Hannah, Dante, and I had dinner last night. Just the three of us sitting at one of our tables in the front room of the studio. It was the most relaxing Thanksgiving I've ever experienced. Focusing on that precise moment, the actual feast itself, to the exclusion of anything else.
The three of us have set up our little world inside a world inside a world, etc. Comparable to the smallness of an atom, with its fused compaction.
We're open to all, but it keeps returning to just the three of us. Each has had a series of mates, lovers, spouses, best friends, and so forth. (Hannah is the only one who has never married). But they come and go. Yesterday they've all gone. Leaving us intact, at ease, cheerful.
"In previous Thanksgivings here in LA the mood was different," I said. "I often had the feeling that we had a lot to do before catching up with some people. That we were a little behind. Not as together. Not in the best position. Nor as solid and sure of ourselves. But today I don't feel that way."
That was my little opening speech. I think we've all made advances.
"We're all working," Dante said. "And making art."
This is true. It might account for our relative peace-of-mind. And growing confidence. It wasn't always this way.
Hannah has had several short stories published lately, one right after the other. And has also developed another branch of her writing, using her new work as a source of material. She is sitting on 150 pages of a very troubling story of the death of young woman. Hannah is a highly credible writer.
Dante has nearly mastered the design and manufacturing of tables. Dining tables, and large conference tables. They are selling very quickly at good prices. And it's allowed her to begin creating stand-alone works of art. Paintings and sculpture. She recently made her first silkscreen.
I keep plugging away. The newest art is my best art, and people all agree.
But one thing we all feel compelled to admit. We are becoming more able, more passionate about our work and we are all single. And dealing with it.
We are forced to admit that love and ambition can't happen simultaneously. We've tried that and it hasn't worked. Not that it's impossible. But up until this point...not for us. In the future, who knows?
"That time in Seinfeld when George said he can't imagine ever having sex again," Dante said. "I can imagine having sex again, but I can't imagine ever being in a relationship again."
"I know what you mean. A relationship. Like when Judith and I would go to a flea market on Sunday and buy things for our home. That to me is what I think a relationship amounts to. Building a world together. It feels like something I've already done. Something in the past."
Hannah could see herself having sex again and also entering a relationship. But she hated the thought of becoming jealous. Jealousy was ghastly, unbearable. For her. A deal-breaker.
"Just accept it," Dante said. "Where there's love, there's jealousy. It's the price you pay for love."
I don't recall where I came across this saying, but it's been on my radar for decades. A blinking yellow light. When all the golden sap dries up from your inner self it's time to get your papers in order and prepare to blast off for the next world.
This photo was taken a few days ago by Dante. It was originally a brief video, but she cut a frame out and sent it to me. I've received several unexpected comments about it.
"Pat, do you always paint this way?"
"It looks like your back would get really sore."
Funny thing, I've never had the slightest problem with back pain. My spine is fine. It bends easily, all day, without complications. (Because I was born in the Year of the Snake?) Everyone has some part of their physical self that they can crow about. I suppose for me it's my back.
"Strong back, weak mind." I think this refers to people who spend their days in manual labor. But art is the highest and noblest form of manual labor.
Also, the business of the floor. People have issues with floors.
"Floors? I love floors. Sitting on them. Laying down on them," Dante said.
"I know. I feel the same way. My Hispanic assistant was the opposite. He hated the floor. Refused to work on it. Must have reminded him of his impoverished life growing up with a dirt floor. Some people are disgusted by floors. Dirty. Gross. Don't touch! Not me. Doesn't phase me."
I like to think that my indifferent attitude toward flooring signifies that I am truly "grounded." I like the earth, mud and all. I am from and of Mother Earth. Rooted. United with the firmest foundation.
The word human is connected with humus, or soil. And even humor. As well as humble.
So a real human is a modest, earthy, being who appreciates a good laugh.
Here is a photo of my grandmother. Her name was Irene Fettgether. She was born in 1895, and this must have been taken around 1913. Her family was from Germany, near Hanover. They arrived in America at the end of the 19th Century. Or so the story goes. It gets murky, possibly because of religion. Part of the line was Catholic and the other Lutheran. Estranged.
People, even non-family members, admire this photo. I can see why. She is beautiful, and reminds me of an angel painted by Leonardo. My brother has the picture framed and placed on one of his tables.
"Hey, who's the babe?" Some guest might ask.
"Oh. That's my grandmother."
She was raised in Dubuque, Iowa, and she and her younger sister might have been the official beauties of that town. Probably why this was taken by a professional.
She married my grandfather McCabe, moved to Davenport, and had six children. After my grandfather died she had their large bed carried out of the room. They'd never spent a night apart during their long marriage.
I still think tenderly of her, and this photograph helps. I wonder if I've ever been with a woman as perfect.
"I've come up with a new idea," I said to Dante. "I doubt if it'll ever become popular. Especially here. But it's something on many people's minds. How to become more attractive."
"Okay. I've given it some thought, too."
"It's simple enough. I could probably turn it into a text painting. Less attracted....more attractive. And it doesn't cost a nickel."
Dante thought for a second.
"It sounds right. I agree."
"When a person is too attracted to someone they want to lunge and grab and almost eat them alive. No one wants to be around that. It's not attractive, even in a person who's otherwise beautiful. It's off-putting."
"Extremely. So when I'm not attracted to a particular man, it makes him more attracted to me. But this doesn't seem like heaven on earth."
"No. But it's not as tragic as you imagine. Instead of being carried away by your desire, you can ask yourself just what is the cause and purpose of this desire. You can refine it, and examine it from different angles. All this searching reflection will reduce the intensity of your attraction."
"I can't just pretend I'm not attracted. Anyone can see through that."
"True. No, it has to become real. But if you clearly understand the implications of your attraction, where they stem from, what their value is, and how it'll affect your total life, all these meditations will help to lessen its fury. You'll end up looking more composed, less scattered and unstable. And that's more attractive."
"It does make sense. There's this guy at the gym. He's exceptionally handsome. All the women go crazy over him. I know he's had at least two very beautiful girl friends. He walks in, never raises his head, always looking down and straight ahead, and goes right to his workout. Refusing to glance for one second around the room. As if nothing about anyone there interests him. No conversation, no curiosity," she paused. "It's highly attractive."
"I can understand that. As soon as I contemplate the pointlessness, the idiocy, of being attracted to this or that woman, and decide to cross them off of my list, they immediately start to think better of me. I can feel it from a distance. It's strange, but it's a fact."
Later on, after dinner, as I was settling in to read a book about the history of spies, my phone rang. It was Gina. I had come to the conclusion that I was not attracted to her. For some rational, well-grounded, undebatable reasons.
"How're things in your life?" she asked.
I explained that everything was good. That Jackie was also recovering, and in Florida.
"I thought you were going to call me."
"I had to deal with some stuff," I answered, not quite sincerely.
"I'd like to get together since I'm here for a few more days."
I said we can see each other today. If I needed more validation of my new concept Gina's phone call was enough.
Sunday is no different than any other day for me. I still paint and think about painting.
Lately Dante takes pictures of me working. I don't notice it until I stop and straighten up. Then I check them out, and tell her which ones deserve a pass. I'm vain about my looks. My daughter is vain about hers, too. My grandson, however, is completely oblivious to such things.
My mother's family had a very high regard for appearances. Physical looks were nearly everything. They admitted it. And they were attractive people. I'll try to find an photo of my grandma McCabe, taken when she was in her late teens. Around 1913. Long ago. My brother put it online yesterday and people raved. She was indeed a beauty.
The earliest photos, from about 1840, required the sitter to hold a pose without moving for about ten minutes. Hard to imagine today. We live in a very jumpy world. And getting jumpier.
Even though we can move around when we're being photographed we still tend to stiffen into iron planks until we hear a click. This is enough to give a strange look to the images. A kind of paralysis. A lifelessness. Photographers have devised a number of tricks to avoid this problem.
I hate photographing people, and the best results for me are individual frames of a video or movie. An individual frame reveals something that the unaided eye can't see. Something about a person that could even be called their hidden side. Their secret self.
I tried to post the seven-second video in this blog but wasn't able to do it. It needs to changed into something. Too much bother. But if you care to see it -- not that it's worth the time -- you can go to IG and check out cloudnoir's page.
Man, I am old. There's no avoiding this brutal fact. Geezerhood. I must sound old. The words I'm typing must betray my age. They must communicate a kind of mustiness, a grayness.
Well, so what? I'm inclined to believe that my writing or my painting defeats aging --- to a point.
I look old but paint young.
(He's prey to this gentle madness. Oh, let him dream, the old fuck.)
It would take a series of essays to deal intelligently with the problem of art and morality. An entire book wouldn't exhaust the topic. Anything written about this could be out of date as soon as it was formed.
Artists are always pushing the envelope. When they abandon this drive they cease being artists. Not that they become criminals, but many have. In some way all art is a crime. Somebody somewhere would love to grab a poet, painter, musician, novelist, or even blogger and throw the alleged miscreant in jail. Artists enjoy breaking taboos of the tribe.
On the other hand, artists are some of the most ethical people around. Most of the ones I know embrace a higher standard than the common run of humanity. Without making a splash about it.
I keep returning to the theme of aesthetic versus ethical. One laid down by Kierkegaard. When I first came across it I felt thumped in the chest. The religious philosopher seemed to suggest that the ethical person must surpass the aesthetic one. As if it's a necessary evolution.
It sounds plausible. Instead of devoting yourself to painting maybe it'd be better if to open an orphanage. Who would argue against that? An obvious either/or dilemma.
Maybe someone could do both. It doesn't have to be war between primary values. They actually fit together smoothly. With a bit of imagination.
Although there are so many shocking examples to the contrary a perfected person could lead to perfected art.
One of the obstacles in realizing this plan: describing art as "good" or "bad." These words belong to another category entirely. Purge them from all discourse about art. Come up with something else.
Last night, before turning in, I took a picture of a few of the books I've read in 2017. They weren't my favorite ones, but I profited by them all. I don't know how many I've actually read this year. I don't keep track. And of these, I only remember the contents of a few.
That's the thing about being a voracious reader: a lot goes in, but only a little sticks. Some of the ones pictured I hardly have any thoughts about. Strange. But others have found a bright spot in my memory.
Most of these I bought from Amazon. Several of them were picked up in a thrift store. All are secondhand. The cheapest ones cost a dollar. The most expensive $17. Generally they run about three or four bucks. Plus four dollars shipping when bought online.
None are valuable. Like signed first editions, or rarities. But I have a few of those, too.
In the background there is a pile of more books. On top sits a football I picked up from a junk store. A collector told me it was an actual game ball from an All-Pro post-season finale. It cost $15. Nothing particularly noteworthy.
Also the books are leaning against some vases. One is very ancient, the other is a Japanese carved wood vase. A handsome item.
The photo was blurry and I boosted the contrast and sharpened it so the titles and authors could be made out. I'd be hard pressed to choose the volume that I learned the most from. Philosophy is one thing, literature another, but both have their superior value. History, too, which is applied truth.
"Forever reading, never to be read." A line of 18th Century poetry that could describe me.
I may not be widely read, but after all, someone is reading this.
And I take what I read and distill it into my paintings. Or try to. So maybe I'm forever reading and making paintings to be seen. It all hangs together.
I've puzzled myself over my own art and the art of others for the longest time. A lot of my questions revolve around the issue of quality. How one thing is better than another. Here is my latest painting. Whoever sees it, if they're familiar with my other pieces, will say this is better than many of them.
I think it is, but as to why that's difficult to say. How one stands out, and others go into the shade. And why so many people almost automatically agree. I've mentioned this topic in the past, and it still mystifies me.
Why humans, in all cultures, in every stage of development, regardless of education or socio-economic status, can tell with unerring accuracy which painting is better than another one.
Is there some innate universal sensitivity to created beauty, originality, or personal expressiveness? Whatever it is it must exist in every reasonable human. Maybe in the irrational types, too.
It argues for a pre-ordained conscious endowment, something deeply embedded in humanity. Art is a sign, a language, that everyone can speak.
Imagine a group of ancient people walking across a land and coming upon some scratchings on a stone. They'd immediately be able to tell whether it was made by an animal or a creature like themselves. The marks would be intentional, revealing a special kind of mentality. They'd debate among themselves. They'd conclude that a human being carved this. Someone like themselves. It may be a warning, a property marker, an invitation, or something else.
If the incisions were parallel lines it might show that game is nearby, and the marks are like knife cuts on an animal's bone. Maybe cuts on a bone are the first stirrings of art. They evoke memories of a feast. Or maybe they're rough illustrations of trees in a forest. Somewhere to hunt.
Whatever the case an object that is deliberately, consciously, meaningfully altered will stop people in their tracks. It's proof they are not alone. That they dwell in a place shared with invisible beings.
Contemporary art still contains traces of this primeval tendency. When people look at an abstract painting they experience in some way that ancient wonder.
One of my favorite philosophers is La Rochefoucauld. An aristocrat who lived in 17th Century France and wrote a series of immortal maxims. Short, pithy observations on life the way it is, rather than how it should be. I constantly quote him, and have done so for nearly 60 years. I once tried to translate him but I don't speak French.
Many of his ideas hold up very well in our own era. One that is mentioned several times: the grand passion. There's no need to translate this phrase into English since it's the same words. The great passion.
Not just passion. But the one key supreme experience in a person's life. As it pertains to romantic desire. (Or at least that is how I see it. Maybe for another it might be wealth, fame, or power.)
Dante is exhausted by her friend's bad luck with men. Becky's been engaged twice in the last two years, and single again.
"How many times will I have to console her? How many relationships can a woman have and still be taken seriously?" she asked.
"Right. It's hard to believe that this last guy was a Grand Passion. I can barely remember his name. And it won't be long before there's another one."
"It seems ridiculous. There've been only a few men in my whole life."
"A novelist can't write a really classically gripping love story about a person having ten different lovers. The book has to portray one or two at the most. If you want to illustrate a grand passion."
"You mean it only happens once to someone?"
"Yes, otherwise it's just an example of ordinary passion, which is something that takes place all the time. But a grand passion stands alone. It has no competition."
"When it's over you can't just move on to the next person and make everything okay."
"Exactly. It's like a near-death experience. A catastrophe of the heart and soul. Something overwhelming. A watershed event. It can slice a life into a before-and-after history."
"So if a guy meets me and I put him off he won't think he can easily find someone else like me, or better."
"No, that attitude is nowhere to be seen. In a grand passion. The person is paralyzed and suddenly understands that he's going to have to be alone. No substitutes exist."
We then discussed people we know. If and when they've had their grand passion. The keenest pleasure and the sharpest pain. All concentrated in the same person.
Maybe some phlegmatic types never experience a grand passion. Or maybe it's something that remains in the future.
I have a small circle of family and friends. I have a wider circle of interests, and have spent my time studying various subjects. I am perhaps jack of all trades, master of none. I know a little about a lot. But never a lot about a lot. Or a lot about a little. This includes making art, which is how I've earned my daily bread.
But certain ideas have risen out of this soup of curiosity. Ideas that tend to sum up my personal style. I get ideas about ideas. That is, your idea sets off a train of my own ideas.
For example, the stupendously widespread use of fantasy. For me fantasy is a blend of imagination and perception. Of clarity and confusion. Dreams and knowledge.
Most of our firmly held beliefs, even things we live and die for, are simply fantasies. But my fantasy appears as real, whereas yours is unreal. Or real to the extent that it's in agreement with mine.
Does it matter whether our fantasies are real or not? It must. This is why we communicate them to others, hoping for a kind of validation. If two people accept a fantasy it's more than a mere fantasy. It's on its way to becoming a group fantasy, and closer to an imaginary reality. If a mass of people all accept the same fantasy it becomes gospel truth. Dogma. Creed. Science.
Such as: religion, government, nationalism, politics, racism, sexism, classism, any particular -ism.
All groups are saturated with fantasy.
But truth is a highly personal experience. Outside of all groups.
A fantasy can evolve to a point where it seeks to destroy everything but itself. It can't tolerate the existence of alien fantasies. Fantasies held by outsiders, by those who question, doubt, deride, and mock, the in-group fantasy.
So what is the best way to deal with this ever-present situation? I'm not sure. Unless you have an irresistible, universally desirable fantasy up your sleeve, it might be wise to just keep silent. To suspend judgment. Or at least refrain from the crazy temptation to call others crazy.
It's almost a cliche: no two things are exactly alike. It can be easily demonstrated. All you need is a pair of eyes. Or an ordinary magnifying glass.
This shouldn't be that hard to understand. But what would be the point of someone making sure that one egg is different from another egg? There's nothing to be gained by this inspection. Just crack them open and make breakfast.
On the other hand, what are the consequences when you closely examine the full meaning of total diversity? Especially when you begin to apply it to people, and to yourself. This could have sweeping ramifications.
For example, I am different than you. The longer I live and meditate on this reality, the more intriguing it becomes.
I am more than a little unlike you. I am supremely unlike you.
We are not equal. Much more than oranges and apples are unequal. Much more than cabbages and kings are unequal.
I am I, and you are you. I am profoundly I, and you are profoundly you. The difference is infinite, immeasurable, everlasting.
Well, if this is accepted, why would anyone worry about being replaced? No one can take my place. My individual spot. My small patch in the sun.
I am unique. Uniquely my unique self. But, again, why fight against this truth? People hunt for reasons. Why are we anxious to demonstrate that we are no different than others? In effect, not unique.
Why when we meet someone we find appealing do we begin to immediately list all the things we have in common? As if that's supposed to draw us closer. And clinch the deal. We "like" each other. Ah, now we can relax.
Could this be the utterly wrong approach? I am unique, and I know it more than ever. If you would like to get to know me the best way would be for you, too, to realize your own uniqueness.
To understand that neither of us are strictly comparable. We are not a good pair. We can never be a pair. Not essentially. Not truthfully. If we pretend we are a "pair" it's only that: pretentious, superficial, misunderstanding.
What happens if each person recognizes their own unique nature, valuing, treasuring, growing, and preserving it? They will then attain the maximum of difference. Between themselves and virtually anything or anyone whatever.
And in discovering their mutual absolute difference -- wonder of wonders -- a new unity will appear. They are united in the purest, most complete, difference. This is the only genuine unity that can exist between one unique and one unique.
A unity that transcends each unique one, and can only exist between a unique one and a unique one. By itself a unique one has only a self-unity, if that.
It was late at night and I received a text from Gina.
"How are you?"
"Oh, fine. And you?"
"Good. I'm in LA."
"We have to get together and catch up."
"Anything new happening?"
"No. But so much can happen when nothing's happening."
"It's true. But at the same time things never change too much. At least that's how I see it."
"Also true, but things can happen and do happen. Such as receiving a phone call an hour ago from Jackie. She just got out of the hospital."
"Oh, no! Is she all right?"
"I hope so. I really don't know. She was in for a week, but never told me. Didn't want to bother me. I must seem like I hate to be disturbed. I need to change."
Yeah, yesterday, even though it started so peacefully and quietly, was full of incident. You never see it coming. You can walk around with your eyes peeled wide open but still end up punched in the mouth.
First of all my nephew showed up at the studio. I haven't see him in over 20 years. He's gone through a lot during then. I've never had a son, but somehow he reminds me of the kind of boy I would have had. Troubled. Battling his demons. Coming out on top. For now. That kind of young man.
"You told me someday I could have a painting."
"Right. I remember. Look around the studio and choose a small one."
He picked out a skull with the word amor printed on it.
Lucky to have had girls. So much less strenuous. So mature in comparison, even when they live a very extended youth.
After writing this I'm going over to Jackie's. She said she hasn't eaten much, so I'll stop by Trader Joe's and grab a sack full of groceries. I can't think of anything else. She doesn't read the same books I read.
When I wake up, especially on Sunday morning, I grab my iPhone and reading glasses and hop back in bed for another hour. I savor not having anything to do. No one showing up at the door. Nowhere to go. Not that other days are that much different.
Dante then sent me a Youtube address: her videos that she shot almost ten years ago to the day. I watched them with a feeling of the power and truth in art.
"Art has a prophetic quality. It's revelational," I texted her.
Her videos have a quiet, calm, lucidity. She doesn't have to raise her voice, or pound on the desk to make her point. That's the thing about truth. It's closer to a whisper than a shout.
I then turned to events of the present. World events, personal events, incidental events, events about other events.
I thought about Nietzsche. And Orwell. And the connection between their ideas. Their consequences. In particular as it effects the lives of those I know. Friends and family. And those who occupy the big stage. Politicians, for example. How it all twists together in a thickening strand.
Neitzsche had this concept about overturning long-established values, even the supreme ones such as truth, beauty, and goodness. He wrestled mightily with this idea, until his mind gave out.
Then Orwell came along and tried to show the devastating results of the later attempts to invert these values.
Today I see so many people struggling with a clunky mixture of contradictory values. It's comical and tragical all at once. An example of the marriage between heaven and hell, and like all such marriages it's a rickety, tottering, confusing, desperate flop.
As I was about to expand on this line of thinking my phone rang and my nephew, who's visiting from Florida, wants to stops by. So this Sunday is apparently not without its interruptions. And just as well. I'd rather be pondering than writing.
I finished these two paintings this week. As anyone can see they're made in very different styles. But each is made by me, and simultaneously. I go from one to the other, placing them on the floor a few feet apart.
I could be a little unusual in this respect. Most artists prefer to remain within a particular style during a particular stage. Why this is so you'd have to ask them.
I also am inclined to stay in one style, but I'm not wedded to the idea. It's no big deal to switch back and forth. As long as they still represent my personal vision. There are other styles that it'd be hard to recapitulate. Like paintings I did fifty years ago.
But I confess that I painted the "Roses and Love" piece for a person. A commission. I wouldn't have done it if I had my way about it. I did it as a favor, and for the money. But it still represents a side of me. It's almost like a valentine. It must express a positive, tender part of my nature. Maybe my feminine side. The genetic endowment from my mother. (Although in fact she was a tough old bird).
The more abstract painting is, perhaps, my masculine side. It's darker, rougher, and more spontaneous. Also, more negative, rebellious, and self-centered. My paternal half.
I suppose I'd have to figure out how to synthesize the two distinct sides, the masculine and feminine, the positive and negative, in order to symbolize the whole person.
It's a dialectical movement: the thesis, followed by the antithesis, and concluding with the synthesis. But not Marxian dialectical materialism. Closer to dialectical psycho-spiritualism.
It's taken many years to get this far. To understand my character development, my total integration, after a necessary phase of positive disintegration.
Is it possible to have different kinds of rhythm within the same organism? For example I have little or no bodily rhythm. My dancing is beyond laughable. Attempts at singing or playing a musical instrument are dreadful.
Watching certain people dance, sing, and strum the guitar or tickle the ivory is very humbling. When the gods passed out these gifts I was nowhere in sight. I can make a bit of headway if I really sweat, but these aptitudes do not come naturally. Not even close.
On the other hand maybe there is a thing called mental rhythm as distinguished from bodily rhythm. Although I've never considered it before I may get a passing grade for such a talent.
I can pass effortlessly from one subject to another. In my speech and also in my writing. And to a lesser degree in my painting and making art.
What is rhythm? Plato defines rhythm as change between fast and slow. That seems simple enough. If you think about it rhythm breaks down to essentially a movement. A pattern of rushing followed by slowing down. Or loud, then soft. Dark then light. The pace of contraries. A wave-like form.
We all know the boredom of monotony, literally. People who murmur in a buzzing hum of words. How it offends the ears. As bad as a loud babbler. Those types who have no rhythm to their speech. And we deduce that their brain is just as lacking.
"McCarthy, you even sound differently," a close friend once said. Not in a flattering way.
He seemed to be referring to the way I speak. I listened to myself on a tape recording and I agreed that he was right. My voice is odd. The patterns and sounds. It's anything but smooth. It has a jerky quality. Hesitant. Halting. Awkward. Hard on most ears.
Yet, I believe I have a rhythmic style of my own. My talk is intimately tied to my working brain. My words are reflected on beforehand and only released when approved. By a combination of my daily self and my adjudicating self.
I accept this. I know other people who speak in a steadily flowing nonchalant stream. But maybe it's because they aren't really valuing, monitoring, and creating what they say. Their words have broken loose from their inner judge. Meaningless patter.
As we were discussing the problems that happen between lovers I mentioned this song to my daughter.
"It's by Connie Francis and was big hit in 1960. It's called "Everybody's Somebody's Fool."
I found it on Youtube and we played it. Just like I remembered.
"I've never heard it before," she said. "I guess that's true. I like it."
"If you've ever loved ---and who hasn't--- you're somebody's fool."
"Somebody's plaything. I'm someone's plaything, but someone could be my plaything, too."
"Of course. We're each a fool for someone, and someone else is a fool for us."
"I may have broken someone's heart, but someone has broken mine."
"Yes. The difference being that we only feel our own broken heart. Our own pain is paramount. We never feel the pain we cause. Not in any appreciable way. I think about this one woman who might still be suffering over me. It seems preposterous. I feel next to nothing. She feels sharp sensations because of me."
"She's your fool."
"And I'm some other woman's fool."
We then went through the list of people we know. Each of them fit into one category or the other. It was so clear to us. But generally not to them. Just as our own foolishness is obvious to our friends, but is hidden from our own eyes.
When we're screwed over by someone it's usually far worse than we realize. We don't have the courage to get to the bottom of the farce. We refuse to see it objectively. Our imagination fails us. Because we want it to fail us. The entire truth is too distressing.
"But I wonder if this is also true. Everybody's somebody's hero. It's the positive version of this human fact of life. Even the saddest loser is admired by someone. No matter how low you go there's someone even lower."
At the beginning of each day my daughter and I discuss life . She arrives at the studio before noon and I stop whatever I'm doing and we have a little talk before getting to work. This has been going on for awhile, since our last gallery in the Fairfax area, where we were business partners.
I guess it goes back even further. Since she was a child. But only when she reached a certain age was I inclined to really tell her how I see things. There's no good reason for not being sincere. Not at this time in our respective lives.
Yesterday we dealt with issues that keep popping up.
"Even when I was in my early twenties I remember asking you why men want to be with women. Why they want to marry them and stay with them," she said.
"It's a good question, and not that easy to answer in any convincing way. A young man probably is inexperienced and does what his friends do. He pairs off in a vaguely conscious way. But later on it's for other reasons."
"Becky texted me last night. She had a big fight with Keith. She came home and all his clothes were gone. He moved out and they haven't spoken since they came back from the trip."
"Well, he's older and been through a marriage. He knows how to end things. He realizes that you can always leave no matter what you promised. Even if you buy a woman an engagement ring."
"So older guys aren't the solution."
"No. They're no better than younger ones. Often they're worse. Not even handsome, and more selfish."
"Women love having boy friends. They'll take almost any guy. But I hardly know any couples who are really happy."
Perhaps it's just the people we're around. Our kind of crowd. But I think it boils down to the formations of power. Putting it somewhat crudely there's purse power and pussy power. It ebbs and flows, and you see it in every relationship between the sexes. And possibly between the same sexes.
Men often control the purse, but it can be opened by pussy. But pussy isn't omnipotent, it has to handle its power just as carefully as purse strings are managed. If pussy is too greedy, too sure of itself, a reaction sets in and the purse snaps shut.
Women can also have purse power and then a man finds himself in a position of having pussy power. This is less common, but it definitely happens.
I thought of the two types of interactive power this morning before I got out of bed. I'll have to see what my daughter thinks of this concept. And how it applies to her life.
Money and sex rule most of human existence. Maybe not the best situation. Not how it ought to be. But how it is.
My brother Mike sent away for our DNA analysis and the results were not that amazing. Primarily (95%) Irish-English, with a smattering of, oddly, Italian-Greek-Jewish. I was miffed to see no German, African, Asian, French, Russian, or Native-American blood. Not even a trace amount.
I began to wonder about the efficacy of these tests. I know for a fact that my grandmother on my mother's side came from Germany, and even read and spoke German as a child. Her last name was Fettgether. She lived to be 97. The sweetest, kindest person I've ever known, with the exception of my other grandmother.
I believe that life evolves dialectically, that is in alternating waves. Children are often more like their grandparents than parents. I sensed a spiritual affinity with my grandparents that was lacking in my parents. Maybe this is more common than thought.
Even if I'm not biologically derived from certain groups that doesn't prevent me from identifying with them. I tend to favor the underdogs of the world. The oppressed minorities. Those who haven't gotten a fair deal.
But also one group who is an oppressed majority, namely women.
For example, I love to swear. To use every forbidden word I know. And have even learned "obscene" terms in foreign languages. Swearing in a tongue you don't speak is very funny. But I hate this word, and never use it: bitch. I notice that it is mainly used by people who have an ax to grind against women.
It's a peculiar fact of this world that men, and even women, hold such negative beliefs and feelings against the female of the species. What stupidity has infected them? What error of thinking?
How is it possible to have any self-respect, or real intelligence, and at the same time look down on women? Can't be done. Impossible.
Woe to the man who doesn't place women on the same plane as himself. There'll come a time when he'll wish he behaved otherwise, and such a benighted fuck-off will end by howling in the void.
I noticed that a famous living German painter has changed styles once again. He's been known for his huge colorful abstractions for around 20 years, but his recent canvases have a scene from the Holocaust underneath the expressive pigment.
Since he's a millionaire many times over, he can do anything he feels like with paint. But at this late age he's chosen to deal with history and grave injustice. It won't hurt his reputation.
It's a contest between beauty and justice. Two supreme, but conflicting, values. It doesn't have to be a struggle, but it often is. The art of the last century slowly but steadily concentrated on the overlooked value of justice. And today, if you examine the most widely celebrated painters of our time, the theme of social justice has become front and center.
Not that many people care what artists are up to. Their names are not even known. Warhol was the last artist familiar to everyone. And he focused mainly on beauty, the marginal beauty of everyday life.
I've considered painting scenes from our deeply troubled world. And made a couple. But it's a hard sell. Most people are aware of omnipresent misery. They can't escape it. It assaults them the second they step outside. Nor is their home secure against it.
What's a painter to do? People want relief. They want to gaze at a beautiful work of art and forget about their problems. I can empathize. But there's also a need to get at the root of their anxiety. And vanquish it once and for all. Art isn't a tranquilizer. It's more than that.
I'll be creating a painting for a dentist's office. But it's not appropriate to make it dark and bloody and full of skulls. Going to the dentist is generally disturbing enough. No need to intensify the fears. It'll be soothing, harmonious, on the cheerful side.
There's a right time and a right place for everything. As well as a wrong time and wrong place. Embrace the clear difference.
I sold two on Friday, and in a few hours another person is coming to the studio. A Beverly Hills dentist, who might be open to swapping services. But I need money as much as dental work. I'm not sure what I'll do.
Here is one problem for an artist when it comes to trades. If we could exchange for hourly rates that would definitely work best. A dentist might have me in the chair for, say, two hours. But then get two paintings that cost me two weeks work? That doesn't sound very tempting.
Unless I was an old action painter, and knocked something together in a few minutes. Actually this is a bit of a dream. But it never turns out that way. I try to make a painting in one explosive blast, only lasting a few minutes, but it ends up taking a week.
It's not even a question of style or technique. It goes deeper than that. I must have an ingrained tempo. Impossible to shake. It's only open to the slightest modifications.
My manner of painting depends on how long I stand in front of the work. I can't abbreviate or extend this chunk of time. It's very inelastic. No matter how I go about it. In thousands of attempts I'm forced to recognize this truth.
Working too long is as bad as too briefly. Both are alien to my personality.
This iron fact of life must be caused by several factors. It's about money, for one thing. Also about the force of habit. And perhaps something to do with my genes, or upbringing.
A painting can't be too superficial, too lazy, too laborious, or unworthy of the painter's best self.
I was going to write about humanity's half-conscious evil endowment. Hence, the title of today's blog. Lately I've been reading non-fiction history about slaughters in the Belgian Congo, the Holocaust, Hiroshima, the London Blitz, and Japanese internment in USA.