Tag Archives: artists

Damocles

If you would have me write of bliss,
exclaiming art mere artifice,
a simple sham designed to fool
the ignorant who fill our schools
with some vain hope of what might be:
quite useless, a mad symphony
that holds no tune, does not inspire,
I say: I will not be your liar.

I cannot speak except my truth.
To turn the curse of misspent youth
from years of folly into gold,
to cower where I should be bold,
to silent, watch your fabric wind
its cloak of death upon the mind;
these things I cannot, will not do,
and call it art to forgive you.

Unless it strains against the mold
to whisper secrets long thought cold
and buried to the modern soul,
unleashes furies thought controlled,
and births the questions best unasked,
there is no meaning in art’s tasks;
despite its pompous, highbrow claims,
it is a cripple: blind and lame.

What madness you would have me fake
to shield from view such a mistake
may fool the senses for a while
with clever tricks, a knowing smile;
and on such palimpsest you may
suppose to write of one true way
by which the world is formed and doomed:
its genesis, its prime, its tomb,

But know true art will prove you false
and throw odd beats into your waltz,
unloose and snap your well-tuned strings
and turn to rust your well-oiled springs.
And then, what good mere words of bliss
to serve you? I can tell you this:
Art’s sword, that you would make a plow,
is cultivating those seeds now.

03 OCT 2006

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Have the best minds of my generation been destroyed by madness?

From Ann Charters’ introduction to The Portable Beat Reader:

Earlier in the history of American literature, the novelist Henry James acknowledged in his biography of Nathaniel Hawthorne that “the best things come, as a general thing, from the talents that are members of a group; every man works better when he has companions working in the same line, and yielding the stimulus of suggestion, comparison, emulation.” As a facet of our country’s cultural history, clusters have been an outstanding feature of our literature. They can be a group of writers joined by a common geographical location who share philosophical sympathies, such as the cluster of transcendentalist writers in Concord, Massachusetts, in the mid-nineteenth century — Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Bronson Alcott. More often, given the sheer physical size of the United States, the writers share a temporal rather than a spatial proximity along with their lieratary aesthetic, for example the local-color realists Sarah Orne Jewett, Lafcadio Hearn, and Kate Chopin, all born between 1849 and 1851, or the experimental modernist poets born in the decade between 1879 and 1888 — William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, Hilda Dolittle, Marianne Moore, T.S. Eliot, and Wallace Stevens.

I have often found myself in groups like those described above, usually geographical rather than temporal. Which leads me to wonder: of those writers that are of my generation — the lost years between Baby Boom and Generation X, those who arrived in this incarnation between, say, 1962 and 1968 (with myself smack in the middle at 1965), of those who potentially would have gone to high school together, what are the commonalities? the aesthetics? the influences and, since it is almost forty years since that time, the descendants, if any? In looking across the Internet, which some could say serves as an artificial sense of connectivity, since the barrier of geography has been eliminated, and the notion of “age” is muddled and clouded, particularly given the large degree of anonymity and lack of personal information about those who come in contact with each other, but to me serves as both a surrogate “coffeehouse” and pipeline for correspondence, the writers of my generation who have achieved any sense of notoriety (as determined by whether I am familiar with their work, at best an extremely subjective criterion) seem to be:

Quentin Tarantino (1963), JK Rowling (1965), Poppy Z. Brite (1967)

Whereas the writers who DIED within that time seem to be of a much greater number (and societal impact, I think):

William Faulker, e.e. cummings, Herman Hesse (1962), Robert Frost, Sylvia Plath, William Carlos Williams, Theodore Roethke, Jean Cocteau, C.S. Lewis, Aldous Huxley (1963), Flannery O’Connor, TH White, Ian Fleming (1964), W. Somerset Maugham, T.S. Eliot (1965), Andre Breton (1966), Langston Hughes, Carl Sanburg (1967), John Steinbeck, Neal Cassady (1968)

Of course, I’m sure there are countless others … Henry Rollins (although maybe born 1961, I can’t remember), for one. Chuck Palahniuk (1961, too, and perhaps in many ways the reincarnation of Hemingway, who died that year), for another. But unless I’m missing something, it looks like American literature died while we were being born, and not too many of us picked up the torch. Of course, that could be due to the fact that less than 10% of the current population of the United States reads books on a daily basis. But I think it’s something more — like the progression of population magazines mirrors our evolution from the fifties – Look (1950s) to Life (1960s) to People (1970s) to Us (1980s) to Self (1990s), I feel that there is a sense of disenfranchisement from ourselves, from our own. So many of my peers, agewise, seem to be caught up either in decades we barely experienced (the 60s), struggled through as children (the 70s), barely survived (the 80s), and would like to forget (the 90s). And where does that leave us now? We are not Boomers, so the likelihood of our relating to the power-struggles there is small. And we are not Xers – so there is something missing there for us, too. Our angst is primarily self-directed, self-aggrandizing, and self-generated. We are the ones who can remember Nixon lied to America, and the ones who are still young enough to do something about it.

So my question is this: where are my peers, where is the “cluster” to which I belong? I know I have been searching for it my whole life, and for the most part, have been sadly disappointed.

If you’re out there — speak to me. We surely have something to say to each other.

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Hello Dali

cast

andrew wyeth
pablo picasso
salvador dali
georgia o’keefe
francis bacon

THE ACTION TAKES PLACE IN A COFFEE SHOP IN MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE

SCENE ONE

AS THE LIGHTS COME UP, WE SEE WYETH, PICASSO, AND BACON SITTING AROUND A 50’s STYLE KITCHEN TABLE ALONG THE EDGE OF THE COFFEE SHOP. THE WALLS ARE DECORATED WITH KITSCHY ART-DECO TRASH RETRO TYPE STUFF. SOMEBODY’S HAVING AN ART OPENING (SOMEBODY’S ALWAYS HAVING AN ART OPENING SOMEWHERE).

A HEATED CONVERSATION IS IN PROGRESS AS WE JOIN THE THREE ARTISTS.

PICASSO:
. . . you don’t seem to understand, Andy. The world is not completely logical, nor is it able to be represented in non-abstract terms.

WYETH:
That’s all well and good, Pablo, but there seem to be so many quote artists out there that present what I think is nothing more than primer vomit on canvas; when you ask them what it they are capturing, they say, ‘this is a representation of my feelings about being raped by my father.’ You can’t argue with their experience, but is their expression, or rather, their exploitation of expression, valid?

BACON:
It’s all bullshit. You guys are looking for symbolism in a world that is just raw, sensuous image. There is nothing in the world except violence and pain. Pablo, in your work you seem to understand; why is it when you start to explain yourself you end up spouting endless philosophical crap? I don’t think the nose is really in the guitar, but your head is up your ass!

And so on and so forth.

1994

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More on the Artist Within …

The poet’s or the painter’s vision of the divine in nature, the worshipper’s awareness of a holy presence in the sacrament, symbol or image – these are not entirely subjective. True, such perceptions cannot be had by all perceivers, for knowledge is a function of being; but the thing known is independent of a mode and nature of the knower. What the poet and painter see, and try to record for us, is actually there, waiting to be apprehended by anyone who has the right kind of faculties.
— Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy

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A Thought on Artists

“Who is that person whom you call an artist? A man who is momentarily creative? To me he is not an artist. The man who merely at rare moments has this creative impulse and expresses that creativeness through perfection of technique, surely you would not call him an artist. To me, the true artist is one who lives completely, harmoniously, who does not divide his art from living, whose very life is that expression, whether it be a picture, Music, or his behavior; who has not divorced his expression on a canvas or in Music or in stone from his daily conduct, daily living. That demands the highest intelligence, highest harmony. To me the true artist is the man who has that harmony. He may express it on canvas, or he may talk, or he may paint; or he may not express it at all, he may feel it. But all this demands that exquisite poise, that intensity of awareness and, therefore, his expression is not divorced from the daily continuity of living.”
Jiddu Krishnamurti, Living in Ecstasy, Ojai, California, June 29, 1934

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