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I haven’t posted for a long time. I’ve written, but haven’t posted. I’ve painted all along. I traveled some. Markets drop. galleries come and go like hype. You scrape along. you know you must be good at what you do cause people ooh and aw when they come into the studio and get a little flustered when you meet them off the wall, off Facebook, if they’ve seen your hype and press. People figure you’re doing well and claim your subject matter. people talk about the importance of art and how they want to support the arts but they mean being present at showings, not buying something. you rely on commissions inside your range of subject matter. its okay.

Time races. lovers keep one young and wear one out at the same time.I tend to paint their portraits and in thinking about presenting them as they present themselves to me, I write about them, about the connections, strong and fragile between us. I discover rooms and landscapes, interiors, terrains with their elbows against mine and the writing becomes too personal, compromising for a blog piece. Or I become too cowardly to say.

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People get dissatisfied, they have identity crises   and read light weight self-help books  about how artists are in touch with something spiritual, enviable,  and they come to the studio shyly looking,  But there is no quick fix for undeveloped skill and chronic timidity, for assumed responsibility, no evidence here at least of the shamanic insight mentioned in the glossy terrain of coffee table books and press releases.  people talk to me about self-expression and freedom, as if my long hours are free time, as if i express my self.  As if I were expressing a self i know as mostly composed of anxiety about time management, lonely manners, sullen sociability  sex and my urge to drive distractions from full engagement up the side of the head.

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In pulling parts of longer manuscripts out of my various machines and piecing them together into one I find several entries similar to the following:

I haven’t posted anything in a long time, immobilized when it came to writing while riding trains and ferries, unfamiliar beds a norm, all good beds too with you. Cafes. campsites. I traveled but I was immobilized when words piled up in my head and I considered a narrative. The jumbled pile of words behind my brow. The shoulder high heave and wallow in a hoarder’s basement. Just more posing and blather to romanticize paintings or to explain their origins to a few readers on line.

The studio was always home, not just a workplace, so it was less lonely if there were memories of you about, reading on the sofas and yes, barefoot in a makeshift kitchen on a lazy Indian summer afternoon making eggs for breakfast, one of your belongings left behind to handle on the table. We’ve Been living out of vehicles and backpacks since our losses, and sleeping in temporary rooms so long now. People asking but where are you living and where do you hang your Kerouac first editions? Homelessness or even rootlessness has lost its cache in the not so great new depression, people losing their savings and housing on the news and the new austerity nurturing the economy if not the people and paintings selling like  rat shit for all the talk of the arts as the salvation of rural tourism and people living off wine and cheeses from cultural planning committee meeting.

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An old friend from a long gone city studio pulls himself off the road and rents a great big shop in the old hardware store in town across from the thrift and gift to open a design studio or a little gallery and he wants you along for the ride, so you’re like molly bloom with her yes yes yes to the high ceilings rooms where you can paint like a man standing up and he’s got his sculpture and woodworking shop and the lad says the loft upstairs is nineties new york in the sticks. Yes. You’ve done this thing before together in the boho days in another town, another city, inhabited high ceiling rooms and worked or lazed alongside and the familiar voice from the long gone days shares a history you learned not to talk about, it was of little interest your memory and now it fills in a the gaps in someone else’s from then, the narratives get written and readjusted.

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For a while there in your life you hesitated to even write a narrative for fear you were misinterpreting the few facts at hand or you feared you’d inevitably strike a moral stance, likely outmoded or even overly couched in current liberal terms. Or you didn’t dare write a narrative because it would mean something was going on, something had happened. How you got that way, afraid to tell your story for fear of getting it wrong and for fear of admitting your needs didn’t meet up to some local or rebel status quo. Like you didn’t have so much as a story to call your own. Same as it ever was. Big new rooms to do it all again. Yes yes. Yes.
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The studio is always the place of personal reckoning. For a painter anyway its where the image quest, which is not necessarily a vision quest takes place, or it moves into the rooms where the processing of life quickens, becomes private, if professional and where the tools are at hand, where the necessities of atmosphere and attitude are conducive. One reckons with one’s calling or ambition, one processes,one is strategic and then impulsive or inspired, the sudden and seemingly tangential timing being everything. One confronts one’s own inability and sloth many days, and stares under influences out the window. One has a little existential crisis every time one reaches for a pencil. Memories come up and one winces. One is alone in order to concentrate but it is lonely nevertheless, and you hold distracting people at bay and yet still try to charm.perhaps. For the artist wants to charm, if only eventually, after the shock and awe die down and his much derided vulgarity is seen to be the raw and sensitive masterpieces they are, unrecognized in Nazareth, nothing important coming out of Nazareth, and the fuss dies down and one is seen to be influential.

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Or you sell your little painting of a wolf baying at a beach ball moon just above his snoot and title it song of the wild spirit and you can pay the Internet bill down a notch anyway. So one doesn’t go nuts alone without social media when one has had enough of personal reckoning without streamed music, the sound track of one’s life alone unobserved while bumping up against ones own inability or flushed and eager with one’s hands’ own conviction and grace and the beauty of the model felt along its contours with the brush, so that sensual and emotional apparatus and the brush feel and act almost at once. At one. Even if it is an Inner abstraction, a construct not even clear inside you but worked out on the picture plain before you. Or you get that snout just right. Or you deconstruct the patriarchal narrative of some choir boy of the canon, say a domestic still life by Latour, whatever your fantasy. It can be a lot of fun, the studio, but most people can’t handle it. The inspiration doesn’t come or the elbow grease doesn’t seem worth the while. There are no benefits. The self reckons it isn’t cut out for the art world. Or one just plays in the paint like a child, thrilled with itself and unaware of critical faculty. You get those types coming to want to play at your house, sure everyone has an artist within, a child broken in churches and schools and molded to middle class circumstance just needing to run free range like a chicken . The studio is a place of reckoning for visitors too some days. You can take in the fall colors and following a map visit artist studios in your car, see them in their ever so natural rustic habitats, pick up a really cute decorating tip or something that somehow just moved you deeply. So you said screw the Internet, they can wait another month and you bought the Latour deconstruction or the coyote or whatever it is, propped up against an old enamel pitcher full of sunflowers by the complimentary snack table in a very tidy studio indeed down a dirt road just outside of town.
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2 thoughts on “Sun Flowers

  1. I always enjoy your posts. Love that street scene from the studio. It brings back fond memories of when I was so young and would beg my dad to give me some money and a ride to come and see you and paint in your quiet studio. I felt trapped in the suburbs, surrounded by people, but alone. Your studio felt like a glimpse of the real world that I had yet to encounter. I cherish those memories.

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