Tuesday, October 9, 2007

the shame of inspiration

so, many artists i know, or at least talk to, have torn judgements on the appearance of an artist's direct influences. some despise the give-in comparison of their work to a former master, be it picasso, basquiat, matisse, de kooning, while at the same time show no remorse in the blatant use of the tools these artists have given them. fuck that. to deny your history is to have no future.

if one were to view my work, they would instantly see my inheritances. i study the work of the aforementioned artists in depth, and by matter of course, their influence is directly noted. is there a musician alive today that has not heard the beatles? coltrane? dolly parton? doubted. and because they write a pop song in C, are they then merely a knock-off of some unattainable original sound? no.

as an artist, it is my job to connect to an idea and convey that idea to the best of my ability. i will make use of wildly popular images as well as extremely personal ones to convey a feeling that i have pertaining to that subject. this is what we do as humans, we co-opt ideas. we use colors to portray objects, just like every other artist. we use lines to define objects, but matisse is the master of line right? so it is done, move on. rothko mastered color, right, no more color. picasso mastered ego, so please start hating yourself. pollock popularized the chaos of drips, so watch your brushes! absurd.

there are art students who spend thousands of dollars and countless hours studying vermeer, only to graduate with a student show of mock outsider art. why? why should we study a technique only to abandon it completely in the name of originality? now is when you say, "well to break the rules, you have to know them". what rules, whose rules, when rules? i will say that the only rule is, metallica fucking rules! the rest of it is for jealousy and judgment. i hope this spell check is working.

you can see by my face that i look like my mother and my father, just as well, you can see in my work that i learned from my predecessors. i do not study michelangelo, i have no interest. the door he opened lead to picasso, matisse, and de kooning, who then opened doors for rauschenberg, johns, and basquiat, who in turn opened doors for me. i am not ashamed to say that the first person i recognized as a poet is jim morrison,(come on you lit fags, jump my shit about that), but it is truth. just as the first painter i connected with on a visceral level was basquiat. i will not out-grow these loves. i hope to one day develop a voice that is clear and inspirational, but i refuse to deny my father(s).

somebody blew up america

amiri baraka (leroi jones) reads Somebody Blew Up America. this is one of the most controversial poems in the last fifty years, possibly since Ginsberg's Howl. Baraka was the recipient of the honor of poet laureate of new jersey until this poem caused a stir over four lines that infer that israel may have had something to do with the 9/11 bombings. baraka, a socialist/communist, was viewed as an anti-semite. now i ask you, is being questioning and critical of a world power inherently anti-semetic just because the people of that nation state are jews? he does not once blame jewish people or culture, in fact he blames no one but poses questions that were on the minds of many people at the time following the "attack". is it possible that an outspoken black nationalist, communist, and leader of working class people has been targeted by media in a plan to discredit him? well, it worked. the governor of new jersey asked for baraka's resignation. when baraka denied this request, the gov then tried to have baraka dis-honored. meaning he would strip baraka of the title. this having no precedence, he was unable to dethrone baraka, he decided to disband the poet laureate program altogether, leaving new jersey as the only u.s. state without a poet laureate.
i spoke to baraka recently, and asked him of the charges of anti-semitism. he told me that he does not have any disdain or hatred of jews, that this claim is ridiculous but expected from those in power. whether or not you believe him to anti-semitic, the poem is great and raises a lot of valid feelings. ezra pound, largely considered america's greatest poet, was a self proclaimed anti-semite, and still we teach him in our schools and herald his poetry to be of the greatest verse penned in the english language. i wonder if we would feel the same if pound were black.

book review: DeKooning: An American Master

de Kooning is the epitome of the american artist. an immigrant to this country, he went on from poverty and anonymity to become the 20th century american master. his influence is felt in nearly every media of art today, from painting to sculpture, he is often called the american matisse. the book follows de kooning from life to death, hitting on all key parts of his life.
the great thing is the amount of background you receive, not just on de kooning but on gorky, rothko, pollock, and other artists of the abstract expressionist movement. stevens and swan leave no holes in the history. i became so attached to the characters that i found myself crying at their sometimes tragic deaths and rejoicing with their achievements.
the book is a good read in length, and large enough in size to make you look fucking smart. harry potter ain't got shit on me, so take that you fifth grade bastard, i can read big books too.
the price is a little steep but being that it garnered so many awards, every library in the country has access to it.
while reading it, i became part of a hap hazard book club, by this i mean that two other friends, who are also artists, were drawn to read the book. we would call each other at pivotal moments, asking first what page the other is on, not spoil anything, and discuss, sometimes at length, what is happening in the story. there have been few books that i have read that have gotten the attention of my friends as much as this one. it changed the way we paint, the way we think about art, view art, critique and interact with one another as artists. it laid a bit of the groundwork for the now defunct WAC. after finishing the book, i made the decision to become what could be called a career artist. this simply means that i define myself as an artist AND act on that definition. working on jobs that i don't always enjoy but do so because they are artistic ventures and any day getting paid to paint is better than a day at the office, or factory for that matter. i can feel the burden that i think a lot of artists have felt. two kids, a wife, bills, and no steady source of income. but if perseverance pays off at all, then the outcrop is well worth the harvest.