Friday, December 22, 2006

second letter to an art friend

robotsDude - the other night i was stuck with a bunch of the most milque-toast miniature art stars that Mexico has to offer, all of them spoke perfect English and had one foot in some kind of success... success meaning they get to act like people who go to parties with Paris Hilton, or success meaning now they can afford flat screen televisions, or success meaning that although their lives are still plagued by the same problems as everyone else, they get to project those problems onto the larger world in the form of their disjointed, disfunctional and frankly ugly art. There is plenty of ugly art to go around. And it comes from ugly people trying to further distance them selves from all of the ugliness in the world so they can be above it, or so that they don't have to be losers, while the rest of the world, especially the losers are just that--losers.

Art is one thing in the whole world that nobody ever has to be a loser at and in which nothing is competitive. It is like trying to regulate healthcare in a market economy. It has nothing to do with competing to be better or to succeed. Market economies fail, and they fail spectacularly when they try to apply their stupid "rules" to non-economic spheres of life, like health and art.

The reason I am saying this to you is that I can see you have a far greater understanding of the role and capability of art than many people at your level. I ask you to trust that and though it is probably a load of shit, you just might come out on top after some time struggling. Don't look at it as emotional distance, just as emotional acceptance. You need those things, you need emotional involvement, you just don't need judgement. You don't need to regret having emotions, but you need to see that the emotions are real and useful, and that ultimately they are yours to use. Emotions are not your master, but you are theirs.

I remember I used to sneer at what my instructors told me: to try to paint with "feeling," as if I had no choice, and so I spent most of my time trying to paint without it. But now, when I look at all my struggle to escape or conquer "feeling" it seems most of what I did was judge what I should or should not feel, and that act makes mountains out of our most basic and natural responses to the situations that confront us. Of course you felt bad and resentful and worse. You did and you will again. And in the course of those many emotions over a lifetime, one ends up seeing that they were the richest part, or that they allowed us inroads into parts of thinking and understanding that otherwise are just part of ourselves that we take for granted as silent and unreachable.

Our dialogue is with nature, and with forces that will destroy us if we don't keep talking. I can understand artforum magazine, but I can't understand what a line in the dirt means. I have to try. Some rocks. Some branches. I was walking under a palm tree in a mediocre rain when some great branch came crashing down, literally spiraling like a snake. And I can't say that it was an epic event like something that happened to Antigone. Yet in jumping and laughing at myself for my startled outburst, I couldn't help but think in the black recesses of those sun-baked palm leaves, and the twisting curl of that terrible branch, there wasn't just as much tragedy as one could wish for. I put the tragedy into the branch and compare it to a snake. But there is always a bit more, an excess of meaning. You put your problems on paper, and I see not only paper and problems, but you and nature, and that should make us think of great waves crashing. Like a rhythm of understanding always, in its approach and subsequent recession, hoping we will grasp that it is not aggression and passivity, but a balanced understanding of both. We have to be like nature, both aware and completely unaffected, not unaffected emotionally, but without judgement. Sounds so eastern, but somethings always do.

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