Buy this today and I will toss in a swab of true artist DNA which will improve taste in any human gene pool seeking to unwind and uplift its mortal burden. The art market could use a reforming GMO to pop the TIA (tulips in Amsterdam) bubble that floats above all realities, laughing at them. Sometimes the bubble breezes into a private plane, and this painting here shall become an accurate rocket launcher from the ground, from the base, from the real reality where artists pine for an equal playing field. Aim. Fire! That’s some GMO not to mess with!
And the oligarch no longer enters a world he was never invited to. We are the salon of the future but only if we cease with stupid phraseology like “the cream rises to the top”. Cream comes from cow’s milk and after 5,000 years, science tells us that lactose makes our guts turn inside out. Some also declare the milk protein is causing us cancer like it does in rats. So I don’t want cream anymore. Leave it in the cow for the calf. The putrid stench of rot also rises to the top. When we need a new metaphor to share the story of the big city art market, lets embrace our mutual intolerance and call out the oligarchs as the putrid stench that rose to the top.
Amsterdam had pretty tulips to sell as if there were no other perennials to flower in the early spring. The super rich were bored and super stupid.
Nothing has changed, so buy a painting on your own today because unlike 17th century Holland, you, the outskirts peasant, can afford these more colorful tulips, and at the same time ruin the stupid game of stupid rich people spending enormous sums on what nature and the artists give practically for free.
I have written some imaginative work on Picasso. A few years ago I was getting ready for two exhibitions during the same week, and felt like I was actually working. Expecting substantial financial loss (as usual), I questioned art’s role for the working man or woman in a society bent on Netflix originals. There is hope for the individual. Picasso is alive, making paintings in Saint Petersburg Russia, and stepping out for a river stroll before the Finn winds bring the lake effect snows.
Art is Work
Actually, in this case, painting is work. I have never considered myself to be an artist, really. I don’t even like “art”, the way my art-lover friend Dan does, one to leap at the chance to visit a gallery or a museum. I love painting though, any kind, and at an art show, I will make a bee line past all other forms of expression to see work of painters, more to learn and compare than to enjoy. Some times professional jealousy creeps in, especially when I see rendering that has a special hair shirt quality, when each stroke of the brush belies both a practical and encyclopedic knowledge of control or constipation—hard to tell which for sure until I meet the painter for beer and oysters. Unfortunately so many masters are either dead or practically inaccessible, and from my viewpoint in Oswego at least, painting is tolerated as a form of yoga, just another hobby distraction to the despair of the modern age. Thank God for family and friendship, and the blessings of the narcissist Internet. Otherwise by now I’d be eating my toenails at a local mental health spa.
In Providence Rhode Island I looked at my first van Gogh through a painter’s eyes. It was a religious experience. The great and powerful Vincent was a failure. Hurray! Another human being. It was a 14 x 17″ landscape entitled View of Auvers-sur-Oise, a day’s work in a village north of Paris in the year he took his life. I read into that painting like any tome of art writing could instruct. The great Vincent van Gogh was nothing much really. Just another proud working man, driven day after day, year after year with an obsession to perfect his limitations. I saw the human hand laying it on thick, always at the right place at the wrong time, a failure at night, hopeful idiot by morning. One life to live, and if he was determined to be a painter, to Hell with the greatest of art critics, Mssrs. Degradation and Poverty.
It worked! A few hours coloring a French village from a field, and he succeeded to live another day pretending to be a painter. It was the billionaires who got rich though. They took the dignity of pride in pretend and made a killing for themselves. Endowments all over the world buy up van Gogh’s paintings to prove unwittingly their dislocation to humanity. They “get” the history, but fear the present moment like a pathogen. I could count all the struggling van Gogh’s living today. But it would take a lifetime and more assistants in my employ than those pretending to be artists at a Jeff Koons factory.
One more point before my plea:
Kurt Vonnegut: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be”.
Last month I checked out from the library a photo book about Picasso. Pictures taken of him at leisure and work in 1956. A mess of canvases and sculptures in every room, painting on the walls, dripped paint on the floor. His mansion had twenty foot ceilings and huge doors at the end of one studio opening out onto a balcony of palm trees. “La Californie” was the name of his hermitage in Southern France.
There is a brief passage in the book referencing his time in Montmartre, when he lived in poverty, painting. Somehow still able to acquire materials without the financial support of credit cards and/or a well-endowed sugar mama. I think poverty in 1905 was a world of difference from what we call it today. He must have made modern starving artists look like rich dandys sacrificing a week of television and a bowl of chocolates for art. Or, God forbid, cell phone service! The photos of him as a rich millionaire painting in a mansion, juxtaposed with my imagination of a poor Parisian painter holed up in some cold January flat over a hundred years ago, instruct and educate like nobody’s business. His wealthy genius in 1956 appears unchanged over 50 years time. He looks just as poor to me, but rich in determination and singleness of purpose. He eats, sleeps, voids excrement, laughs and paints. There is no stopping him. The art crazy old man.
I mention Picasso’s sameness to my wife the other morning over coffee. I asked her how differently would we live if suddenly Jeff Koons got cast inside one of his poodles, and Ron Throop went viral throughout the acquisition dreams of bored billionaires. “Our coffee and climate would get better. Other than that,” she admitted, “nothing”.
A few months ago I helped hang a show at our local art association. One of the helpers, a member my age, asked me what I do for a living. “Paint,” I said. “I am a painter”. It was more difficult for me to get that truism past my lips than if I told him I was an untouchable scouring latrines with my socks.
Picasso’s Picasso. Throop is Throop. We have nothing in
common, besides a heightened desire to perfect our limitations. My path for the rest of this life is to pretend like Picasso. It won’t hurt anybody. It won’t even help. Maybe, if I just work harder and dream longer, Rose will taste a better sip of coffee with her next husband, from the Florida room of her beach condo in Boca Raton.
Now finally, an explanation.
I found out last winter that I am a Stuckist, more or less. Their manifesto is available here at the show. Take a look. The strongest statement, #4, Artists who don’t paint aren’t artists, if not cryptic, is flat out silly wrong. I know nothing about ceramics, but I know a man, a teaching artist who would take his class to Chimney Bluffs along Lake Ontario to gather clay to be used for glazing. Ho boy! Show me a Stuckist in London who longs to extract cadmium from zinc ore. Or, take my friend the marble sculptor, who travels out of state to steal marble from parking lots. He approaches his stone like I do any canvas. As an ignoramus. I wish I had the knowledge (and time) to make my own paint and weave my own canvas. I’d rather paint on a log with berry juice, but the berry juice will never put out like my sweetheart dioxizine purple. And dioxizine sounds like painful chemical death to workers in that industry. So I just hold my breath while I paint.
Anyway, Stuckism. Good medicine. We are painter-workers. We get up in the morning to paint. We are international brothers and sisters in pretend. Yet we all need to get paid. Here is how I dream to be paid. Milton Glaser has the phrase “Art is Work” painted on the transom of his company door. Another tome of knowledge garnered from just three precious words. Art is work. The big painting I finished this week took exactly 40 hours—from surface, image, and finally to frame. At $13 dollars an hour (what I was making at my last job as “cook in the great north woods”, plus materials, and “element-X” fee (30%), I value it at $832.00.
So, any takers? I’ll have to add $100.00 for shipping.
There you have it! The first Oswego Stuckist to admit the truth. Art is work. So is toenail chewing if one can pretend really hard. I promise to play this game out to the end. My dreams tell me that buying up my work now, will secure some legacy to leave your children. Buy a signed book. Put it in the attic. Buy a painting to hang in the parlor. Its story will not die.
I apologize about the lack of framing for many of these paintings. The truth is I have another show going on at the Dyer Arts Center at R.I.T. in Rochester. Unlike Zink, I would be banished from furthering that avenue of pretend if I didn’t deliver framed work. We’re out of money now, and I blame myself for scheduling two shows in the same month. The gallerists at the Rochester venue must keep up appearances. R.I.T. needs to pretend too. And I need to pretend that I have a chance to break into a world that will provide me a line cook’s salary to paint. Please, if you find my art not practical enough for your tastes, patronize Zink Shirts® in any way you can. Glenn has offered this space to local color. Come here for holiday shopping. His work is sublime and corporate killing at the same time. Wear one of his shirts and flip a tall bird at the bottom-line world of men who care not a bean about your day to day. Glenn and I do. Look, we invited you all here. Open your wallets and pick out a record album to play. But first, open your wallets!
It’s true. He was a kiss-ass. The greatest heaven renderer of all time. But no artist. Not like the queer Seneca boy (his contemporary), with the gift of the seer, who carved an ugly French monster in the clay. Some tribal elders nodded their heads. The rest just laughed at his unmanliness. Michelangelo was a pompous servant-user. A Pope’s boy. But not an artist. Popes didn’t want art. They wouldn’t know what to do with it if it slapped their cheese with a brick. Michelangelo was the greatest of the great copiers. His fame is the church. He is iconic because he was the establishment’s choice, and all the other great renderers of his time, not quite as technologically sound, were lucky for a paid for nightly loaf of moldy bread. Those wild ones, the intensely expressive of grand or meager talent, the feelers, were lying about in dungeons and dung heaps gibbering away like mad. Today’s Michelangelos are a CV a dozen, and their reward is a $1500.00 mortgage and occasional self-assurance. I imagine the Medici gopher, the Pope’s stooge, the man who today is known as the Great Michelangelo, losing sleep in fear that God would not deliver that perfect color in the morning, the one to please his patron, the exact one to insure another gold coin.
So the million dung heap feelers alive today are still dragging their feet over the old earth, carrying an immense chip on their shoulders. Because of the greatest Bible renderer of all time, all painters secretly in their hearts pine to be the success of this man, who no doubt in my mind was nothing more than a constipated middle-management aristocratic sissy who would have had his own mother drink the hemlock if the bankers told him to. Michelangelo was the greatest drawer and colorer available to Pope Julius II (Raphael was busy on another astounding commission). And the huge majority of real people on earth at the time were fearing for their lives a God who on a heavenly whim, would wipe away their hard-fought harvest. We know nothing about the people’s artists. Nothing because it would have been impossible for them to exist in an economy of “everybody shrink and starve except the golden circle of God’s chosen few.” Hence dungeons and the dung heap for all expressionists of the 1500’s. The Pope would probably have his soldiers run a blade through any peasant who dared attempt a sitting for service at the Sistine.
But the lowly artist did exist, even if no brush ever wiped egg paint on a flat stone.
Today we suffer the legacy of absolutist art. Forced to juxtapose the “inspiration” of a 16th century chosen workaholic with the bottom line profit of the thousand images we see in a single day. Our first private critique of a present-day piece is the ancient work of fear by a sycophant (Michelangelo) to his God King. Then we wait with our mouths and wallets open for the great galleries and museums (non-creative MBA’s and Art History PhD’s) to tell us what the billionaires are buying today. Exactly who is emerging or has arrived as the new Michelangelos—Jeff Koons, Ai Weiwei, rich professor Kara Walker, or even some graduate painter in Brooklyn with a Smartphone contract and all the right connections.
Oh well. Back to the basement. At least my nightly bread is not moldy.