Friday, August 21, 2009

Funny thing about artists. Just one.

Last week I saw, for the first time, the 1049 film Portrait of Jennie. I'd thought to mention it mostly because the winter scenes of 1940's Central Park were so surreal and haunting, really visually stunning. I'd never heard of this movie so watched it without prejudice---Poppet style. It was the visuals that caught me first, but other aspects of the movie have held on---especially the obsession of the artist protagonist, played by Joseph Cotton. He was real to me, and when he spent the night on a snowy park bench hoping for even a glimpse of his subject, that felt real too. I know it- that calling.

This week I saw In a Dream, a documentary about artist Isiah Zagar. A totally different animal from Jennie, but again the artist and his thing.

No, I meant the other thing, the muse-thing. Still, the artist does appear nude here and there, for seemingly no particular reason. But it's about the work and the artist, both of which are truly remarkable.

The event I referred to last entry was a personal experience--Alison was here in the desert for working together. In late afternoon on Tuesday, she got a call that Logan-- who is not quite 2-- had suffered a seizure and was en route to the hospital via ambulance. ( He's fine now!) Kids are alien to this planet and all the viruses and bacteria and toxins it has to offer. So each time something new comes along they must exercise fledgling immune systems. This often manifests as fever with no other symptoms. (Just last week Orion had a fever for about 24 hours---we guessed lots of things but it went away before we could even decide whether it might be new teeth coming in.)
Some kids' fevers trigger weird switches in their brains so that sometimes, at certain temps, symptoms including convulsions and blue lips and even unconsciousness can occur.
Apparently it was this that happened. Getting from the initial phone call to that explanation from the pediatrician at the hospital two hours away was an exercise of another sort entirely, for the rest of us.

Now that we're several days removed and sort of breathing naturally again, I begin to think over the experience as I work. Where does it fit?
It was cloudy all day today and only in the nineties. What a relief! I worked outside and thought about watching my daughter hold it together for two hours that seemed like twenty. It was bravery and it was beautiful. It was a stretch, a test for her---to know that cold fear and to avoid panic. It was a part of the human curriculum and she/we lived it.
Now she is stronger, just a bit. And so am I.

I feel it as I paint, I see the experience integrate itself into this and future works. See how annoying that is? This thing---this obsession with the human curriculum, the human experience.
This glimpse of something that is
bigger inside than out.

It's what my work is made of, this question, this observation.
It's the light I stumble toward.
It's what Harlan Ellison meant when he told me I'm a monomaniac.

It's not so very different from other's things. We all have them, by different names.

It occurs to me that I've stopped wondering why my particular vision is. It matters less and less, why. It just is. It's my thing.

That we share a human curriculum of similar experiences, I believe. That within it, we each have our one thing, our major. Mine seems to be something involving things that are bigger inside than out.
(I tend to believe I'm honing in on it. I've thought this for approximately fifteen years.)

I don't give a rats ass anymore whether any of it means anything or not. It doesn't matter.

Because. If it's my thing, I couldn't stop doing it even if I wanted to. (I've tried.)

I'm a human being, and the curriculum applies.

And here's the funny part: Neither can you. Silly human.

I nearly forgot. SeaGen, Not new, but another item worth checking out. Actually there are three different projects, each different and very exciting, for creating energy from water. Also not a totally new idea, but these ideas could possibly change, well, everything.

ok. that catches us up. a little. Let me know what you think.

POT on Etsy


Syd said...

Oh, my. I saw Portrait of Jennie on ABC in the late '60s or early '70s, when they used to show classic films one or two evenings a week during the summer. Loved it then, and have loved it every time I've seen it since.

Haven't seen In a Dream, but it looks most interesting!

So sorry about Logan, but glad he's okay now. I have a batch o' kittehs with some kind of respiratory crud, on meds and dealing with fevers and so forth, so I can sure sympathize with that "what the hell can I do about this RIGHT NOW DAMMIT what do you mean just wait it out?" feeling (I know it's not the same thing as with a child, but it's the closest I can come).

"I don't give a rat's ass anymore whether any of it means anything or not. ... I couldn't stop doing it even if I wanted to."

Well, it means something to you, obviously, or you'd do something else. And it means something to the folks who buy it, or they wouldn't. We may not know exactly what it does mean, not at first, but we stay with it, trusting that we'll be able to figure it out. Eventually. As with many other things, the journey to understanding is sometimes more interesting (and maybe, more important?) than the destination.

maqart said...

"I don't give a rats ass anymore whether any of it means anything or not. It doesn't matter.

Because. If it's my thing, I couldn't stop doing it even if I wanted to. (I've tried.)"

I love this sentiment- it is based in strength and self knowledge.

For many years I worked in the theatre, and often had to wrangle reporters anxious to grill "famous" (whatever that means) actors. Invariably, somewhere in the interview came the question "why did you choose to be an actor?" More often than not the response was "I have to do this, there is no alternative. I can't NOT do it."

I feel this way about my creations too- I can't not make things. Those strange worlds inside my head have to come out somehow or they trouble my dreams, asleep or waking. So, I make them concrete and tangible and they become friends, known, not disturbing any more- at least to me.

guardianalien said...

Love the PoT tour kits. Maybe I'll be wearing my little red poppet around my neck to Dragon*Con in a couple of weeks. And I can give out the cards when people ask about my tatoo :)

lisa said...

Syd: I read that Portrait of Jennie was a total bomb at the box office in 1949. No one liked it. It was deemed later to be 'ahead of of its time' and now is considered an essential part of film history.
I understand about the kittens. Life is life, and worry is still worry. Thank you

And, you know, the more time I spend on the journey, the less I believe there actually is a destination. I will likely always hope my best work is ahead of me. I will likely always try to enjoy the day I'm in. (easier said than done, for sure.)

maqart: It's good to have company. Some would call it obsession. I suppose it could go there, but I'm with you---I'd make art whether I got paid for it or not. Come to think of it, I do.

guardianalien: Excellent! I'd better send you some extra Moo cards---I don't think ten will be enough for DragonCon. Have a great trip and take photos to share with us!