This painting looks best in a blue room on a cool day, hanging above an out of tune piano. If you see how I see that a painting stays with you until you die, then you would purchase Miles for the musician in your life whom you love enough for him or her to always be reminded of you.
I hope to see friends and new friends tomorrow night. I have door prizes of painting(s) and a vacuum sealer. I’ve added a couple quiches to the menu and washed the floors on my hands and knees. Autumn is the surprise time, and our second gale in a week blew over Ontario last night. It’s time to batten down the hatches and set that third sheet to the wind. If you drive, think taxis. If you walk, think about making a taxi driver your private chauffeur. Pretend with me that we’re crazy rich, but not necessarily in that order.
Lena did it again, and this morning I saw Bacchus at court in full inebriation. Many birds and a bald guy came to call.
“Beautiful strangers in New York. Ancient Greek Gods and Danae. Bacchus is the God of Winemaking and Inspiration.” 2018. Acrylic, and photo by Eric Olson.
I just finished reading an article about cronyism in art and culture. It provided rare admission on a subject that many unfunded artists know in their hearts to be all too true. The business of art is anti-art. The “good ole boys” club. Paid administrators (curators, gallerists, art faculty) seeking non-paid visual artists who, by virtue of “poverty in the arts”, are forced to either request admission into the club or schlepp a scam they hope will convince the right paid people. Art is defeated on a mass scale. It has become another corporate model, open to collectivism and always in danger of cronyism. No snake-oil salesman ever fell in love with snake oil first and then sought distribution of, not just an imperfection, but also a worthless placebo that only the ignorant believed had merit. On the contrary, the salesman was always a desperate working man seeking pride with a job while struggling with a family in a muck-stagnant economy. It was the snake-oil company that placed adds in farmland newspapers enticing the poor to hawk to the poor a product said to improve health and wellness. The company knew what it was up to. Likewise, the art industry plays the same game claiming to have a soothing syrup for the people’s mental health. The museum, established gallery, Ph.D., multimillion dollar “auction” house, and the billionaire all claiming to possess gnostic insight to the mysteries of art. They have no freaking idea what art is any more than I do, or the article’s author, or kangaroos in Australia.
Picasso and Dali were once household names while they lived. And then Pollock and de Kooning, to name a few. The corporate model had not yet fully “metastasized” into the art world. These artists and others were cherry-picked by influential people and so big media (already well-established) latched on to their individual stories because big media schmoozed at big weekend parties with the influential people. Still, the corporate cancer persisted, as it always will. Kellog’s Corn Flakes added more sugar to the same wet, chewed-like mush twice-baked, added a playful type, and a tiger for a mascot. Voila! Frosted Flakes. The corporate paradigm of the 1960’s and beyond. “The Depression generation brought you Picasso. We give you Warhol. Next, to cement our complete control of an industry, we printed the word “organic” on our cereals, and, to certify the illusion of self-liberation, here is the shiny new pervert Jeff Koons hosting a company of college grads in a Manhattan factory to sculpt many replicas of his penis for you!”
Picasso was a household name because big business, in all of its post-war glory, via the voices of politicians and media, needed to pretend instant sophistication to match its multinational approach to schlepping snake oil around the globe. In one famous experiment, Stanley Milgram proved to the powers that be that control is a breeze. Just give someone a title and a white coat, and kids will follow orders to shoot and kill other kids half a world away. Likewise, starving artists will enter a lottery their whole lives and hope to be authenticated. The new economy spewed more and more lower and middle class kids with art degrees, but lacking the courage to pursue an actual career in expression. Hence the lackeys of art business. The snake oil salespeople. The army of art history professionals getting tenured jobs in corporate universities. They were not to blame. They were folks with families in need of love and care. No criticism would ever be allowed in to undermine their careers as long as there was a living to be had. To them, by virtue of economic survival, art became money. Powerful art administrators not only peddled the snake oil, but controlled the ranks of its production and distribution. But it was never their art to become money in the first place.
There are solutions to cronyism. They can be found wherever art is alive and needs to be nurtured.
Eliminate the middle man. Boycott all third party galleries and museums. From the dinosaur downtown to the humble subsidized gallery at the state college. Take away the eyes and judgment of the third party. Make art for the patron once again. Let them create personal hobbies looking for their own concept of “the diamond in the rough”. Have a show in your living room. Pool monies with artist friends and rent an abandoned gallery for a month. Get back the time you lost trying to impress the gallerist or curator who judged your snake oil by its packaging, its reviews on Amazon, or the accolades on a CV (Latin for “current viability”).
Find the coffee house in your hometown to meet and socialize with other artists to talk about everything. This is a top priority. The business of art fears the merger of artists. Their congruence is its downfall.
To stress how unlocal artists are in my tiny town, I give you the example of our state university art department. The combined art education of the faculty is over 200 years. According to the industrial system, they are recognized, real, credentialed, and of course, paid living artists. They disseminate the knowledge and skills acquired, and are successful in that young people still graduate knowing how to draw a chair and place historical artists into their proper movement. That is their day job. But at night the professors return home, the full timers to the suburbs, the adjuncts to a second job, and then finally to a rented apartment in town. If one ever has a show, a piece or two gets entered in the annual faculty exhibition, or representation is sought in his off time anywhere outside of our small city. At the university, the adjunct suffers second class citizenship, even if his pencil drawing of a tree looks a spark better than the same tree drawn by the full professor. The oneupmanship begets avarice. Avarice begets competition. And competition in art breeds pettiness. So my small city becomes just another “Hey Spike” to the Great bulldogs New York and Los Angeles who have practically eliminated all that was ever good about art, that is, its expressive communication to known human beings. Art in America is the NFL, and no longer a touch football game in the park with Howard, the art history professor, Rita, the painter, and Robert the sculptor, to name a few of the creatives who get together after work for team sports and then later, a beer. To make matters worse, visiting artists are brought in from around the country to “inspire” the students. Yet the students never see the corporate business model which delivered the talented anomaly from New York City—The secret art agent, nor the international C.V. which puts in writing how amazing this guy’s psychedelic paper mache paper wasp’s nests truly are. Believe it. The MoMA said so. Buy him.
We all must share our criticisms and solutions to replace the corporate paradigm with plans better suited to the career happiness of the individual man and woman as artist. No matter where we live, we all are local. The minions running the business of art would prefer we all be loco, separated, howling at the moon, and crushing the fingers of potential friends and colleagues on the ladder of success, always brought to you by a lower humanity seeking your work to bring them to the top.
I know there is a reference here. Perhaps Houdini?
Maybe not, and it’s just a well-dressed man leaning over the Moyka. I’ll walk along that river someday, if I haven’t already in another time or dimension.
Just now I picked up one of my older publishing failures and randomly opened to a story about that man on a bridge and a historical account of Saint Petersburg. From 1999, when the world was supposed to end…
A Thursday Afternoon
This is a perfect day! The town is erupting with fall color. Kevin came to my door—not Jeff, although Jeff came later, at the moment I turned to Rose and said, “I hate my life.” But Kevin came first. He peeked his head in the doorway and swore, pretending to be Jeff. We went out to breakfast at Joe’s dirty diner and filled up on bacon omelets and bread soaked in butter. I cannot successfully relate to you the actual, incredible horror of Wade’s Diner in Oswego. If you could stand five minutes of the pent-up aching misery showing on the faces of its clientele, or swallow your food with ease after speaking to one of God’s cruelest earth creatures (the American diner waitress); if you could stand the nicotine-stained floral pattern on the wall, just talking and chewing for five minutes and not be moved by the hideousness, chances are that you don’t read anything outside the celebrity sex chronicles in the aisle of the supermarket anyway, and therefore my little book does not exist for you. Chances are that you are one of these zombies terrifying me today. If so, then the chance is great that a pig is luckier than you.
When I am bitter I can paint quite a sour portrait of Oswego. When I am bitter, which is often, I upbraid this truck stop of a country of pot-bellied, middle-aged, dangerously educated cowards. Then, when I am happy, any moment can be the start of a perfect day. I feel smart to myself and overwhelmingly secure and fizzing inside. At these moments of clarity there are two of me; one is constantly skipping, punching at the air and singing, while the other pretends not to notice and thinks only of how to subdue his friend, the incorrigible opposite. Today there are two of me walking, and there is Kevin. I have fixed the holes in the ceiling, smoothed joint cement over the cracks, and said the word “Dostoevsky” to myself three times, which repeated just twice on a fall day becomes an incantation. Blue sky, white clouds, St. Petersburg in 1865. Dostoevsky. Next to you stands a constant reminder of death. Your sister is white with the cholera. You shit in a box, and the richest gentleman on the street walks with a cane and dresses smart, but smells like an outhouse. The middle class of Dostoevsky’s neighborhood are intelligent enough to seize the opportunity to read and practice their signatures, while in the most ironic juxtaposition, the little sillies of today, have blocked their intelligence to such a degree that it can be read like a book painfully and laboriously written by a thirty-one year old insurance agent, a man who reads the Sunday paper and watches professional wrestling on TV.
Dostoevsky. Are there any words richer than this one? Or more terrifying? Does anyone feel ashamed to hear it? I do. But to myself, not to men. Kevin is here, and we will drive to breakfast… Stop.
In St. Petersburg there aren’t any buildings taller than these.
Horses, kalomp, kalomp, clippety-clop, walking and trotting, whips, black carriages, dung, urine, and top hats. Kevin locks the door to his boardinghouse and whistles down the steps onto the busy street. The sun is bright. The air is brisk. The morning is noisy with the sound of human traffic. Walkers are dressed to their class, their caste. No free state. No free men. Just rich and poor people. Human walkers and horse stompers, carts, carriages, kings and crooked constables. He walks and tips his hat to the ladies. He says, “Good morning gentlemen,” to gentle men discussing business. Can Kevin see their breath? Yes. He passes by. One man grunts. He hears the grunt loud and clear. Pigeons coo at his feet. Geese fly overhead. The clouds are miraculous. The morning is so agonizingly alive. Thank God he doesn’t have rabies! He walks along feeling the way an iris feels the many moods of spring. He is affected, to say the least.
Kevin is here and I am already up at my writing desk. There is wood in the stove and the coffee is hot. My boots are old leather. I offer him the chair. He throws me my cloak and laughs, “The day is new,” he says. “Why do you want to ruin it?”
So we take our poetry outside onto the street. There is nothing in store for either of us. We are two poor enthusiastic idiots.
September. Vladimir. Plague. Landlord. Horse and Buggy. The Laundry Girl. Green Grass. Clean Sky. The First Time in Man’s Murder and Death History That Love is Intangible. These are words and it is words that keep the young men occupied on the first park bench planted in St. Petersburg. We share a loaf of fresh baked bread. We hold the warm crust between our fingers. We are dreaming out loud of things to come. Man’s accomplishments are prodigious. We are affected, alive, and always despairing because it’s St. Petersburg, 1865. God’s bells are ringing from the churches, but there is a pile of
human waste in the church puddle. There’s an orphan selling pencils, and a cart full of corpses riding by. Our laughter is a hearty kind, its like unheard of today. A hard laugh is frightening because it bursts forth from a mouth that knows better.
“Dazzling and tremendous, how quick the sun-rise would kill me
If I could not now and always send sun-rise out of me.”
Dostoevsky is only a word, yet it is a kind of word that sustains me. Beside mankind’s hero worship and death history there are books of words he has invented to record his good deeds. Words upon words upon words, ad infinitum. It began innocently enough. The wonder of a word might be expressed by a bourgeois’ gratitude. He might have it inscribed on a gold plate below the gazelle head in the parlor. It might be “paradise,” and it makes the simple boob dream of America and the Wild West while his wife and their servant girl wash dishes in green putrid water. Their wonder may one day make them rich enough to bend over and kiss the Czar’s hand. “Hope” is a hard word that back in a hopeless time was the living word day after day. I would guess that for more people than not, just to be alive was fortunate, or lucky, or divine. To have life with a national currency… To buy an ottoman and a train ticket south to the palm trees when the wife was pale again and coughing blood… Oh my God the happy wonder of the Nineteenth Century! For once in human history some content fool could look up at the sky and shout out an ecstatic “Yes!” Back in America Walt Whitman was giving our relatives these joyous revelations, although some of these relatives were still raping brown women in a wood shed. Some were beating up their wives with a coal shovel, or sneaking guzzles of whiskey in the cow barn to push life’s misery out of their minds. Not Mr. Whitman. “Wow, I have a body. She has a body. My voice is my voice. I can stand here for five minutes and not starve to death. What the hell am I doing here? I can jump up and down on that rooftop and yawp yawp about anything which pleases me.”
Today I am Walt Whitman yawping. There is so much to yawp about on a Thursday afternoon, even if one is down on his ass in a dirty diner. I tell Kevin these thoughts and I try to get him to yawp, like I try to get Rose to yawp. I would try to get the waitress to yawp if she had just a breath of life in her. But she wouldn’t change her approach to the table if the sun just blew out and the coffee turned to ice. I am reading a free weekly newspaper entitled The Oswego Shopper. In times past I brought Hamsun, Thoreau, or Giono into diners for breakfast. Now I carry “The Shopper.”
1999. Mankind as seen by the editors of a free weekly newspaper. One, sometimes two, is dropped at every doorstep in Oswego. “Don’t Be cruel To Your Domestic Pets”—the title to a weekly column. There’s a picture of the author hugging a poodle that she loves more than her dead husband. That’s okay. I don’t love her dead husband either. A picture of four local business people holding golf clubs between their legs. A benefit. A birthday party. The Oswego Shopper puts out the same continuous stream of unbelievable crap when earthquakes swallow up Turkish cities. They have printers employed there. They are well paid and always ready to eat. They are disproportionate. Fat and short, or long and fat. The boys wear baseball caps and the women… Well, it doesn’t matter what they wear because physically they are en route to ruin and will never be pretty again, inside or out. They ride around with their moronic husbands in big trucks. They don’t cry. They say “minga”, which according to the FDRA means either “dick” or “hey” in Italian. The Future Dumb Rapists of America sat next to Rose and I at the movie theater. I wanted to stand up and murder each one of them, and cut them, and cook them, and feed them to their parents. Obviously the next course will be their mothers and fathers. I will feed them to the dogs. Rapists aren’t born, they are nurtured. Mom and dad have a hand in every rape that has happened. I promise.
I have this “society” paper in my hands and I am perusing the want ads. “Perusing” is a word 18 year old girls use when attending a poetry reading and paying for their coffee with a signed check.
Frankly I am not too interested in finding a job. I listen to Kevin. He tells me to slow down. I eat too fast. All of our lives we have waited patiently for this. One Christmas Eve I didn’t care if the world exploded, as long as my wonderful Santa came. He came and he came, year after year, and then all of a sudden… nothing. No more. Jesus! That’s the sorrow of it! But I will keep eating my omelets fast, vacuum the floor fast; I’ll talk fast, drive fast to some place, any place that is always in a minute, just a second, by 9 o’clock, and I will start to hunch over slightly, just enough to notice my belly-button becoming more elliptical. “I’m turning into one of them,” I’ll say. Rose will say “Nonsense,” and “I love you.” So I am bound to forget that I am a man, eventually… But not now. There is still some fight left in me on this perfect day.
Yellow leaves on a Thursday afternoon. They remind me of shiny yellow lemons. You know, I can throw one a hundred yards. Let me explain…
Four years ago on a rainy September night I borrowed Scott’s car because I was poor and extremely happy, but tired of making Rose think she was doomed to walking an entire life time with me. I was going to surprise her with a fresh baked quiche, a bottle of wine and a car for the night. Scott had a Trans Am which made me feel very sinewy behind the wheel. I knew that Rose knew it was a big fake-out. She understood I had nothing but my daughter. Wonderful! The night was going perfectly. We set up our picnic at Rice Creek. We drank the wine, ate the quiche, and rushed home to make love. Afterwards she walked around topless in jeans, which was quite nice because it was the first time any woman did that for me. What joy! We listened to “Mozambique,” and “Black Diamond Bay,” and with the rain, the rain smells, and the wet, taillight traffic shining out the window, I decided to drive back out into the night and do something special for her. We drove to the market, bought six lemons, and then rode over to the high school football field. A very wet and dark night. I sent her to the opposite goal post. I could barely make out her yellow raincoat while I launched all six lemons in her direction. She was supposed to mark where each fell. She claimed that she did just that, and I threw one over 100 yards. “Really?”
“Yes, and one bounced even further.”
That was my success, and I bragged about it often to Kevin and Joe. Neither believed me. Joe said if such were true, then I would be pitching in the major leagues. Then I guess it wouldn’t matter if I pitched the ball over the upper deck or over the plate. I am a distance thrower, and far from accurate.
Anyway, last spring I took Rose and Rachelle out to the field again. This time on a windlass, sunny evening. I could throw the lemon a measly 85 yards. That was it! Oh how terrible getting old and set in my ways. Then Rose admitted that maybe she was counting bounces on that fateful night back in ‘95.
I was crushed.
Today I am happy. When one is happy, he tends to ignore the past. Also, the king shouldn’t care if his loyal subjects stretch the truth for him. Everyone fires at the same target, but I am told it was my shot that killed the deer. Rose loved her king. She was acting on my favor. I will throw one of these lemons the length of the field. Kevin will be shocked. I will be as calm as can be, for I believe in the unbelievable easily, without much reason or intelligence. When the sun shines stark and brilliant and the air is cool enough for a wool shirt, then I become very mentally retarded, and accomplish the impossible with ease.
92 yards. I say 94, but Kevin says 92. That is good enough for me. Plus, I have the excuse of a very heavy bacon and cheese omelet weighing in my stomach. Next time there won’t be any excuse.
So on a Thursday afternoon at the dawn of the 21st century, what can I believe?
I can believe that The Eternal Husband was in my hand once when I was desperate and spending lonely nights on the streets of New York. I can believe that I never finished The Idiot because during that early autumn of several years’ past there was a stream of glorious white cloud and blue sky days. So instead, I walked about town in sneakers and stopped to write about wonder in my journal. I believe that one extremely cold and snowy winter I brought Crime and Punishment into a myriad of hot baths and then into my bed by the bay window and the howling wind. I believe that is all the Dostoevsky I have read. That is enough if one has an imagination. One doesn’t need to read past the point of realization. That would be overkill.
All that a fool has to do is think about what is wrong, to know it is wrong, and to want to do right. Modern life is a horrifying series of juxtaposition and irony to the sensitive man. 1865 Russia. 1999 America. Neither of the two are right, but one is better. If only one Thursday afternoon in my lifetime allows me to see this, then that is enough. I hope.
[Once again I think I’ll need to disinvite the powers that became, (for no good reason I can fathom), the national arbiters of painting and the other visual arts. I had to disinvite them last year before opening an international Stuckist invitational exhibition at Watkins Glen, N.Y. I’ll replay it here, to remind all and sundry that the artists make art, and that Artnews does not. So, if the gatekeepers hope to crash this party, then a good disguise is tantamount to sharing the hummus. Come to the door as kind and expressive as Lena Ulanova and receive a cordial welcome. Or, continue rudeness by negation or denial, or outright hostility at our celebration, and a Great Lake waits for us to send you off on a rotten log in full force gale.]
110 Greene Street
New York, N.Y. 10012
A gray, cool autumn morning here in Oswego, N.Y.—my favorite kind of day, which I began in the basement painting and listening to Van Morrison records. I waved my wife off to work and looked to the sky getting grayer, and made the psychological small jump to mow the lawn before the weekend rain comes, and the grass gets wet and clingy. These cool, intellectual days I think about everything, and during mundane moments of mowing the lawn or doing the dishes, I let the muse in to determine which direction the juices shall pour, not flow.
Today, ARTnews and Hyperallergic got in there somehow. Also Galerie St. Etienne, and then I just let the three of them sit down for a smoke and a talk in the situation room that is my brain. The small Internet site called The Painter’s Table stopped in later on, while mowing the backyard, and I vowed to skip the morning painting and let loose this meeting of my very limited access to the art world that comes via the business Internet.
This spring the Galerie St. Etienne returned the self-published books I sent to it six months prior, along with a kind letter expressing regret that it no longer sought outside contemporary artists. I found it strange to send back a gift of kindness, as might a team of lawyers scheme to thwart liability, and not accept it like any curious human being with a heart of gold. My God, I thought it was a gallery, not a law firm!
Anyway, it was kind to send reply—the one in a thousand received over my long painting and writing anti-career. It seems that Galerie St. Etienne respects the unknown building block (the artist) who gives credence to the myriad of buildings hanging pictures on sheetrock for profit. There is no bread and butter without cows and grass. Few galleries seem to get this, and those that do just might be the human ones that organizations like ARTnews don’t need to write about in wonder why they are struggling to make ends meet.
Now I have sent presents of my books to Hyperallergic, ARTnews, and I believe even The Painters’ Table because I am a painter, not a businessman. I send them with hope, never greed, and each facility should know that I have done so for many years to many individuals and institutions because I am an expressive artist, not unlike those who begin in a similar vein but end up working for the business of art. I am expressive, yet also hungry—not starving—just seeking enough financial success to keep from falling back to line cooking in my late middle age. I love to paint. And unlike a choreographed Mick Jagger, Jeff Koons, or ARTnews, I seek just enough dough to continue to do so.
Also, I loathe promotion more than I adore self liberation. So it is no thrill for me to seek approval to those who can help deliver a meager cash flow into my home. But I do it anyway. Because I am human and made of carbon and contradiction.
Now this morning Hrag Vartanian, a self ascribed promoter of art and culture at places like L.A. round table discussions, white-washed Chautauqua Institutions, and that beloved next-gentrification called “Brooklyn”, wrote in a fast tweet, like our dear lonesome president, his frustration at being used as other people’s “PR”—I assume he meant “public relations”.
Who wouldn’t be? All people just want to be loved for the right reasons. Nobody likes the feeling of being used. Like me, Hrag is an expressive individual, and I often even agree with his knee-jerk politics. Again, like me, he is probably also a bit delusional. However, I know this truth: He uses Twitter® more like a gossiping school kid than a person actually interested in painting. Privately I bet he’s a great guy, loved by friends and family, as well he should be. However, publicly I see him as an arrogant vanity that holds power and influence over others, and seems to like it, almost sardonically. To contrast, I will only express my overt arrogance in private, to my wife, children, and maybe a few close friends. To me, as a man and artist, that is my social success. Unlike financial success, I do not need to hope for it. It has already arrived! Likewise, as a painter and a man, I don’t need Hrag through Hyperallergic to promote me as a painter. I expect it.
As previously mentioned, I do seek financial dishwasher status in the art world. It is his job as editor and founder of a popular art blog to review me and many others in a very long list, else apologize readily for the insurmountable backlog. Otherwise, he and other institutional aggrandizing promoters like him (ARTnews and The NY Times) are irrelevant. All profit-driven art propagandists are no more than a bullhorn for established galleries like David Zwirner, and also that lying piece of billionaire tax write-off auction brothel, Christies®.
Here is why. No artist is or can be profit-driven and remain an artist. That should be the #1 precept printed poster-sized across the wall in art editorial rooms. Again, if it’s not what you stand by, then, as art promoter, Hyperallergic and ARTnews are irrelevant, just another businessperson’s scam.
That is my private belief now made public. I feel a strong connection to the art movement Stuckism, which keeps me painting when nobody, especially the bought and paid for editors of popularity, cannot recognize a damned kindness from an artist when they see it (a free book promoting other painters). They do notice his query about advertising, however. Why shouldn’t they? These institutions, like individuals, also seek financial success, and work hard to achieve it. When there’s a potential paycheck in the e-mail, then of course, open it up. I too trash the spam. Nobody likes the beggars, whether dressed up corporate crisp, or down, door-to-door like the ragman. I do not argue Hyperallergic nor ARTnews their desire to stay relevant, and likewise, financially afloat in the media sea of art. Their inevitable defeat into the 21st century is due to reliance on income from established wealth when the new age promoters of art (humanity) seek magnanimity in culture, as well as the pretty pictures. ARTnews cannot survive continuing to cherry pick what their readers need to “see” art to be, while relying on established interests to promote the vicious circle of money = relevance = money. A paradigm which is anti-art in a nutshell, and shouldn’t take a nutter like me to show all and sundry. I think the real world of humanity gets it. The Painters’ Table I forgive because it’s too small yet to hate painting enough to profit enormously by it. I think the editors are sincere—visually anyway. They probably don’t “see” like I do how many of the painters that they highlight love money almost enough to eat it. These editors seek pretty pictures with a twist—rarely human paintings by people who wish to liberate us from what ails us.
By the way, unlike Hrag Vartanian, I also do PR for others, and enjoy it very much. I’m doing it now for an incredible gallery show that Hyperallergic has no interest in (until it is celebrity of course, mainstream, established—like gypsum dust in wallboard). I’ve written to Hyperallergic about it without reply, also ARTnews, NY Times, Central NY newspaper arts editors—Cornell University art professionals (the painting professors!). I send postcards. I send exhibition or creative books to others. I ask that this show of 37 painters living in 9 countries be well-attended—to honor each sending his or her work from far away to a little community in the center of the real art world—which is any place where art for art’s sake thrives, and profit for more profit’s forecast dies.
Quintus is that small “struggling” art gallery that ARTnews and Hyperallergic cry crocodile tears over. Like the artist, it too can be the canary in the coal mine to profit-driven culture fabricators. Quintus Gallery is poised to make history next month which the next generation of art propagandists will glowingly report on because some influential gallery in Singapore needs Christies, Inc. to buy this dead painter so and so’s life to make another billionaire lie work for the billionaire. I say to these future struggling institutions of irrelevance, “Go eat cheese!”
Hear ye, hear ye Hyperallergic, ARTnews, and NY Times! I officially disinvite you to Quintus Gallery (Fuel Gallery) in Watkins Glen (Oswego) for opening night on Friday, October 13 (19), from 6 – 9 (5 – 11:59) p.m. You like money, maybe status too, but not art. The Painters’ Table can still come, if it stops looking do damn depressed. Either way, it would do itself a good turn to invite just a wee bit of Stuckism into its sycophantic soul. Heck, we’re all painters, aren’t we? Wake up!
Just this moment the magazine Juxtapoze popped into the smoking room of my muse. It is even more disinvited than the others. And if I catch any of those phony art and artist killers lurking outside the gallery on Friday night the 13th (19th), then I might actually become bouncer and kick those bony phonies into Seneca (Ontario) Lake!
Mr. Ron Throop
Sure, life can feel like a circus performance. Today under the big top, I give you the first few pages of Leopold Courting Rose, my 2013 book of love letters to the world who became my wife. It is the best treatise on love you will read today, and the painting above, the visual counterpart of living circus lore. Pay attention. Both Lena and I are experts!
Leopold Courting Rose
COPYRIGHT © 2013 by Freeflow Publishing
Cover design by Ron Throop, illustrations by Ron and Sophie Throop.
All rights reserved to couples in poverty who have hope, comfort and discovery.
The text used throughout this book would torture even the most amateur graphic artist. The font is American Typewriter and that’s exactly what I was for the majority of these letters and poems. Suffer through them, and remember that the object of this torturous type actually agreed to marry me. All you have to do is read it.
Climb Mount Fuji
But slowly, slowly!”
“It was the door called death which always swung open, and I saw that there was no death, nor were there any judges or executioners save in our imagining. How
desperately I strove to make restitution! And I did make restitution. Full and complete. The rajah stripping
himself naked. Only an ego left, but an ego puffed and swollen like a hideous toad. And then the utter insanity of it would overwhelm me. Nothing can be given or taken away; nothing has been added or subtracted; nothing increased or diminished. We stand on the same shore before the same mighty ocean. The ocean of love. There it is—in perpetuum. As much in a broken blossum, the sound of a waterfall, the swoop of a carrion bird, as in the thunderous artillery of the prophet. We move with eyes shut and ears stopped. We smash walls where doors are waiting to open at the touch; we grope for ladders, forgetting that we have wings; we pray as if God were deaf and blind, as if He were in space. No wonder the angels in our midst are unrecognizable…”
“It is commonly thought that of all people, lovers behold one another in the most unrealistic light, and that in their encounter is but the mutual projection of extravagant ideals. But may it not be that nature has allowed them to see for the first time what a human being is, and that the subsequent disillusion is not the fading of dream into reality, but the strangling of reality with an all too eager embrace?”
I want you so wholly, Ron. This heart beating in my chest betrays me. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if it would just lock itself away from the rest of me, leaving me indifferent to all but myself? Alas! Your phantom haunts me when my mind should be elsewhere, and I slip into fantasy. Standing at attention, my every nerve waits to be met by your touch, your gaze, your smile.
You call yourself fool. If you be a fool, then let’s be fools, two.
Two years of regular letter writing suddenly ceased. Why? A simple twist in our life’s pattern. Fate, however, had nothing to do with it. Seasons still changed on time. Birds and worms continued to do what human beings have no idea what they do. The letters stopped because we got a house bought for us the day we were engaged. A nice gesture, even if it was the worst mistake. A good deal too, if one was willing to put his life on contract. An indentured servant to an inanimate square. Actually, two squares. It was a big house.
The floors were old and sinking. I went down into the basement to jack the joists up. My back and lungs broke, but most unfortunately, my heart sank.
However, that is not the story I have to tell.
No, I am writing about courting, but strictly in the imaginative Japanese style. The days of slow cooking, long walks to nowhere, and the pungent stink of moss and pine—even if they existed only in dreams. Days of peace without worry, and nights taking hot baths and eating soup and bread. The love-making lasted from the wonderful night she let me walk her home—I tore a rose from its bush and gave her the flower and my blood—until the first day I learned how to use a cat’s claw crowbar. For two years I kept to a regimen of letter writing that if left unchecked for a man’s lifetime would not only fill fifty volumes of useless love scribblings, but certainly keep her desire and longing at a healthy constant. At least that was my heart’s hope. Because what a man should desire, provided he wants to take a mate, is a never-ending sixth grade playground of the mind. You want her. But try to remember when you wanted her more than anything in the world.
Almost every day, for two years, my letters to her arrived. So many letters. If I hadn’t a stamp, I’d draw my own and postmark it from the teahouse, which was wherever I happened to be alive at that moment. From the leaky hovel on West Fourth Street, or resting in a tree’s shade on the riverbank, Rose was sent a piece of me whether she liked it or not. Each letter bearing my mission statement: Our lives are a very compelling
story… And then a stream of words about “love, hope, sex, and dirty dreams” from a man who felt and did not care.
I think she liked them. Unless it was her desire all along to make me a carpenter slash plumber slash electrician, designing and constructing her house and my tomb.
I wrote letters. Dear Rose, … Love Ron, Tim, or “Gary the Wanderer”. How easy to leave a love letter a day. Just one. Ten minutes or two hours of my time. The critics may snicker and complain. They might jump me in a back alley and bludgeon my skull. They can laugh, laugh, laugh and ignite me in a pool of gasoline. But just one letter delivered, left in a book, secretly, or openly tacked to a door, is a determined reminder to ourselves that life has something more to say. That it will always get the last laugh no one denies. Yet to pretend that you’re one up on life, that it will not continue for the rest of them without you, is a game worth losing over and over again. I have always been a first rate loser. What is a truck load of sheetrock, two boxes of screws, and a promise of a month of back-breaking labor going to get me? No doubt in this letter-writer’s mind, an unhappy, hopelessly neurotic spouse who might just hate me behind her lovely smile. Yes, pretty painted walls to replace the letters. Decorative crafts to stand out stark, and our love-making gone to sleep. Bills get put into a bill drawer, or stuck in a rack made strictly for that purpose, and nobody hopes for
Ah, but a letter? Two letters? How about fifty thousand? Where the hell did I think I was going? I still have an immense debt to pay to her. I have more than an inkling of admiration left for her body and heart. Letter writing, gift giving, shoot!—just patient, loving thought to the person you hope to spend the rest of your life with. So much more than art, than job, than money. Wind and sun and love—all are still incomprehensible. It’s cowards and devils who are finished with those things. The
number one reason why home center trucks clog our city streets, and electric drills sound off the summer morning. A walk over mountain, bridging stream and boulder with your staff… Frighten grouse, friend of deer. The forest is drenched with last night’s rain. What’s that in your pocket? Another scroll letter, or a tube of spackle? A bag of herbs or a box of money? Do you hate yourself that much, or are you actually glad to see her sad face?
Why Love Letters?
Who is Leopold?
Curse this political world! Last month I signed up for a free online course in social psychology hoping it would sedate my inner anxiety fool, and get me thinking about other stuff besides doom and gloom. Over the past ten years or so I have let the wrong people in. Unknowns, rabble-rousers, political cry-babies. So much in my mind not of the family and clan has focused its attention on strangers and their woeful struggles. I deemed myself the silent Sally Struthers’ spokesperson for civil liberties (of others), individualism (of others again), and freedom without war and atrocity (others again and again).
Silly me. I have always been free to speak, individualistic more so than Henry Thoreau, and anti-war with an internal, red hot passion. Seeking it for others? Why? It already exists. Don’t tick off the King in a super economy, and one will be showered with gifts and glory unbeknownst to the Gods and emperors of yesteryear. I can speak or write any blasphemy under the sun as long as I can prove no child molestation. I can walk out this door and keep walking to Utah, provided I keep myself looking a cut above meth abuser. And war? Don’t need it. Don’t have to join up. There are millions of neglected children jonesing for a chance to be loved by anyone, even a sociopath sergeant or general. I am not one of these millions of fools. So why attempt to be their social pastor? Especially if I’m not getting paid for it? Amazing freedom in the western world. But little wisdom. Even though all religions and philosophies swear the latter leads to happiness. Our freedoms are apparent, and they have made us very sick in the mind. Nero, for all the power he possessed on a diminishing empire’s credit, was just an insane freak of nature like a Rupert Murdock or Barack Obama. Not
happy. Never secure in love. Yet it seems all the non-political commoners dress up to be like them, and would become them if they won the lottery. The common men who stop to admire a jet ski on display at the mall, and the women who consider purchasing the latest issue of People magazine with a dead Patrick Swayze on the cover. These folks are certainly not happy in their ignorance, which is never bliss, but rather chimera. Also, wrong acceptance of careerism and its habits of middle age has blown our happiness path to smithereens. No wonder so many are plagued with regret and night sweats of bitterness.
So why did the political world move into my brain and push out the wisdom-to-be that I swear was thriving in my younger years? Maybe this course I am taking in psychology will shed light on the social/anti-social animal I have become. Maybe it will speak about first love or second love, the born again feeling that arises when energy is directed at discovery, and bliss becomes everyday reality through the auspices of blind love for another human being. Probably not. Love is never taken seriously at the college level (although every single university affiliate has fallen to its power). Still, I would think it a doctoral track more necessary to happiness that physics or English literature. What else needs to be discovered in order for the “good life” to be realized? John Donne’s snuff habit? Another dimension of reality that we’re told we can never see (perhaps heaven)? What specialization need we focus upon now that cholera can be defeated? Have we in the western nations not enough potable water, clothing, shelter and fuel? I would argue that all we lack is proper distribution of these necessities. And that can be fixed overnight by determined revolutionaries in love. Sack a congress lobbied to corruption with rotten tomatoes and “We are the World” mantras.
I think that this college course will uncover some awful truth about modern humanity. That is this: We
eagerly make efforts to go against the grain of the heaven on earth existing before our very eyes. It will show by experiment that humanity has always been subject to groupthink and group censure, from caveman times to the atomic age, and that this was necessary as far as groups go. Geese form a “V” to fly south. People arrange a militia to fight other people who covet their stuff.
But we moderns have made the blunder of taking social conditioning way too far, and have ignored the wonders of love, art, and beauty, which in older times the royal classes gravitated towards in their grateful acceptance of good fortune. Who in Jacksonian Democracy could foresee an Iphone with every volume entitled “me” in its Library of Congress-sized memory reading room? What Japanese noble of the Kamakura Period would not mutilate his own bowel after realizing he forsook his only son’s wisdom education for a shiny red Ford F350?
Unfortunately my free social psychology course will not lecture me that the above modern condition is abnormal psychology chomping on steroids. It will not instruct me on wisdom, nor on how to find it, nurture it, and use it to achieve happiness in this life. No, it is a social boo-boo to voice a strong opinion against the mountain of crap our society drops on us day after day. Normalcy is to be
authenticated after 8 years of intense tunnel vision university study before society even allows an educated guess at what might be wrong with it. And then it won’t have credence without publication, which will only come if approved by an editor, himself overeducated to the point of fearing his own vocal opinion without first undergoing five years of proper research and testing.
But love? No degree necessary. And we think we’re very good at it, yes? We have experienced it, studied it, woke up eager to practice it, mainly during the courting stages, when it was as important to life’s mission as finding a career and establishing oneself an accepted player in society. So what happened? Why no mention of love promotion in the press other than hitting the 50th anniversary mark? Awards are many but private to be sure, credentials boxed up in the basement, photographs nonexistent to present-day visitors to the marital abode. Yet it was one of the three or four most significant moments in the life of every human being. It has been relegated as a social taboo to communally recollect and organize hard copies of examples of falling in love. A kind of embarrassment, almost a mild shame that prevents each and every one of us from “yawping” our love out from the rooftops.
I have a hypothesis to share with the social psychologists. By virtue of the 200,000 year old struggle for survival, modern well-fed human beings, who have no immediate threat to their existence, haven’t the slightest idea how to process the ecstasy of courting after the mate has been won. A species-wide denial of poetic joy that practically everyone has experienced pervades.
I would argue that by covering up real memories of courting happiness to the extent that they exist on par with other childhood rites of passage, like losing teeth or leaving the familial nest, we have denied ourselves and loved ones a published account of what could very well be an example of burgeoning wisdom.
So we forget about early love to make room for the tough, grown-up stuff, (ex., career, child rearing, keeping a clean house, grocery shopping, finding hobbies), and no periodic reference to the good ole days can be used to repair broken dreams. Hence dissatisfaction with our wife or husband, the seven-year-itch, and recycled ideas of how great life would be if we could just “get away”.
Separation in the mind, if not actualized, is all too common. And divorce becomes an option, since all reminders of why this girl or guy moved you in the first place, have been buried and lost to time.
I believe we all possess this poetry of love’s beginning. I think it is a course worth deep study, if only to research why its virtue has been lost to all and sundry. I have brought up these old letters and poems from our musty basement on the eve of my wife’s 40th birthday. Lately I have been feeling the overwhelming strain of practicing a repetition of days toward cliché goals. Security, conservatism, wealth, retirement—all notions I would have smirked at when I was in my twenties looking for answers to “why” and “what for?”. Then I started chasing Rose, and during the process, saw opportunities arise and abilities executed that I thought could never be. Not quite feelings of invincibility, but close. More like insight into the power of dreams to encourage positive action with another human being. That is I dreamed of a day, maybe a picnic and a movie, woke up and arranged it, and then experienced it with her. Success! Tenderness. Lovemaking. Sleep. And the promise of more. I already had a five-year-old daughter, and her well-being was much improved day-to-day as I courted Rose. The creativity, optimism, hope, excitement of new love was carried over to the nurturing of my little girl. There was no neglect, nobody pushed aside so abstracts like “job security” or “personal success” could make room.
So why did those feelings of wellness and “all is right with the world” ever fade away?
Now is when Leopold enters the concert arena.
The other night while doing dishes I made Rose laugh out loud as I explained to her my concept of Leopold. He is Bugs Bunny on the cover of this book, and can be found in action on Youtube or Vimeo. I told her that for once in my life (and hers too) I want the world to shower the praise on us that was given to that “wrascally wrabbit” when he was imitating some maestro of the time, real or imaginary. A necessary feeling to pull us out of the
repetitive funk we find ourselves locked in. To spend it all on just one night! A suite booked at the Plaza, reservations at Daniel, a private car with driver, black disco dress with sparkles, tickets to the opera at Lincoln Center, where Rose and I conduct music for the worn and weary.
We had this feeling one time not so long ago. Every letter I sent to her was a promise for a night like this. And Rose was all about reciprocation, even if it was not literary. No doubt, we both believed wholeheartedly in each other and had faith in the future. I do not doubt that you, reader, have felt the same many times not too long ago…
So, what is the theory we can test? How do I institute this landmark study that will get the comfortable masses to recapture romantic love without relinquishing the urge to relieve social pressures in their every day lives? That is, how to find wisdom in love again, and save for retirement? Well, for starters, I wrote and edited this book. My private hope is that Leopold spends it all on one night to reinvigorate dreams which he believes were visionary in their wisdom. Of course none of this effort will matter if Rose is not convinced, and vies for austerity because the pay is never enough, keep working. John Lennon was about forty when “Starting Over” was a popular song on the radio. Those lyrics are poetry of what this book is trying to recapture. Also the following, written when I was feeling a little bit Leopold thirteen years ago:
Say, What’s Cooking In Oswego?
A plate of truth and a bottle of blood?
No, no numb skull, far from that!
There used to be fishermen here
but baby perch wiggle tougher
than our men do nowadays.
I think they kept chickens
back in the 1800’s
She already had an egg
and a log on the fire
Whisk the egg with two fingers of sugar
and a dash of salt
Mix with yesterday’s milk,
pour into flour
then a pan on the fire
Eat with your hand and smell
her dirty apron and stinky toes.
There was one poet here in 1936
He went nuts
Walked up to his old Aunt Beasel
raking leaves into a pile,
and punched her square in the eye.
She kicked his ass of course
right in front of Joe and Mickey
and even their pet rabbit seemed to be laughing.
That was all of him
He took a bus to New York
Got a job washing dishes at Delmonico’s
Got rich, lived rich, died super-rich
with nothing at all.
What’s so wonderful about New York
that ain’t happening here in Oswego?
Well, now that everyone’s a sissy
(Joe was a truck driver
Mickey got a restaurant),
Now that even the cock swaggers down the street
terrifying the plump little bib drippers we’ve become
It’s nice once in a while to forget
about manhood, womanhood,
Aunt Beasel’s hairy mole next to her eye…
It’s good to forget about our legs and arms
and things like where water comes from
Now that we’re self-proclaimed half truths
and walking lies
why not enjoy life to its fullest plate of food?
And what’s cooking in Oswego
is only fitting for what Oswego cooks up.
Our restaurants mix powdered demi-glace,
deep fry their hairy ninety-five cent broilers,
Some chefs I know
should just piss on your plate
One place thinks rigatoni in Italian means
“looks and smells like Great Nana’s big toe”
At least in New York we can still pretend
that all life left is imagination
and get a king’s meal at a fair price
and window shop and make ourselves
smell real good for dinner.
“Good evening Mr. and Mrs. Throop
May I take your coats?
Chef Beasel saved a perfect egg for you tonight
You look so good, smell so sweet
your arms are bare and beautiful,
your neck perfeect
Right this way
Right this way
Right this way
Let this book be a reminder of what I believe makes the best humans in a comfortable world. Spend it all, and let the chips fall.
25 feet from the garden
[I think Saint-Exupéry and fourteen-year-old Ron the curator got on very well with the stars in the night sky. The entire art market today is the Businessman from The Little Prince. Yesterday, a friend tweeted in disgust an article about a $750,000 grant to the Guggenheim to catalog art, to be the very same Businessman unable to see the beauty in the night sky—that everything of value must be still and/or dead, and then counted.
Today’s art market exactly! And exemplified by King Christies®, the white-gloved mushrooms buying influence and then big boats with art. Artnet, Artnews—the Businessman’s little businessmen, on and down the line, ad infinitum.
The Little Prince: “I know a planet where there is a certain red-faced gentleman. He has never smelled a flower. He has never looked at a star. He has never loved anyone. He has never done anything in his life but add up figures. And all day he says over and over…‘I am busy with matters of consequence!’ And that makes him swell up with pride. But he is not a man—he is a mushroom!”
Hey art market, you’re all a bunch of mushrooms, mushrooms, mushrooms! And painters like Lena, the stars!]
Christie’s Fall Auction Meets the Wastelander Gauge™
While driving down the highway yesterday en route to visit family, my wife and I engaged in the usual discussion about the “why” of art. I told her that this week I intend to haul the present contents of Christie’s auction house over to the county dump. I have rented a refuse stall next to recycling so the wet smells will be tolerable for my afternoon of auctioneering. The whole lot is ready for quick sale. A few of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 16-minute paintings, 2 Cindy Sherman photographs of a stranger, and a de-Kooning charcoal of any B.F.A.’s skill and ability, to name a few. I am excited about my chances here in small town upstate New York. Especially if I make bidding begin on Saturday morning, when the trucks line up a quarter-mile to drop off trash proof of their incredible bad taste.
I will start with Cindy’s photograph of the face of a girl who looks frightened. My beautiful assistant, Rose (who by the way, is also an emerging photographer) will hold the picture up while walking the line of Ford F350’s. “Photo of a young girl who looks scared. Can I get a dollar?”
A low diesel growl up and down the line. Country radio stations playing. Then finally a bearded man in a rusty Toyota calls Rose over to his window.
“I’ll give ya a dollar.”
“All right,” she calls, “I have a dollar. Do I hear a dollar fifty?”
“Going once, twice… Sold to the pervert in the red Toyota.”
The Cindy Sherman envelope gets thirty-three cents dropped in to it. The Throops keep the rest for their business savvy and distribution prowess.
Next on the block is Basquiat’s Blue Heads. This is a big one, and while moving it across the road, the painting gets awkwardly wedged in between two trucks. Traffic gets stopped and the horns sound off. It starts to rain. A couple dudes get out of their cabs to help me out. Pull and push, push and pull. Suddenly, Jean-Michel’s masterpiece breaks in half and falls face down in the muddy slop. Still, we manage to get $25 for the frame from some guy building a sub floor in his laundry room.
$8.33 into Jean-Michel’s estate envelope.
De-Kooning’s charcoal gets no buyers, and unfortunately we forgo Jeff Koons’ pink poodle because the dump officer says we’ll have to pay a fee on the weight, and there’s no way we can front the cost on that kind of establishment crap.
After a full day of selling contemporary art at the dump, the staff of Throop Auction House is able to pay for dinner and tip at the Ritz Diner downtown. I got an omelet. Rose ordered the macaroni and cheese. And the bubble building faux-artists of earth got just what they deserve: a meal to fuel the next inspiration.
So this week I will do my darnedest to burst the bubble of the visual art market and the artists who blow it up with hot, hot air, enabling the radical class, earth’s multi-millionbillionaires, to inflate human creativity like tulip bulbs in Amsterdam. Their art collection is worth a used car, and yet they continue to play the game of sell and resell, because we of the creative class, the village idiots and dreamers, keep hoping that our time will come. It won’t. It won’t ever. We have been relegated to the dung heap by the no-class class of wasters. If you wanted to get into their club, and aren’t by now, then you never ever will be invited.
So join me. What have you got to lose? Your fifty dollar prize at the art association? Your pipe dream of being introduced by the community college president? I want David Geffen to wake up tomorrow and be informed that the Cindy Sherman photo he bought tonight for $989,000.00 has been reappraised for a hundred bucks, but only because of its mahogany frame. That’s all it was ever worth anyway. And that phony cheese Sherman knows it too.
So come back each morning this week to read my reviews of this autumn’s select pieces at Christie’s. I will also provide fresh ideas for a better, more accessible art market of the future. But most importantly by the end of the week, every single moron millionaire will have his or her collection reduced to a rational value. I will use my wastelander gauge™ to appraise works of contemporary art. An unnamed tween subsisting on a daily meal of millet and salt, but who otherwise maintains a gentle disposition and hopeful outlook, will mark each piece at her village’s fair market value. That is, the art is priced at whatever the tribal leader would pay for it. My professional guess is that the Cindy Sherman won’t be worth a stick for the cooking pit. And the charcoal piece by a drunken de Kooning looks to any village elder like the bottom of the cooking pit before the morning fire. Not even the most sophisticated leader would waste a grunt nor head nod to acquire that for his wife’s mud room decor.