This collection of posts is my way of getting down things I have been thinking about for the 50+ years I have been at the game of making art. In a kind of time-travel I use work in a kind of “Way-back” machine to play a game of art making. Game is correct, like in the Hesse novel, called variously, The Glass Bead Game or Magister Ludi, or Das Glasperlenspiel; Art in the 20th Century was played, played as a kind of game by some of the notable practitioners, most notably Marcel Duchamp, and lately Mauricio Catalan (of the duct-taped banana). For me, the game’s fulcrum teeters on a balance between the spiritual and the har-dee-har of DADA. On one side you have Art as a kind of a joke, the punch line of which is pure absurdity; the impossibility of saying anything serious about a world ripped to shreds in the aftermath of WWII, and the impending planetary doom of climate catastrophe and on the other side of the teeter-totter the wonders we are receiving from the great time and materials experiments of the Large Hadron Collider (materials) and the James Webb telescope (time). Artists are presented with unprecedented information of the universe. Add on the life-altering manipulations of Jennifer Doudna and Emanuelle Charpentier’s Nobel prize winning discoveries of CRISPR gene-editing and you have a richness of information unparalleled in the history of humanity. An Artist can’t make a game of being ignorant of all this.
Go back to the start of the 20th Century with Kandinsky and Hilma af Klint’s momentous works of spiritual abstraction, an Artist working today has a “still-life set-up” to work with never before seen. So you want to paint a picture thinking of the Webb images, or the LHC discoveries, CRISPR, all slamming into a wall of politics played in echoing silos of misinformation, ago ahead, give it a try. What can an Artist do? Well…these pages are an attempt to set the “still-life” table of tilting apples, layers of the onion peeled apart to give some shape to the thinking involved. I’m using my own pictures as a kind of ekphrasis to get my own internal conversation started, and to use the pictures as chapters to unfold an external conversation. You are invited to join it.
Some topics are Art/Science equivalency, the nature of progress, the poetic mind in the face of the rational mind, Art as eco-phenomenology, character as voice, the nodes of human history that seem to be timeless repeating expressions lurking in our genome. All of this meandering stochastic process using the dedication of staying with it for a lifetime, time traveling as I bring forward work made 30, 40, 50 years ago. Mostly, I just want to get these thoughts down before my “ride” shows up to move me toward the oblivion I am expecting. I like thinking philosophically, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the brain surgery to install a shunt to palliate a hydrocephalic condition performed in November 2021. Prior, my life was on a steady decline toward increasing disability; after, it gave me a useful clear-headedness. Useful in particular, regarding the writing of these pages. Is trepanning some shamanic practice to open the brain to the sky? Might. Could. But, as a person receiving this treatment, I offer these pages as my gift from the operating room to y’all. My kids asked if I was scared of the surgery—I only had one moment lying in the operating room on a valium high and looked over at the array of tools set out for my procedure. I can only report it gave me a jolt looking at what looked like the “on sale” table at the hardware store, and then I was under. It’s been about a year and a poem of Emily Dickinson comes to mind.
The Brain—is wider than the Sky— For—put them side by side— The one the other will contain With ease—and you—beside— The Brain is deeper than the sea— For—hold them—Blue to Blue— The one the other will absorb— As sponges—Buckets—do— The Brain is just the weight of God— For—Heft them—Pound for Pound— And they will differ—if they do— As Syllable from Sound— Emily Dickinson, c. 1862
Hope you have a bit of fun with all of this before your “ride” shows up.