painting

We all go through it, we’ve all been there, that’s life, it is what it is, what can we do, everything happens for a reason, it’ll all work out in the end, you’ll be better for it, stronger, smarter. Spare me, please. Let’s stop dealing in cliché and quaint misapprehension. So your boyfriend/girlfriend cheated, so your mom/dad was mean to you, so you’ve held/lost a few jobs and had/lost a few loves, so you went/didn’t go to college, so you’ve done most everything for yourself, so you don’t trust anyone, so your close friend drifted away, so you’re guarded, so you’re picky, so you’re angry, so you’re sad, so you’re tired, so what, now what, then what. So am I.

fools who said
nevermore
quick
say it again[1]

What about this, then, Sam, and whoever else might be listening, dead or alive. Humor me. What if I said we paint basically the same picture over and over and over. And what if I said that picture is life, that it’s our response(s) to life and its great big seemingly endless batch of difficult, stupid, fascinating, pointless questions, that it’s our response(s) to self, to the difficult, stupid, fascinating, pointless questions we have about what it means and who we are and why and how and everything everything everything. It’s our reply, our claim on this time thing and space place, how we hold it and see it and what we make of it all. The picture is meaning, and without it….

So growth, then, is less a matter of progression in any linear, staged, stepped, chaptered sense through and away from images of answers—drafts, I guess, if I had to—we think we’ve nailed to the door like Martin’s ninety-five theses and more a matter of refining, even playing, toying, or perhaps fucking, if you will, to put it academically, with the questions our pictures impart and the statements they make in concert and return. Because it’s all in there together, the questions, the statements, the whole lot.

Say nevermore again. 

Easy thought, convenient for present purposes and mode, but I find myself thinking about a writer sitting alone, sitting outside, sitting in cafes, sitting anywhere and writing the same story all his life, over and over, each story, each essay, each letter, each anything another rendition, iterative to some extent (or degenerative), of the same self, living, changing, not changing, trying, getting stuck, trying again, maybe starting over. Modiano said in a 2012 interview that he had a longtime recurring dream that he had nothing left to write, that he was finally liberated. But of course he was not. “I am still trying to clear the same terrain,” he said, “with the feeling that I’ll never get done.”[2] Isn’t it like this for all of us? Maybe not all to the same degree, maybe not so acutely does it consume each and every, maybe not with such results (he did win quite a prize, I hear), maybe not always for any conscious reason or deep driving subconscious desire. But it has to be this. We are all still trying to clear the same terrain, and if we ever think we’ll be done—or, worse, think we already are—then we’re just fooling ourselves, Sam, and probably are fools ourselves.

Here’s what I think, then. Watercolor, crayon, acrylic, paper and paste, glue and glitter (well…), chalk, pencil, spraypaint, etch-a-sketch, ink, film, print, type, blood, life. Why don’t we get together sometime and try to make better pictures, truer pictures, more beautiful pictures, more revealing and difficult and frightening and comforting and loving and understanding pictures, and let’s try to make them stranger and stranger and more and more familiar because the strange is what helps us see how familiar it all really is, it helps us be more than ordinary fools, day by day by day. Let’s live like that. Let’s do something different. Let’s see if we can’t stumble on something new.

Because that’s the idea, right? That’s what this is all about. The struggle, the point, in fact, if I may be so rigid, is to find something new, some new way of making our pictures, of making pictures that tell universally recognizably human stories—the same stories, no doubt, but told differently, maybe even told better, speaking again in that differently-betterly-strangely yet simply told way to everyone, everywhere, ever. Read Chekhov.

Something has taught me this, and I think I’d call it experience. I might as well. Because I’ve had some, a little, enough to have a few pictures under my belt, some quite bad, others not so, and still others others.

Experience has taught me that time does—or can—mean something. Or time has taught me that experience can. Or both. And both time and experience have taught me that we, the most of us, change our pictures very little, no matter how much time we take/spend/waste; we stick with the same medium, apply the same strokes in many of the same places at the same times and junctures, in response to the same stimuli, and generally go almost out of our natural goddamn way to make the same images, I mean precisely the same, thinking we’re being consistent or safe or true or ourselves, that great edifice of persondom, Ourselves, colored by number, with its attendant litany of likes, dislikes, demands, assumptions, instructions, directives, viewpoints, vistas and views and vista views.

Unless we really try to get it, or get to it, try to find some new way to get to the essence of what we all know is. I think Modiano tired. He must’ve. Because they gave him a prize.

Or just try like this, like I am now, quite prizeless. This is not some bit of airtight comprehensiveness meant to discern and define and determine and some other scary d word, not by a longshot. I could’ve belabored some crude point about how much meaning we can actually make, about how some of us must be able to make more than others, but I don’t want to. I think there’s truth here and it feels right, feels good. It’s a piece of my picture, today, now. Simple as that. Maybe next time I’ll scrawl on the wall outside with a screwdriver and take a photo. Maybe that’ll come closer. One way to find out.

 

[1] Samuel Beckett, from “Doggerels,” translated by someone who translates, Paris Review 215, Winter 2015, p143

[2] Alexandra Alter and Dan Bilefsky, “Patrick Modiano, a Modern ‘Proust,’ Is Awarded Nobel in Literature,” The New York Times, Oct. 9, 2014. As quoted from a 2012 interview with Le Figaro. I can’t help acknowledging how odd the title of this article is. “A Modern ‘Proust,’” as if a “Proust” were a thing, and as if Modiano were that. They say the same about Knausgaard, and who the fuck has any idea what a Knausgaard is.

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