Monday, February 28, 2011
Hey, check out the view from my new digs. A classic Brooklyn panorama! Looks like I copped it from a movie set, but it's the real deal. Killer sunsets, and the morning light shining down on the two bell towers is divine. I was delighted to have a saint watching o'er me by night, since I can see the statue from my bed, and he me. That is, until I did a little research and found out that it's Saint Joseph, patron saint of virgins. Crap. I'm thinking of moving my bed to the other end of the loft.
It took me two moving companies to hump all my belongings over here. No kidding–five guys on Saturday, and two on Sunday. Now, I don't think of myself as a person who has a lot of stuff. I'm like the opposite of a pack rat. I read a birthday card and throw it away immediately. If it's handmade, I wait an hour and then throw it away. Love letters, vacation souvenirs, remnants of past lives–all gone to the wind. How did this great accumulation happen? It's a question that's been eating away at me all weekend.
So while seven beefcakes moved my copious piles of crap, I continued to pack and fume and contemplate the nature of existence. Why do we hold onto stuff? What's behind the psychological pull to amass worldly goods? Isn't it enough just to be alive? Do we accumulate objects as a way to validate ourselves?
As I packed up my holy books, I saw a brownish blob between two volumes on the shelf, and poked it with dread. It was a desiccated cockroach, big as yer thumb. Jeez. I lived in that place for almost four years and saw nary an insect or rodent, and here was the godfather of all roaches, who apparently met his end while kneeling in prayer. I couldn't figure it out. I looked for clues, like a little suicide note explaining his angst, but found nothing. It had to have been a spiritual crisis of some sort; after all, a normal roach would've died in a kitchen cupboard, but this bloke went straight for the holy books. I suspect that he was overwhelmed by his options, since he was lodged between the Bhagavad Gita and Book of Mormon. Poor bugger. No respectable roach should ever have to choose between Krishna and Joseph Smith.
But the point...ah yes, the point! He didn't have a bunch of stuff on him. No rolled up canvases, no boxes of expensive art books, no framed masterpieces, nothing. He went out the way he came in, if not a few ounces heavier. Humans are the only insects who glom onto objects and use them to make statements about themselves. What if no one had anything? Wouldn't that be solid awesomeness? Nothing but your breath to call your own? Stripped down to their skivvies, there's not a lot of difference between an heiress decorating her third penthouse, and a homeless person schlepping endless bags of worthless possessions. I find it heartbreaking, this need to cling. There was a time in my life that everything I owned could fit into my Ford Granada. I envy that cockroach, even though his end was undignified. I'm awaiting the autopsy report, which may shed some light on his death, but one thing is certain: he carried no baggage during the Final Crunch.
Would that I could say the same. As things stand now, I could sink a battleship. I'd love to build a large raft, pile all my worldly possessions onto it, and send it out to sea. Liberation! Clarity! Unity! O gracious, what a concept! I'll ponder it today while I unpack.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
I'm back. Hope you didn't wait up for me. The art opening happened, and it exceeded my most reserved optimisms. The overall reaction to the installation seemed 1) genuine, and 2) positive. A swell time was had by all, unless I'm completely deluded. It didn't hurt that it was an unusual springlike New York evening, with an uncharacteristically warm wind that reminded me of the Santa Ana winds in southern California. And a full moon never hurts to draw out the roaming packs of long-toothed art lovers. So Your Madge was pleasantly surprised by the turnout, humbled by the response, and grateful for the support. Many thanks to all who either sent or brought their good wishes.
And now I'm immersed in packing hell. Omg. See, I'd just blanked all this out, since I was so focused on my installation, but now it's front and center, in my face. I gotta be out of my loft by the end of February, which sadistically has but 28 days. I've spent the past two days packing all my Bibles, whips, and pincers, which filled a good 20 boxes. I got way too much crap. I mean, how much art does one person need?? It's ridiculous to possess such a glut. And to make things worse, it's all really great art by artists whom I've collected over the years, so there's just no possible way that I can get rid of any of it. I'm insanely fortunate to possess such a wealth of stimulating art by interesting and intelligent artists. I don't know why I'm not envied more than I am.
Where am I going with all of this? See, I'm sorta backed against a wall. Screwed, I think they call it. I've hired a gaggle of beefy men to move me on Sunday, but between now and then I gotta load all my crap into boxes. Will she do it? Will her single-handed efforts suffice? or will her Puritan ethic crack a-twain and force her to commit the unpardonable sin--that of Asking For Help? Noooooooooooo! N'er shall she commit such an abomination. Our Madge is a New Englander through and through, and shan't ask for help unless she's reduced to a quivering puddle on the floor, at which point she will deign to ask someone to mop her over to one side, so as not to obstruct the flow of traffic. Don't mind me, folks...just step around the puddle...so sorry for the inconvenience...O gracious, did you get your feet wet? Sorry...sorry....
I've had some offers for help, but they were delivered with a conspicuous lack of enthusiasm. ("You probably don't need my help moving, right?") or ("I guess I could help you if nothing else is happening on Saturday night, but will have to get back to you"). One offer of particular largess was for the shirt off an erstwhile friend's back, which excelled as a platitude, but reeked in reality, as only a well worn shirt can do. What the hell am I supposed to do with a smelly old shirt?
Next time I have a friend who's moving, I'm showing up at his or her door in my grubbies, tape gun in one hand and coffee in 'tother. No questions asked, no refusals accepted. This is why we're here--to alleviate each others' burdens. Period. On occasions such as the one in which I currently find myself, God transforms itself into a verb. God is what we do for each other, and by extension, for ourselves.
But to pull myself through this move, I just keep thinking about my new digs, which is a brand spanking new 701-square-foot studio, with rivers of milk and honey flowing through it, well-hung bath attendants at the ready to wipe me down after every shower, comely virgins to test the bath waters (not that I'd know what to do with a comely virgin, but I'll bet the bath attendants will), and golden fountains pumping out gin & tonics 24/7. You think I'm kidding? I'll send you a postcard, or better yet, come see for yourself. Now. And don't forget your tape gun.
Above: A portion of my installation at Famous Accountants Gallery. The show is up until March 27.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Making excellent progress. Sorta. Tonight I reached chapter 19, but had to stop because I felt a little nauseous. Inversions have never been agreeable to me, and in fact are the reason that I've never stuck with yoga for very long. Hard to do a downward dog when you feel like you might upward chuck. After last week's meltdown(s), I called a few sympathetic friends, who hosed me down, slapped me around, and straightened me out. I've finally reached a place of equilibrium around my installation, and realize that the final product isn't what the piece is about. It's really about the process, bringing everything I have to it, seeing it through to its completion, and then letting it go. Beyond that, it's out of my hands. And frankly, I'm so strung out from the physical and mental exhaustion that I'm beyond caring one way or 'tother how it's received. Besides, I got bigger fish to fry--like, my new 'do.
Yup, I got my hair cut and colored last night. I don't do this often, but decided to treat myself. We martyrs don't like to appear frumpy. The hair? Why, it would look just fab, if I was a saucy septuagenarian. But I'm considerably shy of that, so instead it makes me look staunchly and scarily conservative. Matronly, even. Or so I thought, but what do I know, so I asked my hairstylist if I didn't look like a Tupperware hostess. He assured me that I was major awesomeness, but I don't know. See, the thing is, he and I used to date, but now we don't, thus I'm not so sure that his opinion can be considered 100% trustworthy, ya know? Like, if you dated your gynecologist and then split up with him, don't you think it would be in everyone's best interest to find a new doctor? Or if you date your car mechanic and he sees you out with another guy, wouldn't you be a little nervous to have him work on your brakes? Especially if the other guy was your gynecologist?
Yeah. So even though my hair guy and I are good friends, I'm not convinced that he's doing his utmost to render me irresistible. What if he's doing the polar opposite of what looks good? How would I know? I don't know from hair. I've always told him to just do what he wants and wake me up when he's finished. I suspect that he's made me look middle-aged and menopausal; a so-too-busy mom who just dropped off the kids at Saturday soccer practice, and is now on her harried way to a Tea Party luncheon.
So this weekend I have to finish chapters 19, 20, and 21. That shouldn't be a problem, as it generally takes about 5 hours to complete a chapter, if it's just straight going, with no mountains to climb or valleys to cross. Then next week I'll knock out chapter 22, and that, dear friends, will be all she wrote. The Antichrist, Armageddon, the whore of Babylon, false prophets, locusts, beasts, feasts–it'll all be behind me as I follow the yellow brick road right on out of Oz and the sun sets on me and my sporty new bouffant.
Above: There she is - Saint Madge, all done up and ready to accept her lifetime martyr award. Tell me the truth--don't you think it's just a little too poofy?
Sunday, February 6, 2011
In addition to the installation, I'll be showing a few small pieces at my opening at Famous Accountants Gallery on February 18. This one is a beautiful passage from the Koran, an excerpt from the chapter called 'Light'. I cut the letters from 'Ecclesiasticus', a book from the Apocryphal Bible. It's small; 5.25" x 3.5".
There's a typo in it. Drat. Hate it when that happens. My excuse is borrowed from the makers of Turkish rugs--they always weave into their designs a subtle flaw, in order to keep themselves humble. A perfect carpet would be an insult to Allah, who is the only perfect One around. These days I'm not having any trouble staying humble, but just in case, I threw in a typo. Just a little insurance against future pride, you might say.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Another long day at the gallery. I'm beat up. This is getting less fun all the time. Just finished chapter 13, which culminates by revealing the number of the beast, which we all know by now is 666. I hit the floor when I got to that part. Literally–the line of type reached the floor, which means that I was sprawled out like a spastic yogini to reach the awkward passage where the baseboard meets the floor. Think about your last gynecological exam, and you'll get an idea of the position I've been in for the last two hours, minus the stirrups. The next stretch will be across the floor with chapter 14, and then I'll be off the ground again and onto my fourth lap around the gallery.
This installation has me going 24/7. I'm not sure which is more exhausting: self-flagellating by day, or self-mythologizing by night. I'm becoming pretty good at both. I yearn for the day when I'm perched in my new studio, sipping a cup of tea with pointed pinky while blithely working away on my newest text drawing. I don't know why I took on this installation. If I'd thought about it, I might have realized what a toll it would take on my body and mind. But all I cared about was seeing what my work looked like as an installation. So here I am, whining round the clock, presenting myself as the long-suffering succotash who makes endless sacrifices for her art. The simple truth is that I didn't know what I was getting myself into. But I can't back out now, so what's a naive artist to do?
Self-mythologize, of course. My analyst could explain the whole thing if you're really interested, but it might put you to sleep. It even bores me a little. Here's the long and short of it: I'm messed up. Functional, but a few hinges need oiling, if you know what I mean. I know you do, that's why I'm not terribly embarrassed by any of this. My theory is that we're all messed up, but some people just don't realize it. Those are the solid nutters; the wretchedly obtuse. Blessed are those who know their defects, and cursed are those who don't think they have any.
But back to me. I think I must be giving my internal demons a good workout by taking on this crazy project. And I'm aware that by going public with my angst, I'm attempting to elevate my installation and myself into the realm of the martyred saints. More or less. I mean, why suffer in silence when I can just as easily turn on the live cam and get a little sympathy? Hey, now there's an angle I hadn't thought of: a live cam in the gallery, so I can wink at the camera during my prolonged flagellations. A reality show to seal my fate and ensure my fortune! Slam dunk and ka-ching! After all, reality shows are nothing more than a platform for ingratiating the bloated ego. Why not mine?
If you're an artist and you feel like you're not getting the attention you deserve, I highly recommend self-mythologizing. Not because it works (unfortunately it's very transparent), but because you might be able to convince yourself and a handful of others that your efforts are worthy and your suffering noble. If you don't know where to begin, just start a blog and write about yourself and your tribulations. Post pictures of yourself often. Wear lipstick. Show cleavage, if you got it. And don't be afraid to align yourself with future world events, like, say, Armageddon. If it never happens, no one will hold you responsible, but if it does, you're golden.
The important thing to remember about self-mythologization is that it's a thankless task. It won't get your name etched into the wall of a museum, unless your daddy owns the museum. And it's a whole lot easier to mythologize if you've got money–the more the better. Gobs of money are a guarantee that your myth-making efforts will stick. Just ask The Donald, trumped-up mentor of mythic morons.
Okay, well, that's enough blog banter for tonight. I need to do my Sudoku puzzle and rest my weary bones. We martyrs may be immortal, but we still need our beauty sleep.
Above: This shows my process. I pick each letter off the board and place it on the wall, on which I've brushed a line of glue. The letters were pre-cut; I started cutting them back in August.