art


Random quote of the day:

“When we wake up in the morning we are inspired to do some certain thing and we do do it. The difficulty lies in the fact that it may turn out well or it may not turn out well. If it turns out well we have a tendency to think that we have successfully followed our inspiration and if it does not turn out well we have a tendency to think that we have lost our inspiration. But that is not true. There is successful work and work that fails but all of it is inspired.”

—Agnes Martin, “On the Perfection Underlying Life,” lecture, Institute of Contemporary Art, February 14, 1973

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Key and Peele, Celine Dion, or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

We’ve all probably had a number of things in our lives that made us go “huh.” I know I have. I embraced the weird some time back, and even though I always try to find logical explanations before accepting anything para-weird, there is always going to be stuff that skirts the edge of rational and . . . other.

I was remembering one such incident this morning—nothing earth-shatteringly strange or even very exciting but odd, nonetheless, and it set off a whole chain of memories of the place I grew up in. It happened when I was about thirteen at our old house in Venice, the one I grew up in, which was in itself a strange place full of odd corners and unusual atmospherics. We lived on a huge lot with a big house on the front of the property occupied by our landlady. There was a yard in between her house and ours—a little ramshackle place with four front doors because its basic structure was four beach cabins strung together to make a house. (Beach cabins: those things from the early 20th century set up on the sand where people would go to change out of their street clothes and into swimwear so that they didn’t have to immodestly walk from their vehicles to the shore in “scanty” clothing.)

A prodigious backyard sat behind our little house in which my father grew a legendary vegetable garden every year and a large but very old and dilapidated shack at the very back of the southwest corner of the lot where my father kept tools and such. It hadn’t seen paint in centuries, it seemed like, the wood chipped and splintered and that wonderful grey barnwood patina people pay big money to acquire these days. Between the back of the shack and the next property over (a dairy processing plant) was a passageway about five feet wide. My father had put trellis up on the shed back there and grew banana squash, letting them crawl up the trellis rather than spread across the ground. I liked to sit back there in the summertime because it was always cool, even on the hottest days, and smelled loamy and of growing green things. It was one of many small, urbanized sacred combes I had on that property—but not a perfect spot.

We had the dairy processing plant to contend with, for one thing. Just across from the growing banana squash was a two-foot high concrete boundary marker topped by an enormous chain link fence—at least twenty feet high—that spread the length of the back end of our property. The fence was loose enough at the bottom that I could push it inward and sit on that concrete ledge to stare at and smell the growing things, wiggle my toes in the loamy earth, and think my solitary thoughts. Just the other side of the fence on the dairy property was a massive ice freezer and ice crusher machine. Again, it was at least 15-20 feet high, but seemed larger because the boundary marker was part of an elevation of the land between our property and the dairy. It towered, to say the least. Another fence sat behind the southern end of the thing, as well. A very narrow passageway ran the length of this monster, maybe three feet wide at most. A grown person would have had to walk sideways to go back there. There was a long freezer compartment (maybe 30 feet?) which held big blocks of ice, and on the front end a platform and some ice crushing machines. The dairymen hauled out these blocks of ice, crushed them (usually at about 3 a.m.), and loaded it into bags so they could pack their trucks (parked along the northern length of our property) and keep their dairy products cool while they made their early morning deliveries.

(The ice crusher was also part of a harassment campaign because the dairy wanted to force our neighbors and our landlady to sell the property cheap so they could gobble up the entire block—but that’s a separate story. Suffice to say, it didn’t work because we were all extremely stubborn and adaptable poor people.)

Anyway, I was in the backyard proper one day, lying on the grass the other side of the garden, reading (though I don’t remember the book) but also feeling restless. That kind of restless that’s like an itch just beneath the skin? A disease common in early adolescence, I believe. I put the book down wondering what I could do with that restlessness when I became aware of—how to put this?—another consciousness inside my brain. Yeah, I know. I’ve only experienced such a thing a few times in my life, mostly in connection with premonitions, but it’s a very distinct feeling. A restless itch of the mind, if you will. It was telling me to get up and go behind the shed to my sacred spot and if I did, something would happen. There would be a gift there for me. It scared me, frankly. I remember thinking that I didn’t want to be kidnapped by aliens or other things, but the consciousness was reassuring and insistent. So I got up, walked through the garden, and behind the shed.

I stood there a minute thinking, “Okay, I’m here, now what?” I walked down to the end of the passage where our property ended and the low fence of our southern neighbor started. I turned around and looked back the way I’d come but . . . nothing. Then I glanced to my left. Lying on the ground, just the other side of the chain link fence, was a black, leather-bound notebook, maybe 6×4 inches. It looked brand new so I reached under the loose links at the bottom of the fence and pulled it through. It was a spiralbound notebook and full of crisp, new ruled paper—and completely blank. No writing inside, nothing to identify an owner. Like I said, an adult would have had to walk sideways along the passage beside the ice crusher, and this notebook was deposited at the very end of the freezer compartment about a foot from the other fence that ran behind the monster. It wasn’t something someone could have dropped from the platform. They would have had to purposefully sidle down that passage for it to be there. It’s entirely possible that someone could have slithered down there to take a secret whizz (although why go so far?) or maybe someone came back there to spy on our and our neighbor’s property (given the underhanded nature of the dairy owners) but . . .?

I dunno. All I know was that I was delighted with the notebook. Although I had known I wanted to be a writer since the second grade, I was flailing around about it at that stage of my life and getting a lot a flak from my mother about how impractical my expressed career goal was and what a foolish dream and etc. That notebook seemed like an important piece of encouragement to me at the time. I wrote a lot after that, despite discouragement. I’ve never really stopped, although I have had a couple of bouts of prolonged writers’ block wherein that restless itch beneath the skin became agonizing. Writing has always been the cure for that.

And remembering this incident also reminded me of something I encountered recently in my reread of Patrick Harpur’s Daimonic Reality:

I have long thought of my art (any art, all art) as an act of worship—or if that’s too strong a word, an act of gratitude and devotion. To whom? The Universe for giving me this means of scratching that itch? Maybe. It doesn’t even matter if it’s good art or bad, whether or not you’re acknowledged publicly in galleries or publishing houses and the like, the act of doing of art shows the Universe that you have the passion and the practice of that devotion. The doing is the important part. That’s why I’m an emotional wreck when I’m not doing that work and why I’m always supremely grateful when it comes back to me.

That notebook long ago was something of a talisman. I may still have it buried somewhere around here, though I haven’t seen it in years. But like any talisman it was good for the time in which it came to me and lasted as long as I needed to look on it and be encouraged. It was indeed a gift, whether from the Universe, some mysterious being, or from some random dude taking a whizz out behind the ice crusher.

Review (plus a personal note): Round in Circles: Poltergeists, Pranksters, and the Secret History of Cropwatchers by Jim Schnabel.

Mr. Schnabel wrote this book in the 1990s, an American post-graduate student living in England and specializing in science writing. He himself turned hoaxer after studying the phenomena and, more closely, those caught up in the excitement of the phenomena. What I really liked about this book is that he manages to show the parade of human folly and the will to believe—the need to believe—without being mean-spirited. There’s plenty of understated humor, but mostly he allows people to display their nature in their own words. He captures the awe while still showing the painful and hilarious lengths people will go to protect their pet theories (and continue to get media attention and earn dollars, to boot). Even when these theories are debunked, some still can’t let go, resorting to conspiracy theories and black magic tales to save face.

The book demonstrates, although this was probably not Mr. Schnabel’s intent, how Trickster manipulates us all. Whether that trickster is embedded in human psychology or an outside force I will leave to others to decide for themselves. Mr. Schnabel admits that there is something mysterious at work which compels people to go into the fields and make pictograms and other ephemeral art in the secret dead of night. He does quite a nice job of evoking that mystery and compulsion. And when something genuinely unexplainable happens—a tractor driver caught on film being buzzed by a mysterious metallic orb comes to mind—Mr. Schnabel doesn’t shy away from showing it and doesn’t try to explain things away with strained rationalization. Even if the vast majority of these circles are hoaxes, he allows wiggle room, a tacit suggestion that perhaps a few may have some other explanation. The cropwatchers, however, are so caught up in their own theories that it’s an all or nothing for them. Mr. Schnabel lets us draw our own conclusions, and one of those is that many of the cropwatchers were missing out on a much grander mystery: that of the human imagination.

A Personal Note

I admit: I drank the Kool-Aid back in the day. I was swept up in the wonder and awe of the crop circles. To this day, even accepting the hoaxing, even after decades of serious disenchantment with the New Age, one of my regrets is that I missed seeing this formation by only two weeks:

Formed in July, it was harvested in mid-September, and I was at Silbury Hill in late September. I didn’t find out that I’d missed it until I was already back in the States.

But my awe didn’t need to actually witness one of these for myself to be caught up in the sensation of it all. Especially after this beauty appeared in a field near Alton Barnes in 1990 (a village I visited in 1988) and was broadcast all over the world:

The phenomena was evolving! The messages were getting more complex! I even incorporated a part of this one in some of the artwork I was making at the time:

And therein hangs a tale. Because it turns out most of the crop circles were all about art. Doug Bower and Dave Chorley, two 60-somethings, finally came forward and admitted they had started the craze and were doing circles as far back as the 70s “for a laugh” and for the pure joy of making large folk art in the fields. They never claimed to have made all the circles, although the newspaper that broke the story said they did, but D&D showed it was possible to hoax even the complex shapes that crop circle aficionados claimed (and still claim, some of them) could not have been done by the hand of man.

And that’s what catches Schnabel himself up in the hoaxing craze: the pure joy of being out in the English countryside in the darkness and making something bigger, grander, more magical than his individual self. And therein hangs another tale. These lovely things don’t need to be made by UFOs or earth spirits or fairies because all of those things live inside us, we complexly-layered human beings who often respond emotionally to things our intellects can’t grasp entirely. Trickster ties threads to our hands and feet, making us dance in the fields with crop stompers and think it’s all our idea.

Sure, it’s our idea. On the surface. But beneath the swirled grain of our imaginations lies a whole chthonic realm where other forces call the dance.

The Crop Circles

Round and round in a circle,
but not a circle: a cipher—
blank, yet potent with meaning,
universal and profoundly personal.
Each eye that falls on the corn
sees their own life rippling
through the wind in the fields:
their deceit, the circles deceit;
their pain, the circles pain;
their joy, their sorrow,
their wonder and fear
all caught in the circles’ round
and etched in the corn.
And what is the true meaning
of the patterns in the fields?
Only the same meaning
that each day brings:
I know that I do not know.

—PJ Thompson

(If any of you are interested in seeing more of that metalwork piece, I’ve put the pictures beneath the cut.)

(more…)

Random quote of the day:

“Art is magic, emancipated from the lie of being truth.”

—Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia (tr. Dennis Redmond)

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Key and Peele, Celine Dion, or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

Random quote of the day:

“The doodle is the brooding of the hand.”

—Saul Steinberg, quoted in Saul Steinberg by Harold Rosenberg

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Key and Peele, Celine Dion, or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“I believe that art puts down its roots into the deepest hiding places of our nature and that its action is akin to the action of certain delving plants, comfrey for instance, whose roots can penetrate far into the subsoil and unlock nutrients that would otherwise lie out of reach of shallower bedding plants.”

—Jeanette Winterson, “Writer, Reader, Words,” Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Key and Peele, Celine Dion, or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“We do not escape into philosophy, psychology, and art—we go there to restore our shattered selves into whole ones.”

—Anaïs Nin, “The New Woman,” In Favor of the Sensitive and Other Essays

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Key and Peele, Celine Dion, or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“We must surrender the idea that this perfection that we see in the mind or before our eyes is obtainable or attainable. It is really far from us. We are no more capable of having it than the infant that tries to eat it. But our happiness lies in our moments of awareness of it.”

—Agnes Martin, lecture, Institute of Contemporary Art, February 14, 1973

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Key and Peele, Celine Dion, or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 


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I finally got around to reading my thank you and goodbye email from Elizabeth Warren. It made me just as sad as I thought it would.
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Clearly, I need to get out more. I’m watching a show on the search for Queen Boudicca’s treasure and I just yelled at the TV, “Boudicca’s booty!” Somebody help me.
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Mike Bloomberg on Super Tuesday: “Please, sir, can I have Samoa?” #DickensPuns
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No matter how much you do in your life there will always be people who say it isn’t enough. So do what you can and realize that most mortals have to choose their battles.
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Certain songs always make me start doing my very bad Billie Holiday impression. (And I always resent it when other singers try to do these songs because, dammit, they belong to Billie.)
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Yep, the three tones in E10 of Hellier S2 still make me nauseated and anxious even after 5 watchings. And when episode 10 finished Amazon suggested I watch A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.
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We had a squirrel living in the yard for many years that we nicknamed Twofer because he would come up and take a peanut out of our hands, shove it into his cheek and reach up so you’d give him another one. And we always did.
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Disabled people aren’t included in most emergency evacuation plans. I found this out when I could no longer easily walk down 3 flights of stairs from my office for evacuation drills. “Stay at your desk & someone will get you after everyone else is out.” Using a cumbersome evacuation chair that the one time we tried it no one knew how to operate.
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What my VRS thinks of this election: “Doesn’t matter who I want to be president, if Bernie is the eventual nominee he’ll get my boat.” It’s a leaky boat but whatever.
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I attempted to read a book by Louis L’Amour in the last couple of days but I have failed in that attempt. The writing was just so clunky I very soon ceased to care about the resolution of the mystery and consigned it to the recycle bag. Go ahead, call me a snob, I don’t care.
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We always walk beside the Veil, but most times we choose to look straight ahead.
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Big brother with a kink? The alarm went off to tell me to take my chicken out of the oven and I said “I’m coming.” (Because doesn’t everyone talk to their alarms?) And the Google speaker on my phone said “That’s good.”
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One of the web crawlers that shows up frequently on my Statcounter account is China Unicom, but I ALWAYS read it as China Unicorn.
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I was watching Vienna Blood on PBS and they had a corpse lady laying out naked on a slab with boobs on full display. Later, they had a live lady with boobs on display but blurred them out. So I guess on PBS dead boobies are okay but live boobies are not okay to show. Go figure.
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I whine, therefore I art.

Random quote of the day:

“The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life….This is the artist’s way of scribbling ‘Kilroy was here’ on the wall of the final and irrevocable oblivion through which he must someday pass.”

—William Faulkner, The Paris Review, Issue 12, Spring 1956

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Key and Peele, Celine Dion, or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

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