Sunday, January 30, 2011
Thanks for all your good wishes on Sunday. A gal couldn't ask for a nicer send-off for my third trek over the ceiling, which I'm now fondly referring to as the Khyber Pass. If things get really nasty up there, I may be soon be calling it the Donner Pass. Unfortunately, I didn't cover much ground over the weekend. I got as far as the ceiling (see above), and then I ran out of steam. And then there's the whole issue of making a living. While I enjoy self-inflicted torture, there's no money in it, thus the day job beckons. It's become somewhat difficult to concentrate on my other work when I know the Whore of Babylon is waiting for me to recount her rank fornications from my wobbly ladder.
Speaking of which, as you can see from the photo, I'm having a blast. The photo's cropped, so you can't see the guy off to the right, holding the bull whip. I pay him to thrash me every six minutes, six times in quick succession. When he reaches 666 thrashes, we take a coffee break. That thing around my neck is a pillow, the kind you wear on an airplane. It's not terribly comfortable, but it keeps my head more or less intact. The positions I have to hold for extended periods are Satanic. Kevin at the gallery calls it Bad Yoga. I just call it pain.
Yup, so that's where my journey begins next time I go to the gallery. Now you get why I'm not hightailing it over there in any hurry. Besides, I prefer to do that stretch of ceiling when I'm alone in the gallery. It's just way too embarrassing to have anyone else around, since I spew profanities for the entire three feet. I have to. I don't know what else to do with myself. Chant Buddhist mantras? Recite the Lord's Prayer? Nah, I'd rather curse the kingdoms, and all the horses therein. It's much more satisfying, and then later, when I'm home and relaxed and fetal, I can whimper my prayers of repentance. My evening oblations consist of lengthy prayers to absolve my foul-mouthed execrations, and a Sudoku puzzle to eradicate any other sins that may have gone under the radar. (Or "pray-dar", as some Christians like to say).
You may think it odd that I allow profanities into the sacred circle of my installation. I don't see it as a contradiction; I see it as the fullness of God. Most people believe that God encompasses all that is "good", and that the sacred world is comprised of that which exists within the light. They forget that when God created light, He also created darkness. You can't have one without the other. Thus the fullness of God is expressed only when darkness is embraced. This is Gnostic, Christian, Tantric, Kabbalistic, Vedic, Taoist, Jungian, and good ol' common sense.
My text work embraces the shadow element of God. Not just the current installation, but each piece, and the body of work as a whole. There's a dark current running through all of it. I don't discuss it; it's too personal. But it's there, and the reason it's there is that the work feels incomplete without it. I don't seriously believe that cussing up a storm is a sacred act. But I wholeheartedly believe that when we acknowledge the fullness of our humanity, the darkness of our psyche as well as the infinite love in our hearts, we come that much closer to the essence of God.
I know that I greatly benefit by allowing the darkness a small portion of my creative work. And the truth is, if you don't embrace the darkness in one form or another, it'll express itself without your permission. And that, my friend, can get way ugly. I know you know what I'm talking about. The best thing you can do is to acknowledge your shadow and give it a voice. Think of it as releasing a pressure valve.
Tomorrow is February 1. Back to the ladder for Madge; my wobbly stairway to heaven. May you and your dark side have a blessed day!
I'm on my third lap around the gallery, and have reached chapter 11 of the book of Revelation, which means that I'm half way done. The glass alternates between being half empty and half full, depending on my mood. Right now, with the sun shining brightly in Bushwick and a decent amount of caffeine thrashing through my system, the assessment is that it's half full. Ask me later tonight, when my neck looks like it belongs on a Parmigianino Madonna, and I may have a different answer for you.
Today I'll execute my third trek across the ceiling, the dreaded Khyber Pass of my installation. It's not self-loathing that makes me do this--it's the architecture of the gallery. The line of type is continuous, so it has to go up a wall, across a 36" stretch of ceiling, and then down the other side, eventually creating a large circle of type. There's not a lot of oxygen up there, and it's just about the most unfun thing I can think of to do on a glorious Sunday afternoon. I thought about hiring a sherpa, but it's not the load that's heavy, it's the task. Another possibility is to apply a line of glue where I'd like the type to go, then throw a handful of pre-cut letters onto the ceiling and see what sticks. After all, who's ever going to read this??
I think what might be my salvation today is Kevin and Ellen, the owners of the gallery. They were there last night while I worked, and are terribly entertaining. At first they were a distraction, and my nose was slightly disjointed that they were imposing havoc on my concentration. But at some point it dawned on me that I was actually have fun, instead of my usual isolation tank of misery. Ah, sweet jollity, while I work! Gad, what a pair. A few drinks and they're like Laurel and Hardy. I think I'm falling in love them, if that's not too weird.
Okay, I'm off to the gallery. I figure I'll head up the incline by 3:00, be midway through the Pass by 4:00, and should summit around nightfall. Assuming that the border guards are friendly, my neck and I should cross over into Central Asia by 7:00. We'll send you a postcard to let you know we arrived safely.
Enjoy your Sunday!
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
A reasonably calm afternoon at the gallery. No major mishaps to report. Yesterday, however, I was careless and had a little accident. See, I have to crawl down off my ladder every fifteen minutes or so and slide it three feet to the right. Well, I placed my x-acto knife on the top step of the ladder, above my head and out of view, and when I moved the ladder, it rolled off the edge. I watched my knife execute a perfect swan dive off the top step, hurtling through space in slow motion, a projectile with a mission, and it happened to be in perfect alignment with my right foot. It then slowed down and hovered over my foot for a moment, suspended like the sword of Damocles, which didn't bode well for my installation. Finally it registered in my skull that I might want to move my foot, but a wee bit too late.
Now, anyone who's ever stubbed a toe knows that it takes a few seconds for the pain to make its way from an extremity to the brain. (Alas, the time lapse is quicker for me, since I'm short). Ever efficient, I used the time wisely and recited scripture to offset the impending pain: "Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the harvest of the earth is ripe." (Revelation 14:15) "For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" (Revelation 6:17) Surely not I, if I keep making these lame-ass moves with the ladder.
And then I watched and Lo! the sword pierced my shoe, then flesh, then bone, and verily verily, I was taken in the spirit back to Tourettesville, where my unrivaled profanity is so magnificent and mellifluous that I've been named town crier. But hey - no worries. I'm fine, I'm fine. I didn't really need that toe anyway, and it'll save me a little money on my next pedicure.
Fortunately, the line of type moved back to eye level today, so for the moment I'm off the ladder. Indeed, by evening I was down to the floor again. Which is easier on the neck, but my back isn't very happy. As far as the text, I'm up to chapter 9, where things start to heat up a bit. The bottomless pit is opened, a great smoke arises, locusts, scorpions--your basic apocalyptic varmints. It's all good. I'm at peace when I work. I love listening to the sounds of the building. I've gotten used to the heater turning on, and then the pipes clanking for a while when it shuts off. During the noon hour I hear Mexican music, so I'm guessing someone's home for lunch. And today there was hail mixed in with the snow, so I worked to the sounds of rain and wind. Time seems to stop after I've been there a while, and I'm always reluctant to leave.
I'm almost done with the second lap around the room, which means that I'm about to start lap three of the book of Revelation. With any luck, I should be half way done by the end of the weekend. Verily I say unto thee that in spite of amputating a toe, progress is afoot, and the end of the world is nigh.
Monday, January 24, 2011
My dentist called this morning to tell me it was time for another cleaning. As if I don't have enough torture in my life right now! He must be planning another cruise in the Caribbean. Either that or the wife is having another one of her chins lifted. I told him he'd have to wait until I finish my installation; I can just take so much abuse. I sorta get why he needs to plan ahead, though. They need to lay in a good supply of nitrous oxide for my appointments, seeings how I make them turn it on the minute I walk through the door. And then there's the fleet of dump trucks that have to be called in to haul away my plaque. It would probably be easier for everyone if I found a dentist near a landfill–will have to look into that.
I'm now one week into my installation, and it's starting to take shape. Whatever that means. The line of type has run around the gallery once, and the sacred circle has been created. So now I'm on my second lap, and the two lines (which in fact are just one line) are playing off from each other. It's....um...."interesting". See that ladder above? That's where I was perched for the better part of the day. To the left of the ladder, on the wall, you can see the lines of type. When it reaches the end of the wall, it runs up the edge, then onto the ceiling, across the doorway, and down the other side. It would be physically challenging no matter what, even if I was laying on a bed of fluffy goose down, with Brad Pitt cradling my head and George Clooney sucking my toes. But they're not, and then there are those satanic pipes, placed there to mock my efforts. I'm telling you, I'd never have done this had I known what was in store. It's sheer lunacy, and if ever there was a time for me to turn to atheism, this would be it. As fate would have it, I really suck at godlessness.
So onward ho. I'm up to chapter seven, where Saint John (my man) enumerates the twelve tribes of Israel. Yup, and when I reached the tribe of Zebulon, I grabbed that capital "Z" with my x-acto blade, and while attempting to stick it to the ceiling, the Z fell off the blade and slowly fell to the floor, waving cheerfully at me as it drifted past my inverted head. Now, this happens all the time. Dropping letters, I mean. But I got smart and laid in a back-up supply, that way I don't have to crawl down off my ladder for a friggin' vowel every five minutes. But I didn't plan on dropping this particular letter. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find a capital Z in the Koran? Keeping in mind that I've already harvested a full crop of them? Oh baby. That teeth cleaning is starting to sound like a vacation.
The other thing that I've discovered is that when you're upside down, your eyesight is worse. I kid you not. There must be some science to support this. You know that expression "blind as a bat?" I'm thinking that the way they got blind was by hanging upside down for extended periods. Don't quote me on this; I just wanted to record my prescient reflections for future generations.
As far as my level of physical pain, well, it's like when you ask a woman in impossibly high heels if she's comfortable. "Do I look good?" she asks. "You look fabulous!" you reply. "Then I'm comfortable!" she says. That's how I feel right about now. Except that I don't yet know if it looks fab. I'll have to get back to you on that. Right now I'm too busy combing the Koran for a capital Z.
Above: My torture chamber du jour. Each session I like to up the ante on the torment. Anyone know where I can find an album of Helen Reddy's Greatest Hits?
Saturday, January 22, 2011
I finally started my installation. You know, the one I've been writing about since the birth of blogging, where I cut up the Koran and create the book of Revelation on the walls of a gallery. Holy crap, what was I thinking? And why didn't you talk me out of it?? This is hands down the most boneheaded project I've ever taken on. It's incredibly demanding, both mentally and physically. See that photo above? That's after I'd finally found a comfortable position!
Yeah, see, I'm cutting up the Koran letter by stinking letter, and then gluing the letters to the gallery wall to create the book of Revelation. Why am I doing this? Because I'm a nutter. Like Saint John, I've got a few screws loose. I seem to recall a vague reason for wanting to do this installation. I thought it would be way cool to bring Islam and Christianity together and look at their similarities, embrace their differences, and sing a few apocalyptic rounds of kumbaya. I must have been smoking some really good stuff when I came up with that idea. Muslims and Christians have been duking it out for over a thousand years; it's sorta become sport for them to antagonize each other. They don't need me to orchestrate an interfaith hugfest. Did I really think this installation would shine a light into that dark corner of humanity?
The truth is, no. I didn't think that. I'm all about the visual experience; the concept is secondary. I like to bring disparate religions together and watch them resonate and clash. It's fascinating to me that some people are so invested in their version of God that they're willing to off anyone who doesn't concur. This gives me the impetus to do my creative work. I wouldn't get nearly as excited if I was cutting up, say, a Harry Potter novel to create a Danielle Steel romance. Nor would you find me hanging upside down from a ladder to glue John Grisham to the wall. The subject matter - sacred texts of all persuasions - is simply the fuel that keeps me interested in doing the work, which is, after all, incredibly tedious. And monotonous. And...oh, never mind. Far be it from me to complain.
But never did I anticipate the agony of this project. Thus far I've spent 13 hours on it, and I've done but 2 chapters. Forget about February; I'll be lucky if I finish this by the Second Coming. Thankfully, there's only one wall on which I have to apply the letters close to and on the ceiling, due to the architecture of the gallery. As you can see, there are a couple of nasty pipes right smack in the way, which provided me with the inspiration to spew a string of profanities so long and loud that I scared myself. And the landlord, apparently, because he came down from on high and introduced himself (Steve) and politely asked if everything was okay. He was probably wondering why a chick with Tourette's Syndrome was hanging out in his basement.
While I was sticking letters to the ceiling (a passage of only about 36", praise be to Allah), I thought of Michelangelo, and what he must have suffered when he painted the Sistine ceiling. But he had three things that I don't have:
1) a patron*
Not to mention a twelve inch neck. If I ever do this again--and I do have a few more installations that I'd love to do--it will be accompanied by a fat stipend and a host of adoring interns. See, the really great thing about doing my text work as an installation is that you can walk into it and experience it as an environment, which adds another dimension to the work. I'm trying to create a sacred space by making a large circle with the type--it goes across the ceiling, around fixtures, across the floor--in a continuous line of type. All 22 chapters of Revelation are strung together in one line, without spaces or punctuation, and the line runs around the gallery as many times as it takes to finish the book (by my calculations, five times). That's five times that I'm going to have to go across that 36" stretch of ceiling. Steve and I are going to get to know each other pretty well by the end of this.
Well, I'd better wash up and get on over to the gallery. I have two solid days of torture ahead. When all of this is behind me, I'm going to buy a 58" Plasma TV, a comfortable couch, and I'm never going to open the book of Revelation again for as long as I live.
* the filthy rich Pope Julius II
Saturday, January 1, 2011
Happy 2011, everyone! How's the head this morning? I think I'm the only person in Bushwick who doesn't have a hangover. The yahooers were still yahooing at dawn, their melodious voices mingling with those of the crowing cocks. Or something like that. After mulling over the great pile of invitations for New Year's Eve festivities (hey, I had two!), I opted to stay in and work in my studio. Koran cutting and a glass of sparkling pomegranate juice: hoo baby it doesn't get much better'n that. In my building there were parties fore, aft, and leeward, and they only died down a few hours ago, so it's just Madge and the mice on this magnificent morning of '11.
I actually enjoy being home on New Year's Eve. It's sorta my tradition to bring in the new year working in my studio. And then the really fun part is that I get to spend New Year's Day wishing everyone a chip-chip-chipper new year while their heads are ready to explode. It's taken many years to perfect the New Year's Gloat, but I've finally got it down. And although I'm not generally given to revenge, I thought I'd turn up the volume on my stereo this morning so I could share some robust military marches with my neighbors. Just my way of saying thanks.
Hey, I'm moving. Like, soon. Just across town, but I'll be living in a quieter part of Bushwick, a Hispanic neighborhood, and I'll have a real studio. Yup, it's true: a brand spankin' new 701-square-foot studio. Seeings how the studio that I've occupied for the past 3.5 years is roughly three square feet (seriously), you can imagine the pitch of my enthusiasm. I'm utterly aflame. My rent will increase of course, but I figure if I've crawled this far out on the limb, what's a few more inches? Life's not meant to be lived close to the trunk. What's to be gained from it? Stability? Bah. Ask any squirrel: the bark at the trunk is tough and bitter. You want fresh bark? You gotta crawl way out there.
So anyway, I'll be moving in a few weeks. Great way to start the year. Wishing you a great year too, and may 2011 find you perched on some particularly precarious branches.
Above: This guy didn't get too far from the trunk, but at least he's headed in the right direction.