In between shows, frantic, frazzled, trying to sustain a semblance of normalcy and just managing to keep fires to a simmer, I find myself checking out, searching for something that can calm me, reading trash novels, and indulging in memories of a well know trail through meadows and creek crossings, where wild strawberries are hidden in the shadows of the pines, tiny, brilliant and infinitely sweet.
Silver nitrate stains my hands black. My back is almost out again. There is a large gash from a piece of sharp metal on my shoulder. There is an ache in my heart. I have turned myself inside out so many times over the last several months that I feel there is nothing left. A writer friend of mine wrote me recently and talked of the muse who had abandoned him. In her absence, he felt a kind of peaceful serenity and in someways, was glad she is gone. “She was a bitch,” he said and I burst out laughing as I read the email. Aren’t they all?
So today, waiting for my love to finish errands so we might actually go for a hike on that remembered trail (the lastest works are drying, but there aren’t many so I ended early and have a little bit of time) I finally finished reading Dave Hickey’s, “The Invisible Dragon.” He implied that real art has to exist in a real world (institutions being emphatically not real) and that its power to communicate must, inherently, come from beauty for beauty is the language that transcends the middle men of politics, religions or institutions. In someways, he sounded like Martin Luther demanding a one on one relationship with God. He ended the last essay with, “As (George Bernard) Shaw pointed out, institutions collapse from lack of funding, they do not die from lack of meaning. We die from lack of meaning.”
I found myself thinking about the irony of searching myself and my life for the things which challenge me to produce works that have meaning, works that stimulate and provoke me visually, emotionally and mentally while holding to an ideal of allusive — a viewer recently described my sculpture this way — beauty and what I want and need more than anything else right now is a walk in a beautiful wood. I would gladly, at this moment, trade meaning for beauty.
My father used to tell me that the beauty I recognized in the world was the beauty I knew inside myself. A beautiful sunset is only beautiful when it triggers an unspoken knowledge of myself. I think art does the same thing. Like Hickey said, “The rhetoric of beauty tells the story of the beholder who… contracts his own submission — having established, by free consent, a reciprocal, contractual alliance with the image.” Meaning delivered outside the “rhetoric of beauty” is dry, dead, cold. Beauty puts life, and the meanings we subsequently derive from it, in context. Today, I want to be the viewer. Take it in. Submit. Let go. I simply want to eat the strawberry in the cool of the woods and hold my lover’s hand.