Thursday, March 26, 2009

When Can I Go Back?

I had a blast in Vegas.  

I got to dress up and look hot, wear makeup and heels and my nice outfits.  The girls were great company and I think everybody (except maybe Katy who is finishing up her thesis) had a great time.

We did a little boozing, a little gambling and some raucous belting-out of crappy '80's songs.  I did a TON of people watching which is my very favorite thing to do in Vegas.  

It was so nice to be somewhere that doesn't require long underwear and a hat.

That was the most fun I've had in a long, long time.

I had heard that the economy had made Vegas into a ghost town.  This is not true.  Everything looked pretty normal to me.  The cabby who gave me a ride to the airport said St. Patrick's Day weekend (which he thought was an Eastern Orthodox holiday - I'm not sure where he was from originally) was off the hook as usual. 

Another good thing about travel, especially if you live in the Boston area, is that it reminds you that people in other parts of the country are nice.  People in other parts of the country say "please" and "thank you" and "excuse me" and they wait their turn.  They even smile from time to time.  Refreshing.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Vegas, March 2009

I leave the house before dawn tomorrow to go to Vegas.  I guess I ought to pack...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Antibiotics II

It's about four hours later and both Fay and I are feeling better.  She ate some banana and peanut butter and my head has cleared.  Whew, what a relief!

I think my problem was the mug of coffee I drank.  The drug information sheet says to avoid having "too much caffein."  I thought  a mug of coffee would be okay but maybe I was wrong.  Tomorrow I'll try a cup of tea instead.

It's nice to have my head back.


Fay and I are under the weather.

She started feeling lousy yesterday which was fortunate (I guess) because she had a vet appointment scheduled for last night.  It was determined that she has a skin infection and possibly a urinary tract infection.  She's on antibiotics now and I'm hoping they'll make her feel better.  So far (two doses in) they haven't.  All she wants to do is lie down and rest.  The vet doesn't know for sure what's making Fay feel bad so the antibiotics might not help.

I'm on antibiotics too.  I've got ciprofloxacin.  I don't know if that's making me out of it or if I'm just out of it. We all have those days, you know?

I'm supposed to go to Las Vegas this weekend for a bachelorette party.  That sounds pretty wild, doesn't it?  Yeah baby!  I'll be swingin' from some neon sign with my fifth cosmo in one hand, wearing nothing but a red patent leather thong and seven-inch stiletto gladiator sandals!  Woo!

Does that count as an hallucination?  Should I call the doctor about changing my medication?

Actually, it's not that kind of crowd at all.  I hope I can go but I won't if Fay's not feeling better.

I have to say that I couldn't be more grateful for antibiotics.  If it weren't for them I probably wouldn't be here.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Hard But Rewarding

Philip Guston: today's exhibit A of how hard it is to make what you have to make.  There's a good article on him and his work in the Washington Post.  Talk about heroism - he was an acclaimed cerebral abstract expressionist when all of a sudden he pulled a u-ie and went cartoony low-life.  He went from this:

to this: 

Formally there are a lot of similarities between these two paintings.  That's a digression.

So-called friends dumped him (for changing his painting style?  That's not friendship) and in the beginning the critics excoriated him.  

Guston won though, as we can see (links to google image search)  These days it's hard to find a contemporary artist who doesn't worship him.  He had the guts to moon his meal ticket.  He abandoned conventional success for bald honesty and the grueling job of facing his darkest emotions.  These late works are paintings of vicious battles fought doggedly and, in the end, with compassion.  They aren't pretty paintings but they are beautiful.

I don't want to belittle his early work though.  Only Athena sprung fully developed from the head of Zeus (what the hell am I talking about?!)  The rest of us have to build our strength and skills to be able to do our best work.  We have to get fed-up with ourselves and with what we've already done.  We have to find our way before we can take a shot at being a hero.

I hope that what I'm doing now is the foundation for more difficult work to come.  I know I'm not ready yet to take on my incarnations of the monsters Guston fought.  At least, not head-on.  The truth is I can't even imagine how to do this.  I have to do what I'm doing now at the very least because I don't know what else to do.  

So why complain?  Just get to work!

Monday, March 2, 2009


Here's how I make my work:  I go into my studio and something takes me and forces me to make whatever it is that comes out.  It doesn't matter what I think about the thing I'm making.  I just have to make it.  It isn't even that simple because wherever I am , whatever I'm doing, something in my mind is planning what's going to happen when I get to my studio.   

That sounds kind of neat but it's actually hard.  I'm constantly questioning my actions.  Most of the time I like something I've made because I feel responsible for it and not because I think it's any good.

It's really hard to have spent seven years making work that you know is nowhere near what "experts" in your field would look at twice. 

It's hard to get to work every day and do something you don't understand.  For example right now I have to work with strawberries.  Not the juicy, sweet fragrant and delicious strawberries you might be picturing.  No.  I have to work with cartoony plastic strawberries with an artificial scent and polka dots instead of seeds.

I have no idea why.  I can't imagine how me making "artwork" based on fake strawberries could ever add up to anything remotely profound or useful.  I want to make better work.  I just can't figure out how.

I keep trying to think myself out of this predicament.  I keep trying to figure out a way to produce work that I'd receive praise for, that other people might respect.  I used to be pretty good at portraits.  Elizabeth Peyton does portraits and people approve.  People liked my black and white abstract work - at least in art school they did.  Mostly I felt like I was making shit up when I was making abstract paintings.  If I were a real artist I could think up a way to make what I want to make coincide with larger ideas going on in the contemporary art world.

You can figure out what people want to see, what people recognize as "Art."  It's not hard to jump on a bandwagon.  But I know that if I shot for a target audience and made what for me would be contrived bullshit I'd just feel sick all the time.  Besides whatever I made that way would still not be profound or meaningful.

Every day I confront the fact that the best way, the only way to be a successful artist (and I don't mean commercially though that would be great) is to let the thing that drives drive, hope to God it's going somewhere good and don't try to grab the steering wheel.

That means more and more years of not knowing what the hell I'm doing.

I actually like not knowing what the hell I'm doing.  But I don't have a good explanation to give other people for why I'm doing it.  Nor can I explain why I do it when it isn't financially rewarding or even producing many successful objects.   I can't justify to others why I put all my resources into making the things I make.  I do know, though, that I desperately desperately don't want to stop making them.

I'll never stop making my work no matter what anybody thinks about it.  Letting go and surrendering to the thing that's driving feels too good.  It's transcendent.  I guess it's a kind of chemical dependency and I'll put up with any amount of disapproval to be able to feel that again and again.