Mahler and Freud


There was a meeting between Freud and Gustav Mahler in Leyden. We know little of what happened between them, but that it had something to do with a crises in Mahler’s relationship with Alma. And that he was reconciled (for a time), with Alma, and wrote no new music after.

There is the angel-whore thing for women. And the fool or genus thing for artists. Or there used to be. For those of my generation, artists will understand how the two are related—though women had only the option of afflicting themselves with the former—excluded from the latter.

I’m speaking of artists with high aspirations. I don’t know if that exists now, at least not in the same nativity as it once did, as though aspirations of the highest order transcended economics and politics and class… and gender. I come from that generation.

And I am torn asunder by the conflicts between what I’ve inherited, and don’t know how to handle or transform, and what I’ve come to know and understand about the dependency of most, if not all, of what those aspirations and what they meant, on the economic and political forces that largely shaped and almost entirely controlled how they played out in the real world.

One version of the Mahler and Freud and Alma story, is that he gave up, or got over, or whatever… the neurosis that was the cause of his sexual impotency… but also, the source of his musical creativity.

I don’t know that younger artists think this way—or can imagine such a conflict. Though I think it still exists, but in an emergent form I don’t understand. I mean—the drive to make art, and to more than that, to make it MEAN something…even if you have no clue that is, or how to do it…other than following some inappeasable inner guide. That. Will. Not. Let. You. Go!

The angel and the whore. Everyone has the capacity to make art. And in any world I would want to live in, that would happen. No one should be denied the opportunity, the exposure to the art of the past—from all cultures and traditions! So I don’t stand in judgment. There can be no just gatekeepers in this utterly corrupted capitalist, colonialist world.

But is everyone afflicted by this … “aspiration?” Is it no more than market ambition, in the guise of a wish for an impossible posterity? Or momentary “fame?” … better called, notoriety? Or only those of my generation… still infected with something we can’t possibly describe or understand in these new conditions?

All I can say is… I would never give up whatever craziness or neurosis I’m burdened with, no matter what inflictions that might entail—if it meant, no longer being able to make art. Poetry. Literature.

Alma can find someone else to fuck.

Ari Figue’s Cat: blurb from review

This review will be released in the summer issue of Forward Reviews, by Barbara Nickels.  Still in editing stages for now, but here are a few lines.

An experiment in poetic prose, nonlinear scenes, and even font style, …

Ari Figue’s Cat is Jacob Russell’s deep, perplexing novel of finding love in the least
likely of places,.. its complexity will either enthrall or completely alienate readers. But for those who enjoy experimental literature, this book will entertain.

Overall, a very positive review. This is an honest appraisal. It’s not Establishment Literary Fiction. I would have been mortified had she thought it was. It seems that the reviewer found it a challenge, and a satisfying one. I couldn’t be more pleased.

Ari Figue’s Cat can now be pre-ordered in digital from from Smashwords.

Broken Sidewalks


While I love to get out of the city and enjoy what people call, nature–it’s not my inspiration for making art. I have no interest in doing landscapes. Rather, I love broken sidewalks, weathered wood and concrete–patterns and colors that invite my eyes to linger and explore. That was what led me back into making art–gathering trash for assemblages.
I want my work to be like that for others–inviting the eye for an excursion, mostly undiverted by words, word-thoughts: a tactile, sensual, essentially visual experience.

This morning I finished what I hope will be the first of a series of sidewalk paintings, drawings, and prints. I also covered another half dozen older pieces with gesso, ready to paint over them with new work.

Of my accumulated work, I’ve been sorting them out. Those that have helped lead me where I want to go, and I feel are fairly strong, I’ll keep–and offer to people for supporting contributions. Those that have some merit, but turned out to be experiments that pointed in the wrong direction, I’ll give away–leave them in front of A-Space or on the street. Those that are weaker, and don’t represent what I want, I’ll paint over or destroy.

This is proving to be quite liberating. .

Shakespeare on GMO’s


There is an art which in their piedness shares
With great creating nature.
POLIXENES Say there be; 105
Yet nature is made better by no mean
But nature makes that mean: so, over that art
Which you say adds to nature, is an art
That nature makes. You see, sweet maid, we marry
A gentler scion to the wildest stock, 110
And make conceive a bark of baser kind
By bud of nobler race: this is an art
Which does mend nature, change it rather, but
The art itself is nature.

Polixenes in A Winter’s Tale, Act IV

You Don’t Have to Be Crazy to Be an Artist… just maybe more than a little neurotic?


Time to wrap it up for the day. I missed the bloodroot this year in my spring walk in Morris Park. Gone already.
But I started working on a painting–a series I hope– that I’ve been thinking about since I started making stuff again. Broken concrete sidewalks.
So far–it’s like nothing I’ve seen before. I need to do some sketches. If I were to set up an easel (I won’t), and be drawing someplace in public, peeps would come by and look, and say… wha the fuck is that? And I’d point down to where they were standing.
All of my considerable neurotic tendencies are concentrated and intensified in my making … “art.” Not in the doing it, while I’m doing it. But before and after. My only escape is to keep working on stuff.
Note: I said “stuff” … not “art.” Except in scare quotes. Evidence for above.
I really do wish it were possible … to do nothing else.

But not in this world.

G’night comrades!

Making Art: The Multiplying Fractals of Uncertainty


Have been feeling that I have a problem I need to solve, but I don’t know what the problem is. Too much like everything I turn my thoughts to. But it centers in my making art because that touches on everything else–all inclusive. Yet if ask myself, in what way or form, I come up blank because at the root of that part of the problem is the sense that making art is without any meaning or importance I can think of or articulate, multiplied by the conviction that this is in itself, unimportant and the making of art should be sufficient–but isn’t, because we live in such a fucked up world doing so much hurt to one another and our fellow creatures and anything close to ‘art for art’s sake,’ or as ‘personally sufficient therapy’, is so wrong, undermining the very generative source of the creative imagination–which leaves me with this compulsion to keep making art with no idea why or where it’s going or what it’s for, and believing that it’s not necessary to know that, and yet it is, very much so.
Something like that goes through my mind every time I finish a piece and ask–is this what I wanted? Did this piece answer the need I felt to make it, or did it fail that need? And of course, it always fails the need, so I have to sort what that failure consists of, which part is aesthetic, and which i can address in the next thing I take up, and which parts belong to this other multiplying fractal of of uncertainty I feel compelled to solve.