I was going over a Lifeprint ASL lesson, and was stopped cold with an imaginary question… I mean, question that only an act of imagination would answer.
I heard a voice when I read when I was a kid–maybe because i learned to read sitting on my aunts lap when she read to me–it was not my voice, it was the voice of the book.
Some who has never heard, learns to read English (or other language) as a second language. Reading, at first–for a native signer, would be translation from sign–until they were fluent readers.
This is what I was trying to imagine–what form do the written words take, when you have never heard them? Deaf readers achieve a reading, and writing fluency well beyond any that what it’s like, when one is first learning to read a second language–it’s not translation. But what then is the relation to signing?
This is a startling thought… that there must really me, comprehension that is meta-language–meaning, that finds itself in word, or signs, but it is not identical with word or sign. A primacy of meaning before language.
Why does this seem so incredible to me?
Maybe because it suggests a language beyond language, that underlies other forms of communication–in particular– all of the arts.
11″ x 11″ Acrylic, Ink. Brush and pen.
A tribute to graffiti artists–whose art is mated to destroying the value of property. The capitalist, Gallriest-Gatekeepers, and their non-profit mural arts sidekicks, try to defang them, prettify them, sell them to investors, but they slip out the door of the Great Western Art Narrative, to appear again on walls above the street–nameless as ninja warriors.
Paint this over fascist Rizzo’s face on 9th Street!
View more work at SaatchieArt, and on my web portfolio here ART BY WILLARD For photos on this blog, click MY ART on the right panel and scroll down.
11″ x 15″ Watercolor, ink.
Artists as diverse as Pollock, Klee, Rauschenberg and Piranesi in his Prison etchings–as well as most two dimensional art before the Renaissance– use a dispersed visual field, rather than focal point composition. This is characteristic of most of my work, as well. In focal point composition, there are one or more fixed points, or centers, which invite the eye to radiate out, placing the rest of the field in relation to each specific point of view. In a dispersed field, there are no fixed points, but rather a network of pathways, like organic rhizomes, inviting the viewer to wander freely through the visual field.
#778 follows the text. 22″ x 26″ Acrylic on stretched canvas.
Subjectivity in judging art. How does one judge one’s own work?
I see ‘the viewer,’ not as singular, but as a collective–a whole cultural constellation filtered through each individual, so while each sees as an individual, we also see through the eyes and mind lent to us by their culture, in a particular historical moment.
Subjectivity is complex and inclusive, which means it’s possible to develop our capacity to make judgements, which, while not being “objective,’ are much larger than what one usually means by “subjective.” Such judgements are not fixed verdicts–as they change (or rather, what they point to changes), as culture changes, but good critics–rare as they are–know this.
John Berger. Hubert Damisch.
My question speaks to this. In assessing the value of one’s work, doesn’t there cling to our judgement, a remnant of belief (trust, would be a better word)… that we are able to discern a value that is not so limited, that is not chopped and diced into disconnected individual ‘subjectivities,’ the way we are taught to see ourselves in late capitalism, value and meaning that is inclusive, an emergent vision of some part of what it means to be human in the world?
The teleological endpoint for art is always NOW, a NOW of eternal becoming that will never arrive.
Thinking, how so much art criticism and theory exists in a secularized teleological framework, drawn from Christian theology, but which has no endpoint but the present.
Three (toward a personal aesthetics)
I stood for a time letting my eyes take in the zinnias in bloom. Took them in. Into my body, into the structure of my cells, the chemistry of my body. I let my gaze fly easily from one to another, like the insects, the little flies disguised as bees, from flower to flower, to the leaves that embraced them in their green cloak—returning again and again to an orange blossom that drew me to it. This will be a painting, I thought, but not a painting anyone would recognize as zinnias. It will be a painting that I will make with my eyes, guiding brush or pen, moving from point to point on the page. It will be a painting those little bee-flies will help me make. We will make it together: flowers, bees, the fold of green, the press of my feet on the sidewalk telling me it was time again. Time returned, telling me to move on. Till the next time.
The art work is an eidolon. It exists in the memory and experience of those who have seen the object that engendered it. It is not the physical object. The eidolon is as powerful as the number of people who have viewed, read or heard it, and carry it with them. The power of the eidolon is that of a shaper. It alters and shapes perceived reality. Its power is cumulative and collective.
The artist views a face, a garden, a city street, patterns in broken pavement, an image in a dream: hears tone and timber in a voice, birdsong, wind: feels in their own body how bodies move — or all of this and more in the torrent of words that surround them. This is the compliment of what might become the eidolon, but is not yet. It is, for now, only a private vision, a kind of pain, unease, something that does not want to remain private, where it will become a disease, a symbiant that may fade and die—or kill its carrier… or find voice and body, form and duration in the thing we misname, as ‘art.’ It first becomes the eidolon as the artist takes it in, standing aside even as they make it, to see, listen, move beside it as it moves from their body, into what its becoming. The artist may feel this as healing—but what it heals, what it saves them from, is the unborn thing, the art that found no becoming in the world, where it gathers power and being in the view of others.
Once you understand the history of this country–whole shelves of American fiction, and great collections of American painting, become unbearable.
I think about this when I try to understand my almost exclusive turn to abstraction, and my resistance to representative art–even though that’s what my education prepared me to do.
It’s not my call to portray the lives of black people, or “first nations’ ( I like the Canadian term), and I don’t see any crying need to paint white people! Abstraction for me embodies a voice of resistance, of protest. Both a choice, and an act of self denial: a rejection of the world I see around me. A turn to landscape, or nature painting is no better–simply another kind of denial… unless I painted toxic dumps, industrial wastelands. I lean in that direction with my Recyclations (trash assemblages).
Walking thoughts… ideas come to mind, walking here and there and back: to the el, the wine store, to the Fresh Grocer. Sometimes they kick off something that comes back to me. A couple days ago, I was thinking about artists—not ART, artists. About making a living (or at least, paying for art materials), in a capitalist system, when one is a confirmed, convicted, solidarity-convinced anti-capitalist. And it occurred to me, that one could look at the problems through the lens of class—that the structures and machinery of class reproduce themselves on particular strata, and this seemed particularly helpful to me in understanding what artists deal with.
The connecting point in these thoughts, was meritocracy—how, because class is not like castes, frozen across generations for all time, but somewhat permeable, it’s easy to ignore how class, in itself, is as unchanging as an South Asian caste system. That individuals are able to climb the ladder, does nothing to overthrow the range of beliefs that justify class inequalities for those who benefit from them, or to offer serious challenge to the ideologies that use those beliefs.
What beliefs? The ‘natural’ superiority of men… (white men), is way up there at the top: patriarchy and Euro-Anglo-American racism–used to excuse, what otherwise would make what capitalism, colonialism, slavery, have done, and continue to do, to the mass humanity, intolerable. What does that have to do with, meritocracy? With art? With the capitalist class system?
Capitalism creates, maintains, and perpetuates inequality. All the way back to the Adam Smith, this has been acknowledged, and because it so flies in the face of the most minimally developed sense of justice, is addressed in all the ideological variants that would defend and promote capitalism. For Adam Smith—it was the Invisible Hand, which, (grossly misused since) would correct the worst abuses, and prevent capitalism from becoming what it has, in face, become. But nothing has been more useful, or done greater violence, the social Darwinism and eugenics. Here was the perfect foil, the perfect answer, to justify belief in the inferiority of the masses, and if an individual here and there, rose up and proved themselves superior to their birth—the genetic mythology perfectly accounted for it, and supported those who would protect the superior races and individuals, while justifying their suppression, and attempts to control, or better, if they proved less than useful and docile–eradicate the untermenchen.
How perfectly the Art World recapitulates this! With its gallery to investor pipeline, a gatekeeper system, meant to identify the Elite, and (hopefully) erase from memory, if not from life itself all the outsiders! Women! Blacks! Colonials! A Patriarchal system (where are the women from how many generations past?) Where are non-Euro artists and their work, but as appropriated by the (even if late-acknowledged) Masters? There is such thing, as ART, let alone, an “Art WORLD!” … if it is not as varied and multiple as there are worlds and peoples! If it doesn’t crash through and DESTROY the gatekeepers and their system!
Those were my walking thoughts… how, I asked myself. .how is it possible, for anyone who calls THEMSELVES an artist—to accept this system? To define their idea of ‘success’ by it’s terms? To not throw themselves into the struggle to create—to IMAGINE… as artists do.. a new and better world?
I sat outside A-Space for almost 4 hours. Maybe three people stopped to more than glance at my art. I thought about that post on the time one needs to see, to actually see, a work of art.
More specifically, I was thinking about Joyce’s “ineluctable modality of the visible.”
Who cares, right? but there I was, sitting in the sun, what else did I have to waste my time on?
The visible became words for Joyce. What I was thinking about, was the visible in art that remains in the ‘modality of the visible.”
This is what I do, what I seek out, what I work for in my art–the power of the visible to grasp the attention of the eye, to guide and to reward exploration that has no need to become symbol, message, exhortation or story. Useless.
There I was, useless. Old man trembling in my own private thoughts and anxieties. With my useless art, refusing to allow any meaning beyond the visible to be pried lose from the visible. A vision quest, of no use to the world.
So sad at the loss of John Berger. I would so love to have been able to meet, and talk and… just spend time, mull shit over with him. So few… like, almost none… of those who write about art, or even those who DO it… when it comes to thinking, and talking about it… who I feel like… get it.
Capitalism–and who got this better? –fucks up our minds–as artists. There is no model for what constitutes ‘success’ for an artist in this capitalist world, no collective model, but … like our art, that which we make for ourselves.
One less now… who did get it.
More alone than ever.
Yesterday I went to Penn Book Center and bought a copy of Landscapes… opened it on the El on the way home… pages flipped to chapter 3. The Basis of All Painting and Sculpture is Drawing.
In March of 2015 I wrote THIS POST
I sat there the rest of the way home… and felt like John Berger was there beside me… holding my hand.