, resistance...always resisting.
Time to think some more....
MONDAY, 16 DECEMBER, 6:57 PM
I've been near tears for the past thirty minutes. My advisor called me out for some of the things I wrote and didn't write in the context section of my portfolio. I'm thankful to her for her words, faith in me, directness, and kindness. I'm angry at myself for falling into a trap. I'm scared to acknowledge the reasons for falling. I'm scared because I feel like I'm coming out all over again.
I've been arrogant and cowardly in distancing myself from being seen as too queer. I've been straddling the line, passing, playing a game, trading on my privileges. I've avoided acting in line with my theory. It's humbling to realize this and to try to contextualize the realization into the realities of my daily life. That's why I'm scared. I have fears that once I pull this thread, a lot of my life will come unraveled.
I've been annoyed about my social circle for a few weeks. Part of it is the drama that's been spun, part is having been put in the middle, but most of it is having realized that the group's been dragging me down. That sounds melodramatic and perhaps even cruel to write about friends. I don't mean to cast aspersions. What's been a drag on me is the silent but pervasive homophobia and heterosexism that permeates the conversations. I've started to name it, but I'm concerned that it took me so long to see and name for myself. I'm mad at myself for being complicit in the process. I'm mad that I allowed my comfort and safety to supercede my beliefs. I'm mad that I allowed myself to hide for so long. I also don't want to hide behind romantic friendships with women to reinscribe a fiction about "masculinity."
Hiding is what's really at the core of all this. I've been hiding because I've been afraid to speak truth (or at least my truth) to power. I've been afraid to compromise my privileges and consider that I might be cast out from the source of my comfort.
I've been pushing in little ways. I've been picking small fights, but they've all been safe, all been in contexts were I can't lose. Yet, I still make choices in my life that are defined by the heterosexist values with which I was raised. I'm falling in love with a younger man and I feel shame about it because I've been told that it's "right" to date people my own age. I know that the shame is constructed, I know that it's wrong, but there it is. I've fooled myself into thinking that it's safe to be gay, that I live in a safe world. the world isn't safe if the shape of desire is legislated by systems of thought that have nothing to do with the form of my life. I want to allow the love I feel to be able to grow and find its own truth.
I've done all the right things to ingratiate myself into the world of polite society without considering that I don't share the values of polite society. At Thanksgiving I took a female friend to a society party. All the older women were charmed that I'd shown up with a smart, beautiful woman. They asked if we were "together." I denied that we were dating, but let the assumption of heterosexuality stand. Surly guests are never appreciated. The irony, of course, is that the party was at the house of our gay mayor. Now, that's being lost in one's insecurity.
I suspect that this all sounds a little overwrought. Maybe it is, but I'm not sure how to articulate what I'm feeling. I know that I need to face these fears, I know that my desire for a different way of living is edging out my need for security and I know that I'm finding the strength to undertake this next coming out. I know that I don't want to live the half-life that I have been. I know that I want my life to be different. I want the nature of my desire to shape the form of my life.
This feels a little like a confessional and I don't mean it that way. The examples I'm citing seem weak and peculiar, I fear that I may be making people complicit, may be implicating others. I hope this isn't true becasue I don't mean to put these feelings at the feet of other. I'm trying to define a different honesty for myself and take my quest for transparency to a new level. It's the end of my time away from daily life and I'm preparing to re-enter my world a more whole man.
SUNDAY, 15 DECEMBER, 9:11 PM
Tonight, I had a conversation about reciprocity in relationships. It's funny how conversations find you when you need them. Synchronicity, indeed.
I continue to be amazed at how hard relationships are. I don't mean romantic relationships, either. I mean all relationships. We're difficult beings. We have our short comings, we have our fears, we have strengths, we have conceits, but through all of it we have an incredible ability to avert confrontation, engagement about the most important matters. We have an incredibly difficult time with presence.
I'm not saying this to anyone, more reminding myself. I'm bad at this, I have to work at it. At the same time I crave it. I've been yearning all weekend, but it took me two days before I had the wherewithal to actually try to connect with people.
Being somewhat circumspect, I'm also wondering whether I'm grieving the disconnection that I feel with a community to which I thought I had a connection. I'm starting to see that the connection I thought was there has been constructed through a veil of justifications and a series of excuses that I've concocted to enable the relationships. It also reminds me that I'm turning a corner, changing my perspective and that the things for which I've had patience aren't still palatable. I'm also acknowledging that I've changed over the past three years. The dissolution of my relationship with Bill was something of a divorce. I never really acknowledged it as such. Although I embraced other familiar relationships to get through, I also set out on a new path. I think I'm coming to a point when I need to walk on my own again and seek out new beginnings. It's a bracing and exhilarating revelation.
SATURDAY, 14 DECEMBER, 2:52 PM
I'm feeling really lonely today. Maybe it's just the rainy cold day, but it feels different than that. It feels like I'm being stalked, like something bad is about to happen and I'm about to confront it alone. It's the problem of living alone. Sometimes the need for human companionship, the reassurance that there is another soul in the world is denied.
I could, of course, go to a coffee shop and read, call a friend on the phone, go to the movies, etc, but I'm not sure that would shake it. I think I'm supposed to wait.
I'm convinced that there are in-between times. They are spaces between events, emotions, experiences. Even if we do things to try to avert these moments, we can't escape them. I think I'm living in one of those moments now. I think the world may be experiencing one of those moments. This feeling might just be a response to the fact that I haven't gotten any email from friends today.
FRIDAY, 13 DECEMBER, 3:28 PM
Star Trek has officially run out of gas.
I went to the matinee of Nemisis this afternoon. It's OK, but, man, for a series that used to be forward thinking, futurist in its orientation, this film falls off completely. You'd think that they'd consider the geometric growth of knowledge and think to upgrade the technology, approach of the film. It's the same old, same old...tropes. I suppose that's what die-hard fans want, but it's also the death knell of the series.
I won"t give anything away.
I think it's Rick Berman's fault. For all his quirkiness, Gene Roddenbury was trying to create a utopian vision of the future. Rick Berman seems only interested in continuing a fanchise.
WEDNESDAY, 11 DECEMBER, 7:29 PM
I read horoscopes. It's something I do. I think a lot of people do. I don't really believe what they say, but I often find interesting insights in them. I've started to make paintings based on some of these insights. They're going to be called the capricorn paintings. There's a link on the right. Sorry it's a bad jpg.
I also updated one of the "works in progress," the biological family painting. I guess I'll keep both versions up. Process and all that...
MONDAY, 9 DECEMBER, 7:01 PM
I haven't posted new work in a while, but I did tonight. It's all work in progress. I could use help. If you're so inclined, I'd love some feedback. I'm a bit at an impasse with my studio practice and am looking for constructive criticism and help thinking about where the work is going. Is it working? Too loose? To self-referential? What do you see? I need your perspective!
Thanks in advance for your help.
MONDAY, 9 DECEMBER, 4:52 PM
My last Goddard packet letter:
Dear Catherine and Pam,
Pam tells me that this was due on 3 December and I apologize that I'm getting it to you with the last packet deadline. I suppose if I were better with calendars, I would have been done a week ago and free of its obligations. Alas, I'm a procrastinator and have worked up to the absolute deadline. Is this, too, trusting process or just a highly developed justification strategy? I suspect the latter. I also suspect that it is a strategy of dragging my heels, putting off the inevitable conclusion of this remarkable experience.
I think that I have no surprises for you, which might come as a surprise or as a disappointment. I hope it's a relief. I've cleaned things up, tried to catch all the typos, although I suspect I need to make another sweep at this before I print the hard copies and commit it to the binder. Mostly the problems are with my web page builder which likes to omit apostrophes and dashes. You may have noticed, I like apostrophes and dashes. I won't say that it's an epic struggle -- man v. machine -- but I do suspect some malicious amusement on the part of faceless, nameless code engineers.
In terms of final, hard copy format, I think I've already told you both that I intend to print it out from the web. I've printed a draft this way and it conveys the non-linear nature of the project while being highly legible / xerox-able. The library and records office should be pleased. I am, it looks good. I will print "plates" separately and include them as sections. Included in these will be the cowboys, thumbnails of all the daily photographs, and selected paintings. Which paintings, you ask? I think I will chose some that show the arc of my development, but focus on presenting my strongest work. In the next couple of hours I will upload my newest paintings and make links to pages within the on-line document. I'm sorry that I'm still working on this, but with a dial up modem, it is tedious work.
I have not provided you with a hard copy at this point because I would prefer to laser print it and give it to you when I see you in January. I hope this isn't a problem, and I should probably have requested a formatting extension from you. I apologize that I didn't do this. I hope it causes you no problems / inconvenience.
There are two new sections that I will bring to your attention. First is the section called "another context." In this I attempt to address Pam's questions. It creates an interesting cyclical dialogue with the "queering context" section. It reminds me of Whitman's embrace of contradiction. The second is a cleaned-up bibliography. I have a few introductory notes on the page that should explain my rationale. As I went through my studio and book shelves, I realized that I could included a hundred more books and thought that might be counter-productive, so I selected things that prodded, changed or were central. It's gratifying to realize how much reading I did over the past couple of years! Funny how it creeps up on you.
another context: http://clarkelane.tripod.com/whatsthequestion/id55.html
Writing this last letter to you feels a little anti-climactic. It's sad. I'm satisfied with what I've done, happy with my work in the program, ready to graduate, but, still, I find myself thinking about all I haven't accomplished and still want to do. This is, I suppose, a healthy impulse. I think the real sadness is the acknowledgement of losing both of you as advisors and regular correspondents! I know that the nature of relationships change and that one can pursue relationships out of the context of Goddard packets (thanks be!), but there is something astounding about the ritual of this particular dialogue. I hope it's been as fun/ productive for you as it has been for me!
I need to thank both of you individually, but I want to take a moment to thank you together. You've both treated me so beautifully, thoughtfully and openly. I think it's also fair to say that you preserved my sanity at key moments and made it possible for me to complete this program. How? You treated me as an adult and helped me realize that I am an adult when my baser instincts led me to act out. All my whining about the requirements of this program were, on reflection, a symptom of my own willingness to be infantalized. It's hard to admit, but in some ways I wanted this program to care for me in way that wasn't rational and, most strikingly, in a way I would certainly have bridled against. I'm not sure, as an educator, how one could construct a program that would guard against this, but I am grateful to you for reminding me of my foibles. I'm grateful that you treated me like an adult even when I was acting otherwise. I hope it wasn't too much of an annoyance! I've learned from you both a great deal about the practice of teaching (and learning). I am in your debt.
I hope this finds you well, happy, quickly finishing up your semesters, and on your way to join those you love for the conclusion of this calendar year! I very much look forward to seeing you in Vermont next month and hope that we can find a few free hours to have dinner in Montpelier!
I'm off to upload photos.
much love, Pete
Catherine: Thanks for encouraging me to see Far From Heaven. As you said, AMAZING! And helpful to me in thinking through this questions of masks and drag and representation of identity. Not to mention how it awed me with it's sense of color... no pun intended. Now I can't wait to get back to the studio!!
Pam: Go see Far From Heaven!
MONDAY, 9 DECEMBER, 3:49 PM
Puttered with the context passage of the thesis -- renamed it another context when i realized that I'd already answered the question of context in a different way in the queering context section. OK, they're not entirely redundant. In fact, they risk contradiction. It's OK, I'm large, I contain multitudes... I also added a cleaned-up bibliography. Get reading....
MONDAY, 9 DECEMBER, 12:09 PM
I'm taking a break from editing my thesis, which is probably over-due, but definitely DUE today. It's freezing here, I'm drinking coffee, smoking too much, listening to Joni Mitchell.
Re-reading my thoughts from the past two years is interesting. It's inspiring in a way. It reminds me that I don't have to get trapped and that I can write my way out of things. There's a sadness to it, too. It comes from the sense of lost opportunity. There are moments of idealism and hope imbedded in my writing (and a fair bit of redundancy -- ah, the wonder off non-linear, hypertext documents). I fear that I haven't come close to walking my talk.
The finality of the document causes sadness, too. It seems like an ending, a conclusion. I keep thinking, "Ah, in a few months I can put this in this section!" Alas, the thesis will be done, closed, finito by the end off the day, not to be added to again. That's the tragedy of the project. I'm reminded, though, that the real thesis is this site and that, indeed, I will be able to add it it in two months.
It also reminds me that I'm coming to the end of my sabbatical. It's probably a good thing. As much as I needed the time away, the break, re-charging, I also realize (especially when I read the more ambitious parts off my thesis) that I learn and work best within community, when I have people, events and experiences to push against and respond to. This hermit existence (as seductive as it may be) is also limiting. Well, I needed to experience it (and simply needed it) in order to appreciate the beauty of my life.
SUNDAY, 8 DECEMBER, 12:53 PM
I added a context section to my thesis this morning.
SUNDAY, 8 DECEMBER, 9:37 AM
So, Foucault's "art of life" is a compelling idea. It gets to my discomfort with straight society.
I don't mean this in a purely sexual way. Straight society is more pervasive than straight sex. I mean, c'mon, Will and Grace is straight. Circuit parties are straight. How is the Advocate different from Newsweek? oh yeah, it's "bi"-weekly. No, no these things are simply reflections of the worst of straight, middle class and aristocratic life. They simply valorize a different object of affection.
So call me a hippie, but wouldn't it be great to be able to escape the trappings of the middle class? Wouldn't it be great to live according to a different sense of time than that of the industrial / technological state? I'm not calling for a back to the land strategy, but I am asking for some serious contemplation of the systems that define our lives. I'm asking myself to consider the ways that I might be able to re-define my way of living, establish a different aesthetic for living.
A lot of people who know me, might read this and say that I've already done it. I certainly live a queer life. Yet, the edges of my life are always under assault. Again, I don't mean this as an acknowledgement of homophobia -- although sometimes I hide behind this reasoning. I mean it in the sense that the mediation of society, the constant assaults on my time seems more and more to be about social control. It's about tiring me out enough that I simply get into line. Certainly, it's about insuring that i don't have the time to question, act an re-align myself to the possibilities that life offers.
It's taken me almost three months of sabbatical to be able to see this clearly -- or, more precisely, to hear the voice off a man who is long dead. In writing about Foucault, his colleague, Paul Veyne writes:
" We can guess what might emerge from this [Foucault's] diagnosis: the self, taking itself as a work to be accomplished, could sustain an ethics that is no longer supported by either tradition or reason; as an artist of itself, the self would enjoy that autonomy that modernity can no longer do without.... It is no longer necessary to wait for the revolution to begin to realize ourselves: the self is the new strategic possibility."
"The self is the new strategic possibility."
"The self is the new strategic possibility."
"The self is the new strategic possibility."
SATURDAY, 7 DECEMBER, 9:56 PM
I've been reading today and found this:
"I think that what the gay movement needs now is much more the art of life than a science or scientific knowledge (or pseudo-scientific knowledge) of what sexuality is.... We have to understand that with our desires, through our desires, go new forms of relationships, new forms of love, new forms of creation. Sex is not a fatality: it's a possibility for creative life." -- Michel Foucault, 1982
How is it that 20 years later it still rings so true?
SATURDAY, 7 DECEMBER, 8:20 AM
In his correspondence with Adams, Jefferson says something like, "I prefer the dreams of the future to the history of the past." I keep returning to this thought and the idea that someone who lead a life as engaged as Jefferson might, in the waning years of his life, still for so focused on the future. I keep thinking that it's hard for us (for me) to do becasue we live in a society that's so brainwashed by crisis and consumption. Yet, I think about his generation and realize that he faced crisis, too. Certainly, there are differences in the level of mediation that we face and what he faced. He didn't worry about making dinner, doing laundry, or, for that matter, paying his bills. He didn't have television, radio, the internet, movies and the millions of cultural markers that distract us from introspection. Sure, sure, turn it off. Not so easy. The culture is infused and to hide from it, to turn it off is not to truly live in this age. If we throw blind eyes to the society, we can never be involved in the visioning for it's future. The question facing me today is how we learn to navigate the distractions, the mediation AND still dream of the future. More than that, how we learn to act on those dreams.
FRIDAY, 6 DECEMBER, 10:36 PM
I'm sick of drama. It simply obscures the real issues. It seems these days that I'm surrounded by a drama that's not of my design, but in which I've been implicated. I hate it. Unfortunately, I'm good at sorting out drama, which is probably why I'm implicated.
I thought that the sabbatical would insulate me from drama. I was wrong. It's too essential a part of our experience. Too many people act out through others, try to blur what's really going on in their lives with the details of something seemingly more intriguing. Truth is that they'd probably be less bored if they spent more time attending to the truth of what they're feeling, experiencing, living. Sigh.
The short of it is that it's distracted me from the studio and confused me again. It's made painting seem oddly irrelevant. I think I might be ready to enter the world again.
TUESDAY, 3 DECEMBER, 11:47 AM
I ran, crying, to the door. My mother grabbed me and pulled me back into the hospital lobby. I shrieked, "I don't want to go!" She replied, "If you don't, you might die." I cried some more.
Really, the only other things I remember about that day were pulling myself together in the men's room and being wheeled into the operating room. Oh yeah, I remember the ache in my stomach and being pissed that I was missing a friend's birthday party. Funny thing, I also remember not really wanted to go to the birthday party. That is, I didn't want to go until I found myself in the hospital. I guess the memory's also about confronting death or, at least, being forced to consider it. It suddenly seemed real. I don't think my mother would lie about something like that.
I think that facing the possibility of my own death when I was ten changed me. I know I became cling-y. I found it hard to let go of familiar things. For the next couple of years, I couldn't stand the idea of throwing anything away. I had a panic attack at the thought of discarding the oddest things -- old boxes, pet food canisters, candy wrappers... the list goes on.
I'm still afraid of death and loss. More precisely, I'm afraid of the process of death and of losing. I still think that I could die this afternoon or tomorrow or next week. It makes me driven to get things done., to try to make some sort of meaning out of my life. No one knows if they're going to have a long or short life, but somehow I'm haunted by the thought that I don't have a lot of time. It could all stop soon. It's a relative idea, I know. None of us have very much time. Carpe Diem!!! (Shit, did I really just write that? All of this drives me toward cliches about clocks, ticking and marching toward some nameless horizon... These cliches aren't helpful in either explaining or fending off the fear, like religion, they try to explain too much and have no basis in experience. I don't want to be placated. I like being driven. Sometimes.)
This brings me to a different thought. I've been thinking about the future. As a kid, I would dream abut the future -- construct elaborate plans. I noticed that I don't do that much anymore. It might be that I'm jaded by the immateriality of those forgotten dreams. It might be that I'm in the middle of a dream trajectory, developing that pesky, deferred art practice. (The enormity of that project still eludes me.) at the precipice of finishing the MFA, I feel like I did when I was graduating from college. It's a mixture of loss and loneliness, a sense of conclusion JUST at the moment when you're figuring out the game. It's like when we learn to actually get something from an educational process, we're forced to leave it. It's a sick joke, really. Like snatching food from a starving man. No, that's to grandiose. It's more like clearing the plates before setting the silver.
I suppose this is really about how I allow experience to change me. Does one have to raise stakes and relocate to be changed or to feel change? How do we re-invent, grow, transform? My experience tells me that real change is radical -- like leaving home, school, a relationship, a place. it's also an embrace -- of a home, school, relationship, place. I have to remind myself of that, in this moment, when I'm being "graduated." I'm not simply being shuffled off, I'm being offered an opportunity to see the world in a transformed way.
I'm remarkably different than I was two years ago when I entered the program. I've grown and changed and I'm beginning to mourn the the simple truth that the fertile ground on which I've tread is about to be deeded to others. I need to remember to yearn for and embrace other, newer, dangerous, disorienting dreams. I need to learn to honor and let go of the past.
MONDAY, 2 DECEMBER, 2:56 PM
Well, it's pretty clear that I've hit a brick wall with my work. I've been thinking that it's a question of subject matter, but am reminded that subject comes through the action of making. So, I've decided to try to write my way out of my current block. That might help me make my way back to making in paint.
Part of the problem is the weight that I've ascribe to the history of painting and the concern that i have about fitting into that history, being relevant, etc. The notion that painting's dead is a prevailing one and one that bears down on me right now. I want to make art that has meaning, that matters, and I'm finding that the stories I have to tell are not that compelling (at least to me). I'm jumbling up these different thoughts, creating an abyss for myself.
II can't seem to shake the thought that making paintings doesn't much matter in the fast, mediated world in which we live. We are saturated with images and the slowness of a painted image grinds its meaning toward oblivion. Yet there is something I love of a painted image, a sensuality that is often absent in photography...
I'm wondering whether I shouldn't simply try to distance myself from all these thoughts? perhaps, the future of painting isn't tied to the past? perhaps, it is yet to be discovered? That's a conceit, to be sure, but an interesting premise. I may be too concerned with aligning myself to the medium rather than trying to approach the medium with a fresh eye. How would one invent technique, subjectivity, etc, etc with an entirely new medium? How might I approach painting as if it were new?
There is a way that painting tells stories, but a way that contemporary art is way too didactic, too. I'm fearing that my need to be relevant, to be meaningful might be tying me to this sort of didacticism. That's a scary thought. I've also known that my work is at it's best when it presupposes poetry rather than when it tries to flex prose. I need to remember this, too. Most importantly, I need to remember that I draw with paint. I'm not a "painter." I'm a draftsman.
MONDAY, 25 NOVEMBER, 12:45 PM
I am having such a good day painting! I seem to have finally broken thru some of the badd-renderring mojo that's been haunting me for the past few weeks. On top of it, I have some new thoughts about the positionality of my figure in the work that I've been making. I suppose I have Marlene Dumas to thank. I've beeen rereading her -- instead of just looking. Thanks, too, to Catherine for making some provocative statements and posing some great questions. Reading always helps. Conversations, too. I wonder why I forget this? I've been thinking that I need to get my work out there more -- to places where people won't be generous, won't coddle me. Of course, I'm afraid of being ripped apart, but I'm not sure that I shgould be. I wonder whether I shouldn't find a means through which I might develop a constant state of interrogation and excavation of my work? I guess that's what I thought this site was about... Well, if you're reading this and want to offer direct criticism, now, I suppose, is the time!
let's hope the focus continues after soup, eh?
WEDNESDAY, 20 NOVEMBER, 6:28 PM
Bad day in the studio. I'm struggling with subject matter. The portrait work isn't fulfilling right now -- not to mention that it's getting overwrought. I'm allowing myself to be way too precious with the work that I'm doing and consequently it's losing it's power. I'm trying to use full figures, which mean that they're getting smaller on the canvas. As a result they're too small or, rather, they become these precious little objects on the surface. With the portraits, I'm getting too concerned with the reactions off the subject -- too concerned that I'm representing them in a way that they want to be seen rather than in the way that I see them.
It might also be that I'm too disconnected from the world, too detached from relationships and the day to day realities of living in the world. It may be, too, what Philip suggests. I may just be thinking too much and not allowing my intuition, my passion to enter into the process. I know that we always have bad days, that time and frustration, and mistakes are necessary in the education of an artist. Shit. I'm pissed, though. I want it to come, I want it now!
TUESDAY, 19 NOVEMBER, 8:07 PM
Packet 4 to my Goddard advisor:
Sorry this is late. it seems that now I have time I have truly lost my ability to keep track of it! Alas, my sabbatical is half over and I don't know where the time has gone. Yet, I find new insights and reflections reveal themselves as each day passes. I hope that your autumn is unfolding in a similarly joyful way.
I'm at sixes and sevens in thinking about my approach to this packet. I suppose there are a few specific things in your last and in Pam's to which I should respond. Similarly, I should update you on my plans for the portfolio. Finally, I'll write to some of the developments in my work since our last contact. I do this more for my reflection, though, than for your specific response. I, of course would love to hear your insights, but I also believe that one of the perks of being a "finishers" advisor is getting a bit of a break after enduring all the pages of my drafts!
Thanks for your thoughts, ideas and references. Some time ago I had purchased Meyer's Outlaw Representation and you inspired me to read it! It helped me to re-situate myself and to consider the ways that I have used art in activist settings. In the early nineties, when I was doing the ACTUP storm-trooper thing, I was really influenced by Gran Fury. You are right, too, that my life is inherently political and my practices don't have to be integrated (I've always been of the belief that psychic integration is over-rated; wonder why I forgot that here?). I will continue to struggle with relevance, but my new work seems to be pushing beyond these questions. More on this later.
I've also been looking at Richter and Golub -- I'd purchased catalogues of their works in light of your suggestion this summer. There's something liberating in the breadth of Richter's subject matter. it's inspiring me to think outside the box of being a human figure painter. I haven't returned to landscape or done other figurative work yet, but I am thinking more about context, object and the use of surrogate subjects to make meaning. As a friend keeps telling me, I need to be more precise in choosing what I put into the picture! As far as Golub is concerned, I'm really taken by his use of the figure, composition, etc. In my most recent work I've attempted to shift my work to using full figures (rather than cropped figures) and multiple figures (instead of one or two). It's helping me re-think the space and meaning in my work.
Also, thanks for the references on galleries, showing, etc. I'm taken by your observation that using the web to show work is denuding and perverse!! Yes! You've articulated something that's been intuitively part of my project. I'm trying to push the point a bit in a new strain of my work. I've started making portraits of people whom I've met over the web. I'm asking for consent and photo references and then re-situating the figures in my house. Then I'll re-install the paintings on-line. I'm not sure where it will go, whether it will work, etc, etc. I think there''s something here. I'm calling it, at least in my head, Intimacy from Ether. There's an example attached -- Alexandre.
With regard to my portfolio, I'm taking Pam's advice and writing a section that will contextualize my practice in the exploration of identity. I've been having an argument with a close friend about whether my work fits in the masculinist movement and I'm eager to establish that it does not. More than that, I think that there is a missing piece and that Pam was right in questioning me about it. I will also use the format of the web for the printing. I should be able to mail you the final copy by the next packet date. At least, I'll shoot for that...
I've been working a lot for the past three weeks. As I said above, I've been trying to push my work into some new directions. I feel a little amorphous in defining what exactly it's about, but I'm sanguine that this is simply part of the process. In any event, I feel brimming with ideas and I'm just trying to put in the time to explore them. I mentioned the Intimacy from the Ether work already. It's fun but I think I'm bring a little too precious with it. it feels a little like I'm performing for the subject and I'm trying to "get it right" for them. I need to get over this and approach the work with the same energy and expression with which I approach self portraits. I'll get there if I keep reminding myself!
I've returned to the biological father project and added a brother and mother to the mix. Not sure where this will go, exactly, but I'm playing with it. If nothing else, it confirms that I'll make a lousy drag queen! Perhaps more importantly, this project has got me thinking about doppelgangers, alter egos, and surrogates. I think this will be a strain of my work in the coming months (not that it hasn't been for a while). The new painting chorus of conscience starts to play with this. In an interesting way, I might dump the biological father project into this larger category. One of the doppelganger paintings --- You Always Wake Up with Your Past and Future -- doubles as a bio dad painting. There's something about the multiplicity of personality, of existence that I'd like to explore more. I think you summed it up when you asked me about putting on masks rather than simply staying in the vein of revelation. Playing with this idea has been a fun game.
The other set of work that I'm doing has to do with gesture. Indeed, it's working title is Discrete Gestures. Clearly it's a play on words as the gestures may be contained, but they're also provocative. I think I attached three of these.
I said that I was going to keep this brief so I'll stop here. I'm sorry that I'm attaching images rather than posting them, but that didn't seem to work last time either. Sorry that I never got back to you about that. The link is: http://clarkelane.tripod.com/whatsthequestion/id30.html The link works for me. Let's hope it works for you. I'm not posting the new work yet, because it's not ready done. You'll see that many are early works in progress. I'll send them in two messages -- half with this and half with the next.
Thanks again for your thoughts and help! I hope that you're enjoying a particularly good day and not too put out by the onslaught of packets!
MONDAY, 11 NOVEMBER, 8:28 AM
I'm allowing myself to be distracted. I'm plugging along, don't get me wrong, but I'm whittling away time and allowing petty things to keep me from the discipline of making art / living life. I'm rapidly approaching the half way mark of my sabbatical. It's time to get down to brass tacks.
And, I know it's all part of the process.
SATURDAY, 2 NOVEMBER, 11:15 AM
I'm spending all my time trying to learn to play. Of course, he had to go do it masterfully.
For what it's worth, The Providence Phoenix named me one of the 256 Most Influential Rhode Islanders...
30 OCTOBER, in the afternoon
I was once told that the secret to good painting is clean rags. I'm inclined to seeing these as my "secrets:"
1. Don't fiddle.
2. Use fresh paint.
3. Remember to draw
4. White doesn't exist in nature.
5. Have fun.
WEDNESDAY, 30 OCTOBER, 12:22 PM
I've been thinking about abandonment and defenses. I'm working and doing research on the biological father again and considering the psychological theories about adopted adults -- the so-called "primal wound." I've also been reading about art and biology -- Ellen Dissanayake's new book, Art and Intimacy. Her theory equates the rhythms of intimacy with the disciplines of art. She connects a lot of aesthetic knowing to the knowing that develops in the early bonding between mothers and children. The book is hetero-centric and doesn't seem concerned with things as mundane as adoption, so I am hypothosizing. It makes me wonder whether I have the capacity to actualize my goals and desires.
It makes me incredibly angry to articulate this. It pisses me off that there's the possibility that these theories might be correct. More than that, it seems like a cruel joke that I can articulate desires but may not have the affective ability to see them through. That I was born into a system that stripped me of some essential bonding and catalyzed an inherent mistruct of people's motivations toward me is an accident of fate. I was born into the system just ten years before it was acknowledged as being corrupt (although we've yet to see liberalizing of adoption assumptions).
The funny thing is that the corrupt system that created my inadequecies also nearly demands that I act in spite of my deficeit to be seen as successful!! If I don't, I'm not considered whole... I'm inclined to draw a parallel with 19c. women except that it's inverted. They may have had ability, but they didn't live in a world that allowed them to act on it. I live in a context that expects me to act, but has stripped me of certain affective abilities.
Chief among thes abilities is the ability to connect and bond with people. I seem to operate with a failsafe program: I push people away before they can get close. if they do get close, I make sure they don't stick around. I do it again and again.
Like anything, I suppose there are ways to turn this around. It seems like such a small complaint and I can hear folks (all not-adopted) telling me to buck up and get over myself. Ah, the invisibility of my position. Ah, the fear the not-adopted have in seeing adopted people. Adoption fills a gap for those who want to reproduce and can not. To call it into question forces too much introspection. The reality is that the introspection simply gets transferred to the next generation. Yet, knowing , articulating this allows me space for acting. However, I'm wary of the dangers of the converse position -- in which I can also reside. Being the best little boy in the world, making sure that my "perfection" enchants and ingratiates is not a dynamic I want defining my life. There has to be another way. I'm tired of being alone. I'm done with ingratiating myself to people who aren't interested in the whole me.
I'm trying to understand meaning in painting. My large projects seem too sweeping and without a core. The quiet work seems unsatisfying. Moreso, I feel like the quiet work fails because it doesn't fulfill some conceptual project. More precisely, I feel like those who think that art must fulfill some grand conceptual/ social project feel that my work fails.
What can I say? I'm hung up on the opinion of others! I NEED them to love me...
A bunch of people are mad at me right now. I suspect it's because I've not been attentive enough. The sabbatical has changed my pace. It's allowed me to see time differently, to sit with things. I find it hard to believe that I kept up with so much for so long. Now that I have time, I can't seem to keep up.
Some folks also don't understand that I'm underground. I'm searching for my core. Because I'm not going to the office doesn't mean that I'm not working. I don't have time on my hands. I'm working harder than, perhaps, I ever have before.
I'm impatient. A third of my sabbatical is over and I'm not impressed with what I have to show. Yes, yes, I've drafted a thesis and I've made some paintings, but I haven't had the big breakthrough. There's been no "ah ha." I'm not being the genius that I thought time would allow. I use time now. I used to put out 2-3 paintings in a weekend. Now, I'm lucky to conceptualize and execute one a week. I'm not excellerating at the same pace. I need to be aware of this, perhaps sharpen my skills with speed and productivity. I need to draw the white table 100 times.
TUESDAY, 29 OCTOBER, 3:31 PM
I posted five new paintings. Most are works in progress...
MONDAY, 28 OCTOBER, 8:13 PM
Portfolio cover letter:
Dear Catherine and Pam,
Well, here we are, packet three. Who knew that time could fly so fast? I'm as prepared as I might be and looking forward to your thoughts as I enter the final stretch.
To provide you, Pam, a bit of context, Catherine and I agreed that the version of the portfolio that I submitted as my last packet serves well enough as my draft. It's on-line and I have only made slight changes (tonight) to the "subjectivity" section (four new, short sections). It can be found at http://clarkelane.tripod.com/whatsthequestion/id37.html
In terms of format, I am, of course, of two minds about what I should do. My oppositional-self is inclined to print pages directly from my site and stick them in the black binder -- with no subsequent formatting. My assimilationist-self is inclined to print each section of the portfolio in the order they are laid out -- the navigation page being the table of contents -- in a standard format. I would add paintings as "plates" in front or behind the appropriate sections. I'm not inclined, in either case, to integrate images into the text as I feel the writing and the visual work need to stand (or fall) in their own right. Supposing that assimilation always wins (or at least in that I'm always inclined to be the best little boy that I can be), you can assume that I'll continue to grumble that I can't submit my whole site on CD-ROM but that I'll print something that's nice enough for the library.
Catherine, thank you for your thoughts and comments that you sent with your last response. I will take action on them when I hear back from this reading. I was particularly taken with your comments regarding the "coming out" narrative. I think you are right that starting with the arousal in the living room might re-orient the piece and make it stronger. I've been thinking about this and will take a crack at it in the next draft.
In terms I what I think I need now (as opposed to what you all might think I need!), I'd like to lay out a few questions. These might fall into the category of "crisis of faith," so please feel free to approach them as such!
As I take stock of my Goddard experience I realize that I am leaving, in some ways, as I arrived. I am still a more confident theorist than practitioner. More pointedly, I've laid out some high theory for myself in this portfolio and I am well aware that my art practice lags behind my big ideas. It's tempting to tone down the theory and bring it in line with my practice, but that seems dishonest. In some regard I know that this is an issue of patience and process. I suppose I'm looking for some advice regarding how I approach this in the portfolio, but more importantly how I might address it in my practice.
Related to the first question, in the portfolio I'm making a case for traditional studio painting as a conceptual enterprise. I have some ideas about how this might work, but I'm not entirely clear. I'm quite certain that my current work only begins to touch on these ideas. The biological father, for example, has interventionist tendencies and in as far as I've introduced it to on-line adoption communities, it has elicited some positive responses from adult adoptees (this hasn't been included in my documentation because of issues of confidentiality) . Clearly further installation (or publication) of the work would push the possibilities. My sense is that to some degree, it's only using painting as an element of installation. Do you have any suggestions as to how I might re-think this / solidify my ideas?
I feel like I am making some progress as a painter. The focused time of sabbatical has been good for my practice -- in terms of allowing me to experiment and develop my hand. I am, however, thinking a lot about the tension I feel as a painter. I LOVE to paint. I love the medium, the material, and the objects. I also am aware of the ways that I'm compartmentalizing myself as an artist by choosing this medium. I question whether the work that I'm doing is relevant, whether it will matter, and whether I'm able to speak the ideas I care about in the medium. At the same time, I realize that as a painter I want to speak in a quiet voice. When I start to do that, there are nagging voices in my head that tell me that this sort of painting doesn't matter, isn't art. I feel like this moment of "socially relevant" art-after-modernism has deposited the baby with the bath water and made it impossible for me to authentically locate myself as an "artist." Am I being too dramatic? I know that I should simply press on and see what happens, but I'm also wondering whether you know of others who are asking these questions?
I find myself asking, "so what?" I don't believe that this portfolio is going to help me enter the world as an artist. It's not a portfolio in the traditional sense -- indeed I think most galleries would laugh at receiving it. I'm leaving Goddard without a school-supported exhibition and, in short, I'm feeling like I leaving this program with virtually no tangible assets on which I might build my life as a "professional" artist. I don't mean this in a complaining sense -- I know that I am a stronger artist because of the program, I know that I can market myself as a potential faculty member. Yet, I have virtually no idea of how I approach the world of exhibition, publication, or even how to begin conceptualizing the next phase of my practice. I think this should be part of the portfolio -- a sense of trajectory. Any thoughts about how I might approach this?
Finally, there are a couple of house-keeping issues about which I want to make you aware. First, I've added a link to my bibliography. It needs formatting work and it doesn't reflect what I've read in the last six months. I'll get to this over the next few days. I'm also adding some new, "in process" paintings to this page:
The loss of daylight savings time threw me for a loop this afternoon and, in getting caught up painting, I missed the light. I'll take photos in the morning and post them ASAP.
For all of my concerns, I am having a good time in the studio. I'm testing myself, learning, growing. It's a little lonely, it makes me understand why artists sometimes have a hard time articulating what they do / think / engage. Being alone, in my head makes me use up all the words...
Thanks in advance for your help!!! I hope this finds you well.
WEDNESDAY, 22 OCTOBER, 10:01 AM
I'm inhibited as a painter. As a kid, I drew my desires. When I realized that others could read my desires, when I learned that psychoanalysts use kid's drawings to define their pathologies, I stopped.
Learning to paint is also learning to face down pathologization.
MONDAY, 21 OCTOBER, 12:15 PM
I need to remember that people can be delightful. I've gotten too caught up in the petty shit. I'm too easily annoyed by the repetition, the cloying needs of people. I need to take a broader view and see that every human soul has value and can be a teacher. I need to learn to engage people regardless of my frustrations. In short, I need to start working on being a better person.
In part it's because I have allowed too many people to dump their shit at my doorstep and haven't had the wherewithal to establish explicit boundaries. It's probably in my nature -- or at least in my experience. As I think more about the biological father / adoption work I'm reminded again and again of my own needs and insecurities. I remember that I can't stand rejection and do my best to control, contain the prospects. For this reason, I don't take risks in relationships, for I can't bear the thought of losing them. It's a habit that I need to break. I need to remember that I can establish new relationships, that all of this is a dynamic process.
I think this is why I've been attracted to the web and correspondences here. There's a safety to the distance, there's an understanding about space and time. I'm talking with people about things that are valuable (at least to me) and thhere's not the pressure of having to be everything for them. There's not the expectation that I'll be a seat warmer for a more exciting soul.
That's a revelation: I'm along for the ride with my best friend -- a lot. He's dynamic, fun, entertaining, engaging. he can talk with anyone. He's got an attractive energy that i lack. He's got patience that I lack, too -- an ability to be present to people and see their charming side. I, too much, let my own values get between me and other people.
The bitching and moaning is alsoin recognition of the fact that I'm tired. I'm tired of being a party boy, tired of waiting for the next fabulous event. I want a community, a sense of place, a conversation. I want it to be fuckin' real. Reality isn't waiting for the next party.
I spent a lot of time catching up on movies this weekend. It was grand. I have a new dvd player and it's opening up the world to me. I found the films to be a catharic experience. I'm not sure why, but I found myself crying through them. I still don't know how you can cry about Velvet Goldmine, but I did. Sigh. I guess it's just embracing the fact that I'm messier, needier than I let on.
One of my new paintngs is titled "I'm in love with my loneliness." I'm starting to see that I've constructed a space, as frustrating as it may be, that allows me to be. It protects me from the pain of the world and the pain of relationships. I've never been good at embracing the totality of relationships, never been good at accepting the good with the painful. So, I've insulated myself from the pain and consequently insulated myself from some real sense of feeling. having time, this sabbatical is helping me see all this. Now the trick is figuring out what I want to do with it!
MONDAY, 14 OCTOBER, 10:34 AM
Dinner parties are fine and all, but when's the party over? I feel like this has been something of a lost weekend. I've nothing to complain about, but there's a certain sense that I've allowed myself to be distracted from my work. Well, I have 14 uninterupted days ahead of me and I intend to use them to work.
SUNDAY, 13 OCTOBER, 5:59 PM
I went to Portland, Maine this weekend to give an artist talk. It was a great trip. I met some cool people and the talk was fun. It's good to talk about my work with an audience that's not personally connected to me. They asked amazing questions and forced me to articulate some stuff about my work.
One point in particular really opened my eyes. It concerns the biological father. I haven't worked on this for a long time and haven't been thinking about it, so I approached it fresh. The point of interest had to do with my adoptive family. I realzed (and articulated) that a dimension of the adoption stuff, which I havem't dealt with, is the deceit of my community growing up. I mean, EVERYONE knew that I was adopted -- the neighbors, family, anyone older than me. NO ONE ever talked about it, brought it up with me, etc, etc. It's like there was a HUGE conspiracy of silence.
I'm wondering why this never occurred to me before? Yet, the fact that I distanced myself from ALL those folks now comes as no surprise. That I have trouble trusting people who claim to care about me now seems flatly understandable. Funny how we're blind to so much in our own experience.
Might I have undertaken this whole project just to understand the root of my intimacy issues? Hmmmmm....
MONDAY, 7 OCTOBER, 9:28 PM
I've put up a draft of my Goddard portfolio.
Don't judge me harshly. I've come to the conclusion that I don't care about this process, I don't see it as useful enhancement of my practice. The "afterward" explains my reasons. I also explain them, in a slightly different way in my cover letter to my advisor. Here's and excerpt:
I'm sorry that this is arriving on the late side of the packet deadline. I hope it causes you no inconvenience. The past three weeks have been hectic for me, closing up shop at the Swearer Center and preparing for sabbatical. This is the second week of my leave. I tried to spend most of last week in the studio. This weekend I've been writing and attempting to respond to your suggestions. It's been slow going, but I think I've edited and formed something about which I'm more satisfied. Before I get to the portfolio, I'd like to respond to your last letter.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for your response. It freed me up and helped me think differently about my work. I don't mean this gratuitously... I mean to underscore my gratitude for your words. You have me thinking differently about my work. Not just the portfolio, which I don't really care about, but rather my work on a meta-level. Jarring, disorienting, exciting... Exactly what i need as I enter BIG time in the studio.
I'm at a cross road as a student / artist / professional. I've learned a lot in the program and I'm trying to figure out the next level. I'm trying to figure out how to synthesize the different facets of my practice(s). I talk a big game, but I am insecure in making visual work. My verbal abilities, my conceptual life is stronger than my art practice. For that reason I feel much more compelled to be working in the studio, making new work, continuing my learning process. My intentions for this sabbatical are to consider some of these questions in a deeper way and to reflect on and prepare for the next stage of my career and life. It's a pretty sacred time, a great privilege and something I am trying to approach seriously. It's a chance for me to take different risks, to listen to voices, whispers that are usually consigned to the back of my mind. It's also a time to allow myself to be playful, irreverent, and risk-taking. I'm starting to adjust to being on leave, feeling less like I'm taking a vacation, and starting to understand what it might mean to organize time, my life differently. Thank you for launching this time with a loud and loving response.
I'm intrigued by your juxtapositioning of the biological father and my interest in queer themes. I've been creeping toward this realization, but I haven't acted on the impulse. I need to engage this work again and push it into new terrain. I love the idea of the biological mother in drag, the idea of taking myself out of the picture (which I've been drifting toward). Likewise, you're observations about my voice, my resistance to using queer devices, being a fag, is helping me think about how I take bigger risks in making images. My work is polite, perhaps too much so, and I wonder how deeply I've been colonized by the assimilationist tendencies of the culture. I've been looking at Marlene Dumas and realizing that I can jump into different imagery, take greater risks. Your advice to read David Halperin was helpful, too. I had read Saint Foulcault before and it was sitting on my desk. I needed the push to actually open the pages. I don't have a lot of answers to these questions, but I hope that i will be able to use the next three weeks to explore them in the process of production.
I'm starting to think about how I excavate my history in different ways. I've been reading AIDS narratives again and remembering my little foray into ACTUP storm trooping. It's funny for me to remember that I was more radical as a young man (when I was still largely closeted) than I am as an arguably more powerful older person! I know that aging is a process of growing more conservative, but I think that reflection might help me harness those impulses to transforming the world.
With regard to the portfolio, I've taken your suggestions, invocations, urgings to heart. At first I found your suggestions liberating. When I returned to the text, however, I found that once I stripped the "black book" from the narrative that I had little to say. I think I've organized my thinking about this process in an oppositional way. Frankly, I really don't care about this portfolio and I don't have an interest in making it interesting. I have edited out most of the references to Goddard and to the process. The exception to this is the last two sections of the document. I have kept the practicum section largely intact and coupled it with other notes about the program. The addition is in the front of the section with a journal entry from my first residency. The "afterward" is a screed about the portfolio. While I understand your advice to me about pushing on the form of the document, my conversations with other faculty haven't filled me with hopefulness. I suspect that this is the best intervention for me.
Largely the rest of the document is edited and enhanced. The sections "experiencing subjectivity" and "bodies in knowledge" borrow and organizing structure from Eduardo Galeano's Memories of Fire trilogy. They are both historical documents intended to build a context for my practice. They are incomplete and I suspect I will make further additions in these sections.
There are two longer narrative additions to the document. They are both autobiographical short stories that I wrote as background for the biological father project. I'm re-contextualizing them in this document and hoping that they succeed in "doing" the queer theory that I've been spouting.
I may be overstepping my place in suggesting this, but I'd like this to be my draft. I'd rather spend the rest of the semester talking with you about my practice as an artist rather than this document. If this is out of line, I hope you'll be direct in letting me know. I know that I'll have to return to this document when Pam reads it. I suspect that she will not be sanguine with my solution and I'm more than willing to work with her (and you) in good faith. I think that I've answered the requirements of the program in this draft (with a few additions still needed) and I'm not interested in transcending the requirements. If you think I should, my answer is in the "afterward." The site stands as my real portfolio. It's a living text from which I will continue to document and build my practice. I am planning to clean it up a bit in the next few weeks -- mostly for easier navigation and to reduce redundancy.
And that's a wrap.
MONDAY, 7 OCTOBER, 2:34 AM
Sleep is proving impossible tonight. I've tried to go to bed three time so far without success. Got up and watched tv, got up and finished a book, and now up and writing in the journal. It doesn't seem like sleep's on the horizon either. Perhaps, I've passed the meridian from working to sabbatical? Perhaps, the difference between days and nights no longer matters?
I have a draft due tomorrw, though, and I'm apprehenssive about being cranky as I write. It's together in a way, but I no longer care about it -- as a process or as a product. More than ever, it's simply an assignment, a contract to be fulfilled. Good will aside, it has nothing to do with my practice as an artist.
I keep thinking that I might be able to change that, transform my practice into that of a writer. I've embedded short stories in this draft, but they're just lifted from the site -- reinforcing my belief that the site is the portfolio. At the same time, lifting from the site seems dishonest -- to both the "contract" and to the site. I feel like I'm stealing from the just to keep the tax man at bay.
I've been thinking about the daily photos, too. I keep returning to the thought that they represent my fears of death -- that I am trying to establish a bulkhead against my mortality, perhaps establishing my own memorial. If nothing else, insuring that I'm not forgotten. It's a sobering thought; sad, actually. It reminds me of the foundational loneliness that's become my companion.
SUNDAY, 6 OCTOBER, 9:03 AM
I went to a wedding last night. It was a lovely event, but it raised all manner of feelings within me. Most had little to do with the happy couple!
Of course, the obvious reaction is the way that weddings make me feel marginal. As sensitive and open as folks may be, weddings always make me question the adequacy of my queerness. I leave feeling fine about beign queer, but it takes some work not to feel like the whole institution denies the validity of my being. It's mostly because weddings insinuate themselves as the ultimate goal off life. And once that's succesfully established, they portray child bearing as tthe next apex of existence. They essentialize life in a way that is dangerous adn harmful -- to queers, to be sure, but also for straight single folks. They also create troubles for those who are married. Who can live up to the hype? Yet, all the trappings of marriage are easy to work through and manage. I have perspective and ultimately have no yearnings to be straight, married, or accepted into that particular club.
Forr me, the harder things is witnessing the true bonds between families that are expressed at these events. I'm not talking about the "for comany" displays of familial love. Rather, I'm talking about the connections that I see between parents andd children, brothers and sisters. I was again jarredto realize that I don't have that, I never will. It's a profoundly sad sense of loss and absence in my life.
This morning as I was waking, I started to think about this and started to consider how I allow this hole to define my life. I think it influences my ability to make relationships and to connect with people. This is a troubled part of my experience.
The biological father paintings have been a way that I've tried to address this yearning and I think I've gottten somewhere. I fear that I'm trying to construct a fictive family ffor myself and avoiding the real possibility of constructing a real set of familial connections. I don't mean tthis with my adoptive family. I mean, this whole set of reflections forces me to ask why I haven't pursued a partnership and family. It asks why I'm living the way that I'm living.
The most moving part of the whole affair was when the best man, who is the groom's brother, spoke of their relationship. I was moved, but I was also jealous. I found myself wishing that I had experienced a similar bond with a brother. Well, since that's not gonna happen, I suppose I should just find a boyfriend! Hehehee.
3 OCTOBER, 3:05 PM
This is the third day of my three-month sabbatical. I've spent the first days working in the studio. It's good. I'm learning stuff.
It doesn't yet seem real, more like a long weekend or vacation. I haven't yet adjusted to the idea that I have greater control over my time, I haven't yet been able to change the pace of my life. The only difference I've been able to feel is that the studio work doesn't seem as urgent. I don't feel compelled to complete a work quickly and I'm taking more time on individual paintings.I find myself wondering whether this is a good thing. The new work is more rendered, but I think I've lost something of my gestural force. Sigh. Well, it's an experiment and we'll see where it goes.
I was thinking this afternoon about the trajectory of my work. Two years ago, I couldn't have imagined making the paintings that I am making today. It makes me wonder where I'm headed. How this work will affect the next and so on. I'm generally happy with what I'm doing, even if I don't know what it is I'm actually doing. By this I mean that the lack of urgency has also forced me to consider the kind of paintings that I'm making. What's the purpose of this whole endeavor. Dare I say it? Does this work have any meaning? Funny tthing is that the themes of the worrk two years ago seemed more compelling than the quieter themes I'm working with now. I've even started to return to some of the old work to see what happend when i re-approach it. Well, we'll see.
To get at the crux off this, I know that I need to read and write some more in order to discern the answer to my question meaning. Yet, perhaps the urgency isn't all gone, I'm compelled to be making images right now. It will be short lived as I have to start back on the portfolio. Another draft is due on Monday.
On another note, I'm kind of proud of myself. One of my fears about the sabbatical was that I would be a big party boy. I did go out last night, but I found nothing interesting about it. If anything, I just wanted to be back in the studio. It's a good sign. Maybe I'm finally growing up?
SUNDAY, 15 SEPTEMBER, 10:54 PM
I'm working on my Goddard thesis / portfolio. I've decided not to post this draft to the site becasue there's a lot of redundancy with what's already up here. So, instead, I'll post one new, rough section.
i. Interlude: learning to paint the figure
I've written mostly about the content of my work, but I am aware that, as a painter, I face some formal challenges, too. Partly these are a question of technique, but more then that they reflect the life of the object that I create.
I was trained as an illustrator in a modernist, academic context. Although this required a certain number of courses in figure drawing and painting, it was never an area in which I excelled. More than that, I didn't have a particular affinity for the work. I've written elsewhere about the psychological implications of this and outlined some of my own resistance to engaging in figurative work. Regardless of the genesis of my earlier aversion to figurative work, the result is that I never developed a facility for making figurative paintings. Indeed, my practice for nearly fifteen years was focused on land and space. It had a distinctly abstract quality. Three years ago I began the process of teaching myself to paint the figure. Initially, I adapted the structural elements of my earlier abstract work, continuing to refer to the San Francisco School, particularly the work of Richard Diebenkorn, David Park and Elmer Bischoff.
Throughout my landscape practice I was influenced by Fairfield Porter's idea about abstract painting. Writing for Art in America, Porter attempted to educate the general art public about the nature of abstract painting. Making a distinction between the Abstract Expressionists and earlier Modernist painting forms, which were still largely figurative, Porter expressed that in judging abstract work one might consider whether it has a "density of experience."
To my mind, this is an important way to understand painting. Earlier I wrote about DeBolla's notion of painting "knowing." Porter's idea encompasses this, but takes it a step further. "Density of Experience" postulates that paintings might also have a sort of "being." Lucien Freud also has something to say on this subject. "The picture in order to move us must never merely remind us of life, but must acquire a life of its own, precisely in order to reflect life."
In my own work, the process of transitioning from abstraction to representational, figurative work has been difficult. Not have I only had to deal with learning to draw and represent the figure in a new pictoral way, I have also had to learn to manipulate paint and ground in a profoundly different way. As a result, my early figurative work is mannered. More that this, its awkward. While some have commented on its expressive quality, I'm inclined to think that this is a poor interpretation. Expressive work requires an intentionality that my work lacks. Again referring to Lucien Freud, attributing affective intention to work that lacks ability is not necessarily a compliment.
The work that I am attempting to create embodies the kind of being that I'm postulating might exist in evocative, moving works of art. I don't presume to believe that my work yet embodies this notion nor can I anticipate that this "life" will be the inevitable outcome of my practice. Indeed, this theory is almost certainly an act of faith. I think that this theory is a worthy pursuit and it informs the trajectory of my studio work.
SATURDAY, 14 SEPTEMBER, 3:30 PM
For the first time in 2 months, I posted new work.