The things we carry, part 2

I know of someone who is currently writing a memoir and experiencing a bit of difficulty. Apparently in doing so, he has brought up memories of heavy abuse at the hands of his father, resulting in suicidal thoughts.

We as people carry physical objects throughout our life, but we also carry internal things. Thoughts, ambitions, goals, feelings, emotions, motivations, and obstacles that all weave themselves into our psyche making us who we are.

Our internal struggles that end up moving us in a direction is not unlike that of an onion, we can peel back the layers of emotion and thought to analyze what we have done and why. What has resulted in determination and perseverance sometimes can be better defined as cognitive dissonance.

My onion is layers of paint on a canvas. I dig through them to make sense of anything, for some semblance of a cohesive thought that can produce meaning. As I dig further down, I have to be careful not to tear the last layer and the canvas itself gives way, tearing the foundation.

I can’t help but hear Covenant’s “Tour De Force” in my head: Take you down… I wanna take you down with me….

So I was reading Dogpoet and thinking about suicide from a lot of different angles. It is easy enough to see several suicide references in some of my work, though it was never enough to actually make someone ask about it. Maybe by putting it ‘out there’, I have silenced such inquiries, or maybe they are just too afraid to ask. But I know this is another thing I carry. It is my mission to produce work that evokes powerful emotion and thought. To make the internal external.

When we hear that someone has committed suicide there are always statements of evaluation that immediately follow. ‘He had so much to live for’, ‘She was so pretty’, and my ever favorite ‘Why didn’t they talk to someone… they could have talked to me!’ Never before have we been so pompous to expect our wisdom to be the torch that lights the darkness, let alone their ability to trust us.

I can remember nights thinking what it would be like to be a ghost. What an appropriate fate to linger in the minds of those who knew me as that ‘odd painter with the mustache’ . Though no one would tell that many stories of me, and certainly not after twenty years or so. Time, like a flame, would consume every painting I have ever unleashed on the world and my tales, like my life, would be a wisp of smoke.

Now Covenant’s “Flux” plays in my head: forgotten as the ages grow, eternity is not for you.

But that is all it will ever be anyway; you will be forgotten. I am okay with this fact, even when it rears it’s ugly head around in the late night sessions stepping into the shadow.

My process of adding and peeling off layers of paint on emotions buried on a canvas to get a feeling right, over days, weeks, months, or even years, can be an arduous and often tumultuous process, but it’s necessary for me to create. It is like continually pulling scabs off of healing wounds to disinfect the site so it heals right. And I know that when the piece is finished in it’s perfection, there won’t even be a scar. The thing I carried for so long is put down.

Hopefully my paintings can turn a few heads and make a couple more people think about the things they carry.

The things we carry

I recently sold a number of old items on Ebay. Now that most of the auctions are done and I’ve shipped off the boxes, the feeling is like nothing else. Well, almost.

I remember when I felt this way last. It was some four years ago when I sold my car. It was the one biggest item I have ever owned and most expensive. At first I thought I would never be able to get along without it, but now I look back and laugh. Let alone the mere cost, upkeep, parking tickets, insurance… The bigger problem was that it was just something else on my mind, something else to worry about. Just like my car, these old objects aren’t around me anymore, getting in the way of my thoughts and actions. Toys I haven’t played with in years? Gone. Old video games that barely work? Gone. Other things I haven’t touched in years? Please.

One of my friends pleaded with me to keep all these things. “How cool will it be when you look on these things years from now?” My answer? “Not nearly as cool when I look at my clean apartment today.” More importantly, theses things aren’t cluttering my mind anymore. And let’s face it: I’ll be 35 this year. Am I going to wait another 15 years until I’m 50 to finally get a good price on my comic book collection? Pfft, half of the shit I offloaded isn’t even worth anything any more. My Nintendo won’t be worth another dime in five years, Prolly less. And I’d rather have the money now.

The thing is, we can have the best of both worlds. As we age, we learn the ability to compartmentalize. Sometimes this has a negative effect, but if done right, it’s a quite useful skill. I can get older without growing up. I can still be a big kid with a bunch of toys around. But they lurk only in certain places, physically and mentally.

Still so many of us carry these objects through our life, objects that have little or no value. I’m not talking about a hobby or that rocking chair your mom gave you. That shit is great, and if it brings you joy, by all means, keep it, but USE it. We don’t need to hang on to every little piece of everything. Have some faith in your memories — they are already skewed in your favor anyways.

Diseased or burnt?

One of my artist friends said my recent works, three pieces in particular, look like burnt flesh.

Images 2, 3, and 4 located here

Tonka said diseased.

What do you think?

He did it all for you

This piece was originally entitled “A son to a father”.  I decided against this title because I didn’t want my peers to think it was about me and my father.

This idea started festering when I met other men in the workforce who had young sons. They would talk about them, and it didn’t take me long to realize what they were doing wrong. It wasn’t my place to say, and on the occasion where I dropped subtle hints, I was always dismissed as a young artsy type with a goofy moustache that didn’t know anything. I contend they were afraid of the truth.

When you loose a parent, you develop a new understanding as you link up events in your head in reflection on their life. Unfortunately this happens after the fact, and was never seen as an asset in my wisdom.

Another interesting aspect is the fact that some of these men were more or less talked into having kids from their spouse. To clarify – a lot of parents truly want to have children and plan accordingly. Most of us have a strong drive to reproduce, as it’s built into our genetic makeup (a drive I fortunately did not receive), but sometimes this drive is paired up with inappropriate timing or other obstacle. So in many situations the male doesn’t want the added responsibility, at least just yet. And it takes about a whole three seconds to realize where a parent fits on this spectrum when you see them in Safeway. After all, no one knows how to be a parent, they just (hopefully) do the best they can when the time comes.

When men have a son, a whole new dimension opens up and a sense of pride is developed. It’s almost a god complex when they consider they made what will become a man in their own image.

To some, that child represents an unconditional love that will most likely morph into a love-hate relationship as adolescence sets in. And parents know this. You get caught in a catch 22; if the child is the same sex as you, you know what they are in for and it’s terrifying to watch. If they are the opposite sex, you ultimately will never fully understand them.
But I digress.

So the men that originally got my gears turning were very good at getting up everyday and going to work, to provide and build a good home life. But I always wondered, when I met these children, what they were really providing for the child, emotionally and spiritually. The family I feel sorry for the most involves the father who insinuated he was waiting until his boys were a bit older so he could really bond with them.

I wasn’t able to communicate to him just how detrimental his process was.

endless nameless

It is estimated on this day, 18 years ago, Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain took his life with a shotgun.
(Note: any comments on this post that go on about conspiracy/murder theories will be deleted)

Like many other generation X’ers, I felt a certain kinship when listening to his music. He was our enigmatic musical demigod; sensitive, angry, and full of angst at the same time. He was our Morrison, our Hendrix, our Elvis. More importantly, he was the first public figure that spoke to us in our language.

Musically, we were fed manufactured corporate rock, further disillusioned by the political and social climate as we ventured into the mid and late 80’s. We knew something was amiss as our parents were getting divorced and sprawling suburbia’s we were raised in became playgrounds of boredom and mediocrity. The happy days of the 60’s and 70’s had worn thin and if you were anything like me, you grew up within a stronghold of angst and alienation. Nirvana, fueled by Kurt’s lyrics was an outlet to voice our frustration beyond our bedrooms.

So I downloaded Nirvana’s “From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah” recently.  Yeah, I know I’m late on this one, but I’m usually not a fan of live albums. The levels are always askew and they do a bad job of capturing the true energy of a group. Any one who knows me, knows I love going to live shows and do so often. That’s where I’d rather spend my money. I actually had the privilege of seeing Nirvana live when I was teenager. I remember an enthralling concert that left me buzzing for days later.

So, yeah, I finally got it. Some performances are a bit uninspired such as Breed and Smells like Teen Spirit (You know they HAD to play that).  But the tunes SchoolAneurysm, along with Drain You and Sliver blew me away! Absolute classics in the Nirvana catalog.

It is amazing to hear these guys again. I’m in a whirl when I hear “Grandma take me home.. I wanna be alooooooooone…..”

I am actually very happy that I waited so long to grab this one. It just would not have rang as true if I bought it right away. Good to know that years later I can put this on and magically be transported back to when I was listening to these tunes for the first time, so long ago, with all the love and hate and angst. True genius stands the test of time, and nothing sums up how we felt (and still do) than this line: “you’re in high school again“.

Aren’t we all? Brilliant.

This is the beginning…

I’m really good at not talking about my artwork.  I rarely ever want to share the intimate details of why I paint a specific piece, at times to my disadvantage.  I’ve always looked at artwork as a mystery for the viewer to dismantle, thus bringing their own experiences and convictions to develop meaning.   Then one day, Tonka told me ‘if you ever want to show your work, you are going to have to talk about it’.  Meh.

I had a ridiculously easy plan for this a few months back, but unfortunately, it didn’t pan out as I hoped.  I decided to make a Facebook ‘fan’ page where I would post new work, and the masses that loved it would provide their own commentaries and fuel a debate of what it is to be human.  My miscalculation was that anyone would voluntarily assume this role when me, the artist, wouldn’t even do it.

But yet I still don’t think we, as artists, should give away the mystery.  It seems that musicians can play this card famously to heightened interest and sales – we still flounder over Carole King’s object of desire (and you aren’t vein if you think a song that IS about you is… well… about you) and continuously postulate on what Lucy in the sky with diamonds is about.  But it seems us visual artists cant get away with that ‘i’m not going to tell’ strategy.

Ultimately, I know my work is challenging and highly personal, but all great art is.  And my fear becomes reality when I realize that most people don’t want to examine it. Though we never should be afraid to speak up and I offer this space here to share some thoughts beyond the miniscule Facebook posts.