Where the Paint Don’t Dry

An abstract painting
looked at my kid
and said, “I could do that.”

The conscious mind is trained by nature to seize upon the world and make sense of it. Alas, poor conscious mind!

An Abstract Expressionist spun her palette on a lazy Susan in the dark, like the chamber of a revolver in a game of Russian roulette. It spins and slows to a halt and she begins work. She jabs at the hapless canvas in knowing ignorance of the colors and deliberate non-concern for the emerging abstract forms. The close air sustains the poisonous cadmium vapors and smell of linseed oil. The blackness of the studio like pitch, a dead end in an abandoned coal mine. She executes the work in total darkness.

The painting completed, unseen even by its creator, is quickly sealed in a steel box welded shut. Whisked away to a deep sea fishing charter, it is motored out to sea and hoisted overboard, deposited in the Atlantic by an uncredited boat captain. It makes an ominous sploosh in the salty waves, which is recorded in digital audio for the exhibition, and disappears into the murky depths, bye bye. Fare well, unseen painting! Godspeed!

Take this image for no one’s eye
And stick it where the paint don’t dry

On opening night of the exhibition, the sploosh recording is looped in a darkened, empty room. The guests are asked to stop sipping their wine for a moment and imagine what the painting looks like. An explosion of faux-abstract imagery mushrooms up from the collective unconscious, a glorious, swirling mess of non-objective visions mixing with the ambient sounds of cleared throats and cocktail chatter. The critics bubble over with enthusiastic reviews. The conundrum of the unknown as a medium of expression: the mind is the commodity! It helps to be in the know on these matters, one supposes.

Time passes. Things are forgotten. Fare well, time! Godspeed, forgotten things!

At the retrospective decades later, a well trained docent at the MOMA will explain it all to a bedazzled couple from Topeka while the subtle energy waves from the artist’s original thoughts continue to propagate out into the blackness of outer space, bye bye. Fare well, original thoughts! Godspeed, conceptual art!

-:-

This bit originally appeared here September 3, 2016

Still Life

that still life painting
in the hallway irks me a little
with its confidence, its sense

of fulfillment, its dubious claim
that things can outrun the madness
and simply come to rest

on the wall next to the thermostat
the attic folding-stairs pull cord
dangles before it, a record of

movements court-martialed to a halt
illumination caught in the act
all brushed to a standstill, aloof

colors like subway strangers, everything
composed with a brushy carelessness
fronting a thumb-bumbled whimsy

of basket spills, lemons, tangerines
rolling all over the place, though somehow
settling to, actors in their places

staged in a frame, of the golden ratio
like a postcard from your cultured aunt
who’s accidents, even, seem a little elegant


The first six lines are lifted (and modified) from my piece ‘it’s still here’.

Pipe

a truly original work
would not be recognized as art
and language cannot begin to function
without tapping the manifold intents
of its every instance
from the first lowbrow grunt
to the last ephemeral buzzword
creation implies something springing from nothing
a nonstarter, a hat trick beyond
the scope of even a heavenly godcraft

The stupider it looks, the more important it probably is.
—J. R. “Bob” Dobbs

Slurry

The Artists Of Altamira, arthinks (blog)


hypnotic slurry of brilliance and
stupidity, compassion and acute heartlessness
and endless demagoguery
these ancient cave paintings

these wartime leaflets
these political campaigns
this social network
this us, this me

eyeteeth

what take, a guess
your eyes signal something
I am sure I misunderstand (something)

deeply withheld, or lightly held
a joke, a prank maybe
crackling pinwheels, air

confined to the corridors of use
dissatisfaction is endemic
and so they rebel

somewhere in the body
of this dancing dervish this
sometimes lived life

a quiet fever, the curfew
nets a dozen of the little buggers
eyeteeth of our culture

Wall

flagday

the real wall is already built
separating American ideals
from her realities


Back during the Reagan era, I had told my sister (she voted for him) that I could see this country devolving into a banana republic if the wealthy keep treading this path of blind greed. She looked at me like I was insane. I wasn’t but, by golly, I’m getting there. I made this graphic back during the W. years, clearly harboring similar concerns. (The keyboard is there in case anyone wants to bang out a honky-tonk requiem.)