My daughter, Amelia, was a dour little tyke for her first year here, sporting a prodigious scowl, then, at age one, she put on that duck mask, saw herself in the mirror, and began laughing a deep belly laugh, which, continues to be solidly in her repertoire of affect. This, then, is a phenomenological study so the internal state and the external state can be in dialogue, zum Beispiel: (that means for example—in German—just because the people who invented phenomenology were German; though my favorite was a Frenchman, Maurice Merleau-Ponty). Back when I was figuring out how to proceed as an Artist, I decided to make things that were interesting to look at, things that most people, (outside of the curatorial world of that time dominated by Minimalism and Conceptualism) would recognize as Art, and, to make things hand-made. Back 35 years ago-or so, folks in charge of the Art World, had little interest in pieces like this and I found scant traction in the marketplace. This piece is owned by Sandy, Mike’s wife, and sat in a folio for 35 years. Bringing it out here is a kind of time-travel to a different age for me. It was also a time when mechanical reproduction like photography and the welter of machine-made goods was filling our world, so I wanted to make something one could see as coming right out of the end of a pencil, and an exercise in the phenomenology of perception. So, you could see it as hand-made.
A word here about phenomenology: It is simply how we feel ourselves to be in this world—zum Beispiel: On my daily commute to my printshop/gallery in SF, I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. Many mornings the famous fog blanket hovered overhead fuzzing out the tops of the orange bridge towers. Some mornings, there would be breaks in that blanket of grey and the low sun would shine through the holes beaming shafts of light onto the rumple of the bay. To me, it looked like the gods were playing shuffleboard, sliding pucks of sunlight across the water, the sticks made of parallel light rays. Beautiful, memorable. So, my usual wool-gathering of thinking about my coming day, or of some unresolved conflict, or even thoughts like these, was interrupted by the sheer loveliness of the scene at hand. This is phenomenology in action. That you have an inner life as well as a perceptual life, and I’m pretty much sure there is a third thing, thin as can be, but filled with something else, that something, opens to the life of the imagination where Artists and Poets hang their hats.
So, to the title: Mike (next door neighbor), said this to me on one of our late night walks—”One should forgive…etc.” Well, of course, addressing the wild animal thing-y, how could you do otherwise? It brings to mind a Roussoean romance with the wild nature of Sapiens as a creature in the world who has, and always has had, Art as a part of the genome. Not the Hobbsian “life is nasty, brutish and short” (although Thomas Hobbs, BTW lived to a long age of 91, party people). The behavior of the animals of this world is a miraculous glowing sphere of interest to me. How do they know how??? Like watching the little caterpillar we put in a jar with its food of choice (Parsley) and watched it chow-down, poop copiously, shed its green polka dotted skin in a rumple, then suspend itself like a phone line-man, leaning back in its chrysalis waiting for spring. Eternally captivating, though, the tomato horn worms, huge green things, thumb-sized and captivating in their own right, which will grow up to be a heartbreaking ravager of a home gardeners tomato patch. They don’t trouble our garden much being a favorite snack for the ubiquitous blue-jays. If left alone, the horn worm will metamorphose into the sphinx moth—another wonder. The jays disdain the parsley worms. We are anticipating the emergence of a black swallowtail in the spring.
As to forgiving Artists and poets, the gesture in Mike’s comments points to the wild nature of creativity where we are throwbacks to our wild selves, in this image expressed in the background made to feel like some cave wall, scribbled on by some Ur person expressing the feeling of the animal world. By making pictures this person wanted to tell the others what he’d seen. This why Artists and Poets need to be forgiven—messengers from that thin place and valuable for that, as this picture is valuable for telling this story from so long ago in my recent time traveling mode.