Column 8 Bob’s telling me I need to get my ass out there looking at artwork.
Well, it’s a tough time of year. I finished the piece I’ve been working on just in time for a specific competition and the holidays. Family obligations and gift shopping responsibilities are crashing in. So now, along with 1) lose five or ten pounds, 2) exercise, and 3) become a respected writer (the usual), one of my New Year’s resolutions is to move my ass—to go where the art is--both in Philly and New York. (I’m looking forward to writing about that.) Have I spent time looking at art in the past? Of course, but now I think it may have been a bit like a virgin going into a “toy” shop on Bourbon Street.
Cocked head, Wide eyes, Not sure what to do with all this ... Not sinking in, What’s that for? And it means what? Huh? I think I like that but I’m not sure what the purpose is ... Leaving filled with an odd joy but strange dissatisfaction, Head swimming with exploding images I can’t yet file, Speechless.
Well, although I’m still calling myself an art virgin, I’ve gained a new perspective over the last couple of years. Experience often opens the mind a bit, don’t you think?
Actually, my mindset has changed dramatically since I picked up a paintbrush in early 2008. In fact, lately, all I want to do is paint. Last night, I was lying in bed pondering life’s mysteries--along with some of my own. I realized that when writing, I visualize what’s happening. I see it unfold in my head as if watching a movie, and then I attempt to experience it, feel it, be it. I love doing that but there’s something particularly satisfying about seeing the exact visual images in my head transferred onto canvas. Of course, they morph and evolve as I paint but my ability to visualize possible alterations and/or new directions enables me to come to a satisfying result.
And I’m just getting started! I can’t give up writing but I’m wondering if I’ll feel limited when I sit down in January to start my new novel. I hope not. Again you ask, “Why did it take you so long to begin painting?” I told you … I’m a late bloomer.
And of course there’s all that self-doubt around my creativity. I’ve managed to survive through mountains of rejection with the writing. I often ask myself why I keep following the carrot. I sometimes struggle to believe all the positive feedback is genuine. Why is it so easy to accept brutal honesty when it’s negative, but not when it’s positive? I have to be my own coach much of the time. Yeah, I fell for the Tony-Robbins-positive-self-talk- message years ago. It works but I still have to remind myself to do it.
I’m still my own worst enemy. I think Tony Robbins also told me to move my ass … something like that anyway.
Boundaries Page 8 “How do you think any boy is really gonna care when you continue to be so self centered?” “I’ve always tried to listen,” I say. “I’m just excited ’cause he really seemed crazy about me.” “Peyton, you’ve had lots of boyfriends. They were all crazy about you. You’re just beautiful, but you’ve got to do right. God doesn’t bless people who don’t do right. You’ve got to stay under his umbrella. Every time you step out from under it, he literally mourns for you. Don’t you forget. I have seen the face of God; I know how he feels.” The crack I can’t hold together grows larger. I know what she means. Don’t call him, and heaven forbid, don’t sleep with him. “I need someone to love me,” I say as if it’s a burp. “I love you, Peyton.” She almost sings the words, her arms and body suddenly all over me. Her angular face, sculptured to the point of hollow, nearly sucks me in. “It’s not the same,” I say. “You have to love me. You’re obligated.” “You’re wrong there. Mothers don’t have to love their children.” I look away. “Well, they usually do.” “What about all those children murdered every day? Nobody’s lovin’ them.” Her voice cracks. “Abortion is murder.” I feel an excruciating yank in my gut. She’s sucking something out of me, but still I don’t move away. Huge tears emerge, and I watch as they fall from her eyes. She’s stealing my pain again. “But you just said mothers don’t have to love their children.” “Well they certainly should.” “Then you’re sayin’ they are obligated?” She grabs her head again and I wonder if it somehow helps put her thoughts in order. “I guess so,” she says, her words barely audible. Confused, I bolt from the couch and head for the stairs. She scurries after me and before I can escape, she manages to corner me in a full-blown good night hug. Overcome with love for her, I fall limp into the embrace only she can provide. Nothing in my life ever felt like mother. The soft warmth, the sweet smell, and the deep, mellow pain of knowing mother doesn’t last forever. Not in the way you want it to. “See Mom, you do have to love me,” I whisper. She holds me tighter for a moment and then leaves me standing alone in the darkness. I fall asleep thinking of Matt Adler’s heart-shaped smile, hoping he’ll be in my dreams. Instead, I see myself lying naked beneath a tall tree at the center of a field. My head is near the trunk and I gaze up into it, searching for something. The leaves are the green of new spring. Suddenly, the branches twist and creak. The leaves begin to turn brown, shrivel, and disappear. The limbs break, one by one. They are small, almost deteriorated, and as they fall harder and faster, they turn into tiny arms and legs. I scream. They are grotesque, with pieces of bone, sliced and serrated at disturbing angles. Dangling vessels protrude from them. The tree is dying. Thirsting for something I’ve lost, I open my mouth to catch the blood. Accepting my fate, I show no signs of desperation. The arms and legs grow larger, hurting me as they crash into me, one by one. The grass becomes dark from the bloody shower. I begin to disappear, sinking into the softening earth beneath me. Blood covers my dream and what is left of me. I begin to weep as I lose sight of myself. When I finally bring myself to look again, I’m no longer there. There’s only a mound of bloody, bruised arms and legs, some tiny, some large, officiated by the dead tree stump. I search for a face, any face. Just before I wake, I catch sight of something in the heap of flesh. It’s a perfectly manicured set of fingernails at the end of a protruding narrow hand. It’s my mother’s.
Penelope Przekop The Art Virgin Boundaries Part 8 & 9
Column 9 This week I focused on preliminary work for my next piece, which I will dig into after the New Year. I’ll admit that I navigated through a few days of self pity and doubt, but I’m back on track. Bob told me that my work is better now than it’s ever been. I’m not sure if that says a lot, but at least I’m on a positive trajectory!
He also encouraged me to “ … suck it the f--k up. Enjoy the holidays. Then get your sweet little ass back to work after Santa heads north.” Believe it or not, his words were refreshing--a cool glass of crystal water in my vast dessert of ridiculousness.
So, after pulling myself together, I decided to ask a few artists I know how they define great art. I knew they would each have a different answer, and that their opinions would be excellent food for thought as I attempt to sling-shot my forty-year-old-art-virgin-self into the realm of what can be considered decent art.
Here’s what I got:
“For me, truly great art always has an energetic quality about it that, invariably, I can only define as spiritual.” Joyce DiBona
“Great art comes from the artist who has great techniques, enormous imagination, developed his/her own recognizable style, is unique, continues to evolve, dares to experiment, isn't afraid to leave well known paths and follow his/her own. One of the consequences might be that the art is not always accessible. But this doesn't mean it's not great. An art-lover once told me that the best art is the hardest to sell. I think he was right.” Esther Barend
“Great art is null. It's like being hit with a lightning bolt of universal energy while, at the same time, it hits you with the human condition. It can transcend. It can restore your faith in humanity.” Marisa Acocella Marchetto
“Art is, ‘Hey, look what I did!’ Great art is, ‘Hey, look what she/he did!’" Neil Leinwohl
From these answers, it’s obvious that I simply need to create art that is, all at once, spiritual, technically great, imaginative, unique, transformative, energetic, inspirational, and charismatic. Piece of cake.
But these are only four answers. I need more. Send your definition of great art to email@example.com. I’ll continue to share your opinions with readers as I evolve and create my own. If you have an art-related web site, send that, too. If I share your definition, I’ll also share your site. When I first stumbled across Bob, he told me that, in his opinion, there are two distinct aspects to executing exceptional work. He said, “The first involves intellect and the imagination. The second is more primal. It’s in discovering the very real and valuable animal within yourself, and accepting who and what you are. Then taking that wisdom and applying it to a surface so others can understand they are not terminally unique. That’s what makes work relatable.” Well, all I’m sure of at this point is that I’ve finally found the sling-shot my ass fits into--so when Santa head’s back north, I’ll be flying in my own direction. Maybe I’ll see you there.
Boundaries Page 9 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside the body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. I Corinthians 6:18 “That always reminds me of my dad,” Matt says, pointing to a dirty black and white sign some twenty feet from where we stand. It rattles against the nondescript building that barely holds it up. “Louisiana Truck Bodies?” I ask, confused. We stand, hand in hand, on the dusty sidewalk. I can see his apartment in the distance, our long walk nearly over. The wind pushes me forward but I resist. Two tiny whirlwinds dance in the gas station parking lot that runs into the side of the body shop. It’s cooler than usual and I smell rain. Matt begins to walk again and I follow. “Every time I see that sign my dad’s face pops into my head. He’s like a big truck, you know, powerful but domineering, and irritatin’ as hell. I told you he’s 6’4”, right?” I shake my head in agreement. “He thinks he owns the frickin’ road.” “I’ve never even noticed the place,” I say, looking back. “You’ve got to use your observation skills a little more.” He frequently throws these tidbits of wisdom at me, like warnings. Sometimes I write them down. In a fit of excitement, I jump on his back, wrapping my arms and legs around him. “Matthew Adler, Observer of Life,” I proclaim as if to knight him with some glorious title. He carries me on his back against the breeze for several yards and then lowers me to my feet. Debris hits my arms and legs as it sails through the rising wind. The air is electric. It pulls people out of the various industrial businesses that line the road. They stand just outside the doors, looking toward the darkening sky. “I make observations,” I say, glancing back again at the rattling sign. “I just don’t see the same thangs you do.” What I see usually confuses me so I keep it to myself. “So what do you see?” he asks. His question catches me off guard, as if I talked big and now have to prove it. “It’s obvious that you have a problem with your dad.” I stare at the ground and try not to step on the cracks in the sidewalk so I don’t break my mother’s back. “You usually talk about him like he’s perfect, but you’ve got somethin’ against him.” He stops so abruptly that his feet seem to be stuck in the black tar dotting the sidewalk in splotches. He leans toward me as he often does when preparing to say something profound. His eyes narrow. “My dad means well, but he’s either slow, burdened by his preconceived ideas, or he’s barrelin’ down my neck like there’s no frickin’ tomorrow.” I feel uncomfortable and pull his hand but he doesn’t budge. “Sometimes I just wanna say, ‘Get the fuck off the road. Just get off the fuckin’ road.’” A slew of cars zoom past and an odd, falling sensation comes over me. I think he’s mad at me. That somehow I’ve caused him to yell. It’s a sick familiar feeling. “Come on, don’t be mad. My mom’s like that, too. She carries a load of ideas and mistakes and sufferin’. Maybe your dad does, too. I just feel sorry for ‘em.” “Everybody and his brother has an excuse. They’re just jerks.” “I don’t think they’re jerks. Some people just have strong convictions, for whatever reason, and they don’t have a very big range in which to express ‘em.” I smile inwardly, pleased that I’m beginning to sound like him. “Their range is too narrow. They cain’t see the big picture. That’s what I try to see—the big picture. I try to understand people so I can forgive ’em.” He turns and hollers, thinking I’m further behind. “Maybe you’re too forgivin’.” I’m startled by the lack of distance between us.