"No Bibo No Mas." Photograph by Jerome du Bois. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce in any form.
by Jerome du Bois
[Don't miss the reposted Coda Illegal sidebar. All of the entries are from last year. Since the last writing, millions more have snuck into our land. And if you're legal, you're paying for it.]
1. You are criminals.
2. You are not welcome here.
3. We don't need you.
4. You are NOT America.
5. You're what's wrong with Mexico.
6. You wouldn't know integrity if it bit you on the ass.
7. Save your whining for Vicente Fox.
8. You're sucking our social services dry.
9. The rule of law means nothing to you.
10. You treat our desert like your dump.
12. The border is there to keep you OUT.
Oh, and como se dice "Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out"?
Nature Photography by Jerome du Bois. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce in any form.
by Jerome du Bois
I was blessed with an augury this morning. As I sat with my coffee and the morning TV news, I kept one eye on the seed bells just outside the front window. Most mornings one or two parrots from the tiny local wild flock would fly over to feed, and to study the big strange creatures behind the glass wall. And we'd study them right back, because they're not like the other birds --the pidgeons, starlings, mockingbirds, doves, finches, and quail. The other birds could care less about us, and take off as soon as we approach the window, but the parrots are curious, and unafraid.
This morning was different. A parrot arrived, and then another, and another, and another, and . . . I stopped counting at around a dozen. I was astounded. I had no idea the flock was this large, and I had never seen so many parrots on one place before. A couple of them even stood on the windowsill. I couldn't get them all in a picture --yes, I stood right up against the window-- but you can see five of them above perched on what Catherine calls the "howdy-do branch."
Yes. Howdy-do, little friends.
Now, I'm neither superstitious nor an ornithomancer, but I can still interpret this visitation as a sign, can't I?
A sign of what?
I don't know. I'll have to think about it. But I can't imagine it being anything other than good.
by Jerome du Bois
The banner above (here when we change it) is a detail of one of the top five photographs in the world when one Googles images in the category "fashion art photography." All of them feature my wife, Catherine King. I'm not surprised. She chose or created every element of every photograph: clothes, accessories, styling, pose, and title.
Every word in that category is important. They're not merely fashion photographs, because the model is no mere mannequin: the piece is about the model. It isn't just art --the art that exists in the pose and the theme and carried by the ensemble-- because the fashion choices are important. (We call it The New Formality.) And it isn't just photography because she isn't out to please shutterbugs. The photographs --taken outdoors, in natural light, with natural surroundings-- are Fashion Art Photography, and more can be seen in the Portraits of Catherine on the sidebar. (And more to come.)
I'm very proud of her.
Nature Photography by The Tears Of Things. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce in any form.
by The Tears of Things
Let's give it up for the Beautifull Stranger. The Tears of Things was thrilled to realize yesterday that our image, Return of the Beautifull Stranger, is the number one Google image for "Paranormal Photography" in the whole wide world! Just Google it yourself and see.
From where we are, life itself feels kind of flat without our reminders of the dead who are all around us. Can't wait to get our "ghost camera" fixed. We've been through so much together. And of course, we'll be sharing the new images with you --our loyal Tears of Things readers who never, ever have one word to say about the paranormal photography. Because they're your dead as well as ours.
Kcho cavorting in the Miramar mansion given to him by castro.
You can play with the leash, but not with the dog.
by Jerome du Bois
Many artists today are just heartless whores who will exhibit anywhere on earth, no matter how horribly the sponsoring government treats its people, as long as they can get their immortal gifts from the muse realized. So they'll go to China, Singapore, Kuwait, Sharjah --and Cuba, where right now 98 artists from 47 countries --and their sycophants and remorae-- are thumbing their noses, shaking their asses, and laughing in the face of continuing unbearable suffering. It's called schadenfreude, I hear. Taking pleasure in another's pain. Dancing on graves and living bones alike, I say.
Carey Lovelace, who is, it says here, "co-president of the U.S. Chapter of the International Association of Art Critics" --there is such a thing? boy, these people get inflated ideas about themselves; must be huge, though, to have to have co-presidents-- he or she has covered the Ninth Havana Bienal, breezily, blithely, cynically, ironically, for artnet.com.
The piece reveals two things: the first is that none of these artists or curators or collectors --Cuban, non-Cuban-- not one-- gives a damn about the thousands of dissidents stuffed into living coffins all over the Island, or the tens of thousands of ghosts of the innocent dead hovering over that despairing and dangerous land.
Hell, they'd buy a bullet-riddled chunk of bloody paredon if someone offered it up for sale, and it was genuine.
Second, some readers of our online novel La Pionera and The New Mango-- which is centered on ISA, the Cuban art scene, and American art tourists-- might be skeptical of our portraits of Cuban artists as privileged cash cows, and the whole setup as just another money trap. Then I read this review and see that we're ringing all the bells --with one crucial difference, which I'll get to below.
But first, allow me a little smile, because the only encouraging note in the review is the turnout:
At a party at Cuban photographer Carlos Garaicoa’s marble-floored, three-story villa in Havana’s Miramar section, a neighborhood once home to high-rollers and casino-owners, some local artists fretted. Standing in a dried-out weedy garden of the sort that seems to surround even the most lavish mansions here, Deborah Bruguera summed it up. "Usually by this time," painter Ibrahim Miranda's wife confided, "the Americans have descended." She was referring to art collectors, not U.S. troops.
On the eve of the Ninth Havana Bienal, things indeed felt disturbingly quiet. . . .
Awwww. Then this:
At a post-opening night party for the 2006 bienal at the mansion of superstar artist Alexis Leyva, a.k.a. Kcho, it became clear that all this fretting had been justified. Tables with vast spreads of food were barely picked at. Guests milled around an empty swimming pool and a cement Art Nouveau nymph holding a platter that in former eras spilled water. American pop music played through a sound system. Gossip had it that the house, a former embassy, had been given as a wedding present to the artist, reportedly a favorite of Castro, who was grateful that he chose not to emigrate. Kcho’s physical bulk seems to wax and wane in proportion to Cuba’s international art status. He was slimmer this year.
Jeebus, the guy's the size of three average Cubans, and he's slimming down? But to me it's good news that attendance was relatively meager, for whatever reasons. I want to see some ribs showing on that cash cow.
Now, about that crucial difference between art and life, which includes a tale --a yarn-- about Kcho and boats, which illustrates how nobody, no matter how connected, kozykool, and complacent, escapes the Island's paranoia.
I just want to wipe that smile off his face, if only fictionally.
In our novel we have two characters named Abel Barroso and Yoan Capote. They have nothing to do with the real artists who possess those names, and any resemblance to them is pure koinkydinky. There's a scene from Part Two --In The Time Of Lisa Zeitgeist-- I'll reproduce here to make my point. The two artists are visiting with American art curator Lisa Zeitgeist in the Golden Tulip Hotel:
Abel: Oh, Lisa . . . We love you, but we're worlds apart. Look --what's this?
Lisa: Your money clip, with your money in it. So?
Abel: It's a silver dollar sign money clip, and it's filled with dollars, mostly. I'm a dollar Cuban; I'm also a euro Cuban and a dinar Cuban--
Yoan: --I got paid in Kruggerands once--
Abel: And I've been paid in Maple Leaves. And He has taken a bite of every one. You think we swim like fish in this society, free as you please. No. In fact, because of the money, because of our "success," we probably have more Eyes and Ears on us than regular Cubans.
Yoan: And The Shadow.
Abel: Yeah. There's this guy, or more than one guy, who sneaks into a lot of artists' studios --New Inventado types, mostly-- and checks things out. Because we've been off the Island, you know. We call him the Shadow. Sometimes he or they makes sure the artist knows somebody was there --rearranging things. Again, it's about control. . . . So yeah, Lisa, we have money. We don't starve. We can provide for our families. We wear the ropa de marca and the bling-bling and we breeze in and out of the hotels with just a nod to Security. We have fairly new, fairly sturdy homes. But He looms over it all, remember. We never forget Him --even we, insulated with our satellite dishes, are not allowed to-- and we never forget that He could take it away in a heartbeat, with one sip of his tea. It may look like we're free and easy, but --"You can play with the leash--"
Yoan: "--but not with the dog." The way we're talking I'm expecting the Roaches at the door any minute.
Abel: Especially when you call them Roaches. Settle down, Yoan. Haven't you been listening? More collectors than ever before, Lisa said. I think He will want the whole Lecture Series to go as smoothly as possible.
Lisa: Yes! Finally, an encouraging word! I'll drink to that!
Yoan (sotto voce): You're right, Abel. Fidel always follows the money.
Abel: And we're his obedient children.
End of scene. The difference is that our fictional artists still chafe just a little at their collars. (In fact, in our novel, almost everyone --from greedy art collectors to spies to cowardly professors and sold-out artists-- in fact, all but one character, who is sucked up into Hurricane Lazaro-- is redeemed. It's a novel of hope.)
But Kcho --mierda, there's no need for a Shadow on him; he meets fidel's bagman at the door, I'll bet you, first of the month, with the green plastic briefcase of greenbacks. He loves his long long leash.
Now, the best way to make my point vivid is to spin a little tale and put Kcho in a pickle, see how he acts.
One day there's a knock at the mahogany front door and his Chinese Cuban housekeeper comes out to the sun porch and tells him it's an old friend. Let's call him Guillermo Herrera, in honor of these two men.
Kcho recognizes the name and frowns --a childhood friend, hasn't seen him for years, he left all those hicks behind, mierda he probably wants money, he doesn't want to see him, but he kind of owes the guy, so he says let him in, and bring us a couple of mojitos.
He goes back to watching the fountain plashing pleasantly. Then the scuff of sandals. Kcho turns around in his wicker chair without rising. Walking carefully toward him came a tall guy --brown t-shirt and khaki pants-- so skinny he'd be in danger if he stood next to a broom. Kcho finally rises and gives him a soft handshake. It's like shaking a bundle of sticks. He tells Guillermo to pull up a wicker chair opposite him.
"Long time--" Kcho begins, then waits while the Chinese housekeeper sets the mojitos down on a silver tray on the rim of the fountain. They toast. He notices Guillermo almost swoons as he drinks.
"Man, that's good. Thanks."
"So, where you been?"
"Around. Different things. . . I like this fountain; it's loud, but still soothing." Hitching his chair closer. "I was looking at some of your boat sculptures in your big front room while I was waiting."
"Uh, huh . . . Yeah, it's kind of like a mini-gallery-- you know, for overflow. So . . ."
Watching as the guy hitches his chair even closer. "As a matter of fact, it was boats I wanted to talk to you about." Reaches out a skinny hand and rests it just on the surface of the gently dancing waters in the well of the fountain. Looks up pointedly and tilts his narrow head like a parrot.
Boing! Boing! Peligroso, Alexis, peligroso! as alarms bells go off in Kcho's head. But he's a veteran political player, so he hides his shock by looking over at the hand in the water, now bobbing gently up and down. He runs through the permutations quickly and reaches the obvious conclusion: no matter the guy's game, no way will Kcho help him. That's just bottom line. He's in the pipe, five by five, life couldn't be sweeter, he's Kcho the Kavorter. No way that's going to go derrumbe. Nobody's going to rock his boat. Now, his only advantage is going to be in information, so it's just a matter of narrowing down exactly how Guillermo wants Kcho help him escape from the Island.
He takes another sip of mojito, then says, "Well, as you saw, I don't make real boats. They're artworks. Nobody could --I mean--"
Guillermo smiles. "We --I mean I . . . I know. It's not about those boats." Grins wider. "I'm not a collector's representative," he says wryly.
We? Great. "Okay." Kcho dips a finger in the fountain, then out, and draws a wet dollar sign on the terracotta rim. Lifts an eyebrow.
Guillermo pours water over it, shaking his head.
Kcho leans back and lifts his arms in a half shrug, like what the hell else have I got?
Guillermo leans in to about six inches from Kcho's big head, like a pencil facing up to a bowling ball. "Fifty-five gallon drums," he whispers flatly.
The chair arms almost crack apart as Kcho shoots to his feet. He steps forward and looms over the skinny man. Harsh whisper: "Why are you doing this to me, man? There's no way I can help you. You have to go now." And he points a fat finger thataway.
Without a word, Guillermo hustles out. Kcho, agitated, calls for another mojito, and sinks slowly back down into his chair. He begins to run the permutations again. There are only a few, but every one is a double-edged sword.
First, he did right. Boom, got rid of the guy. "I can't help you." But now what? Turn him in? You're tight with a lot of CDRs. Okay, good Revolutionary citizen. But then what if the CDRs --and others, like MININT-- ask themselves why someone would risk approaching me? Did they detect some sympathetic streak in me? It was risky; I'm well-known as one of His friends. They might start looking at me, and my friends, and my clients, and my money. They'd be sure to find something, since every Cuban broke some law all the time.
But if I don't turn him in, and he's a plant, bait, a honey trap, then MININT can come up and put the squeeze on me for not being a Revolutionary citizen. They wouldn't even have to take me anywhere. They'd just sink the hook in deep, make sure the message was clear --we can grab you any day-- and slink out the door.
And if the guy really is genuine, and I turn him in, I turn in probably a dozen other people, too. Well. They shouldn't be doing what they're doing. Still . . .
Mierda. Leaning forward, big knotted forehead in both hands, kneading the notions around, rocking in his chair, hunched over anxiously, rocking in the creaking chair. Okay, he thinks. Let's go over it again . . . If the guy--
Yeah. That's a much better picture to fade out with than the one at the start of this post. Haw.
[Interested readers might want to check out, besides the novel, our earlier pieces on Cuban art.
by Jerome du Bois
[This is a follow-up to "Heidi Hesse, Put Yourself On Flight 93," which I published exactly two years and one day ago today.]
Big news: after twenty years, artist Heidi Hesse is becoming a U.S. citizen. Big deal: she still hasn't changed her anti-American sentiments. The citizenship move is just another one of her career shticks. There was no significant event that precipitated this decision, according to her public statements. Her continuing heavy-handed, clunky anti-Americanism is obvious from examining just two of her recent works, which I saw on her website. Hesse is in no way a significant artist, but she gets play, and she keeps trashing this country. She's going after Lady Liberty again. She just won't leave this beautiful American icon alone, and she won't stop belittling the beautiful idea of America, either; and that's why I'm here again. From the eyelounge press release:
After nearly a year away, artist Heidi Hesse has returned to Phoenix with new work, new insight into what it means to be an American -- and a new resolve to seek citizenship after two decades of living in the United States. Her exhibition will be . . . in downtown Phoenix. . .
Hesse was born in Germany, raised in South Africa and Germany, and has lived in this country most of her adult life as a legal alien. Her April show at eye lounge, where she is a guest artist, will reflect her previous year spent in two diametrically opposed cultures: Korea -- among the most foreign to a Westerner -- and Omaha, Nebraska, one of the most quintessentially American. The experience of living in a country where she was automatically assumed to be an American, followed immediately by being in one where she was an outsider, deepened Hesse’s ongoing exploration of Americanism. It also inspired her to finally become an official citizen herself.
The eye lounge exhibition features painted stills from Apple Pie Project, the performance art piece Hesse made during her seven-month stint at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul, for which she baked apple pies and fed volunteers the iconic American pastry and chronicled their responses. The show also comprises portraits of fellow artists at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha. During Hesse’s three-month studio residency there, portraiture became a way of deepening the necessarily short-term connections she forged with fellow artists-in-residence and became a metaphor for American mobility and, ultimately, rootlessness.
I guess she didn't put herself on United Flight 93. (I doubt she'll see the movie, either.)
Let's take a closer look at those two paintings.
Lady Liberty is probably our most dignified and noble American image. So naturally in the Rebarb she --oh yes, the female part is crucial to the trashing: This bride is way too beautiful for so many hate-filled people today-- she becomes the most caricatured and blasphemed image of our country. All kinds of silly and inappropriate things have been shoved into her hands, and she's been made to wear the worst of facial distortions and made to assume the most debased positions. Hell, every other day I see people on street corners wearing pale-green foam-rubber crowns and pale green togas, human signs for tax preparers and furniture wholesalers. A long fall for a goddess.
And now here is Heidi Hesse's Camouflaged Liberties, where Lady Liberty becomes a one-line joke, her reassuring lineaments reduced to jigsaw blobs, no more important than the blobs of camouflage surrounding her. Thuddingly obvious message: warmongers use war to justify infringing on civil liberties. And painted with all the flat-footed anti-finesse of a political cartoon.
And it isn't true. Take Hesse herself. She goes flying halfway around the world for a few months, humiliates South Koreans and insults Americans (I'll explain below), flies back to the fantastically abundant breadbasket, hangs out for a few more months, paints, chatters, comes home, and makes this crap.
Nobody got in her way. No Homeland Security gorilla came pounding on her door. (We would have heard about it, believe me.) She went away for nearly a year and came home safe and sound. What kept her safe? Who was that Woman at her side every moment? In a dangerous world --have you seen the South Korean Parliament free-for-alls? the farmer riots?-- she breezed right through, protected by the righteous power of the United States of America. Lady Liberty's mighty hand hovered over her everywhere, a reminder to the world to not mess with American citizens.
And this is how she shows her appreciation. So: she may become someone with the ultimate identity prize --a U.S. Passport-- but she hasn't changed her simplistic, blinkered, boilerplate-leftist attitude by one degree.
The second painting, from an overblown "performance piece" with apple pies, shows a hand with a spoon holding a dollop of apple pie before an open-mouthed Korean.
It turns my stomach. She spoils the sweet taste of the land of liberty --the emblematic apple pie-- by shoving in our faces the image of the arrogant, paternalistic American spoonfeeding the demeaned and dependent person of color the poisoned fruit of bullying American hegemony. (Then she asks how they like it.)
Why didn't she have them feed themselves? Think about the differences in the images, if that was what she had done. It was still a stupid idea, but at least the subjects would look more like people than helpless little nest-bound birds. I conclude, then, that Heidi Hesse wants to make her anti-American points, and she doesn't care if she embarrasses and humiliates Koreans to do so, thus becoming an even more ugly (neo-)American than those she purports to criticize.
I predict her next big piece will be a 20-foot wire sculpture of The Statue of Liberty, filled with gumballs.
by Jerome du Bois
[I wrote this way back on March 4th, but for some reason I decided against publishing it. I really can't remember why; perhaps I was feeling strangely merciful. Well. That's over.]
I usually don't bother with locals anymore, but I must come to the defense of word art, which Catherine and I practice, and human dignity, which we promote, and human intelligence, which we embody.
Major local drama queen Gregory Sale continues to exploit his dead partner Ronald James Winterrowd, a long decade gone, only now he uses excerpts from some journal in four-foot-high "paintings" of red lowercase letters run together without spaces. You can see two photos in the NT studio visit here. (But not at the gallery site where they're showing now --only a one-line announcement. Great promotion, JRC.) I'll get to the content in just a sentence or three, but first I have to note the discrepancy between what he put on the canvas and what he says here:
Why typography jazzes him: I'm interested in the spacing of the letters. It's a little bit like a crossword puzzle. . . . My partner who passed away, who I wrote about, he was a graphic designer. So I certainly had a chunk of time when I lived with it. I've been exposed to it a lot.
It didn't stick. This is the Director of Visual Art for the Arizona Commission on the Arts, remember. We pay him big money to make aesthetic judgements, and his are lousy. Some clown over at Writers Bloc --maybe even Sale's colleague Kevin Vaughan-Brubaker, we dunno-- wrote that Sale was known for "his distinctly witty critiques, ironic observations of modern life, and for his public work in arts administration." Hard to believe. I've written elsewhere about my love of letterforms. The spacing between the letters --that's deep, man. But the only reason to keep everything lowercase and no punctuation and no spacing between the words is so that everyone knows it's Art, and not just an enlarged journal entry. Plus, if it's hard to read, so much the better. Undermine every reason for having an alphabet, every hard-earned rule. Use words against themselves and make the reader work for every one, for increasingly diminishing returns.
But what the reader deciphers is lugubriously icky, at least to Catherine and I: a death scene, with Mr. Sale rubbing his bedbound, wasted partner's third eye. (He doesn't even mention the guy's name in the "interview," by the way.) It really was beautiful. I hurt. I knew beyond anything else that it was his time.
Awww. And you couldn't keep this unrepeatable transit and transition between yourself and your beloved, could you, Mr. Sale? (I don't even know if Ronald would object, actually. Maybe he was a drama queen, too. And knew beyond anything else, as an English phrase, mystifies me.) Because we're in the Rebarb and you apparently embrace it, you have no compunction about sharing a private moment with the world. You feel you have to, perhaps, even now, even though he's been dead for years, because you're out of ideas, Mr. Sale, if you ever had any; so that even a human life you loved is art fodder.
Oh, reader, do you think that's harsh? You must be new to this blog. How's this? Why didn't he enlarge Mr. Winterrowd's death certificate to four feet, festoon it in off-center ways with bedheadshots of Ronald near the end of his tether, photolithograph it all to a canvas, and overwrite an inscription in his AIDS-infected blood? Wojnarowicz weeps.
You want to read more? because this stranger to reason, supported by lots of taxpayer dollars, provides plenty of fodder himself --for satire and for indignation. The idiocy flows freely . . .
From Leanne Potts's typically supine and complacent "interview," with her comments in bold:
If you want to be noticed, paint your story instead of writing it. We have text all around. It's everywhere. We drive down the street and we just kind of block it out. It's like white noise. I'm trying to find a way to rejuvenate it somehow.
Start, dumbass, by speaking for yourself. We? Who we? How about you? We --King & du Bois-- notice all kinds of stuff on the street. How about you start by not blocking out the text all around you on the street? You live downtown, Mr. Sale. Our second piece in the Pride of Phoenix Series focused precisely on the signage of local art galleries, right in your newboorhood; a large part of your job description and statutory charge, wouldn't you say? Oh, but you're blocking it out. Well, give yourself one upside da head, and wake up.
Oops. Too late:
He's not staring into space. He's making art. Because my text pieces are based on story, on thoughts, I can be working on that in my head. My studio is in my head.
Extraordinary news: Gregory Sale thinks. We have it on record, now.
Look, Mr. Sale: This is real word art. And this. And this. And this. And this. And these two, by Catherine King. Your tired, timid letterings are mere mutterings in the basement. Oh, and Fort Guerin --Screw you, too, squinty scribbler.
Why some of the words in the finished paintings of text are crossed out: I wanted to keep [the text snippet] alive. This wasn't just a copy I came up with, it's still an active thing. Plus, after I got it this big, I realized it could be further edited.
It's only when the words got bigger that he noticed the sentences needed editing? What horse manure. A finely-tuned and finally-edited sentence or phrase is the most alive --active, allusive, vivid-- version of the thought it embodies.
This man evaluates proposals presented to him by aspirants. They have presumably made sure to dot all their i's and cross all their t's; but Gregory Sale can drag a brush through his lowercase droning the livelong day, and then reject some poor near-perfectionist who didn't get the rules about the 35mm slides right.
Yes, it really is all about me: If I'm going to really look at the topic of love, let me go inside. Let me look at Gregoryland. What have been some of Gregory's journeys?
So far as I know, just one, which he's been vamping on for about ten years, by my reckoning. Gregoryland is Gaywasteland, apparently. And even if it wasn't, his motivation inevitably leads to mediocrity. Because really, is his connected, kozykool, covered-by-insurance life a worthy subject for art? The answer is no. Where has he been, what has he done that's different from a hundred thousand other wannabe aesthetes? Nothing that shows. The gay struggle is over, especially in the art world. He's coasting, lah-dee-fuckin-dah. Just as real people should rise above themselves, real art should reach beyond the subjective toward universal human values. We all share the experience of death and, if we're lucky, the experience of love. Gregory Sale shortsells both by acting as if he --this stalled and stunted man-- invented them. But his soul is too shrunken for such swollen notions.
Hail, Mary: This is a watercolor stain [in the painting Walking Through Water]. It's thinned with holy water.
How edgy. You smell the stink of the cheap pomo perfume he gets off those two words? But maybe it's just more horse manure. This is a guy who lies, after all, for some of his art, impersonating people on the phone or allowing his gender to be misunderstood telephonically. So maybe he's lying about the holy water, too. Who could tell without him telling it to them? And how would holy water change the damn lousy "painting" anyway?
Use your time wisely. One of the ways I've maintained my creativity while I've had a full-time job is I can't plan these huge sculptural projects because I just don't have the time. But I can sit down at my office/studio/desk and draw or paint for an hour. That way you don't need all of Saturday to make art. A lot of little moments add up to a larger block of time.
What a dimwit. For starters, he left out a crucial phrase in the first sentence, between "full-time job" and "I can't plan." He should have said,
One of the ways I've maintained my creativity while I've had a full-time job is by realizing that I can't plan these huge sculptural projects because I just don't have the time.
This is funny:
But I can sit down at my office/studio/desk and draw or paint for an hour. That way you don't need all of Saturday to make art.
"So the guy's a Sunday painter after all," says Catherine, "and he admits it."
I can't tell you how many hours of Saturdays and Sundays and every day that Catherine and I work on art --the making of physical objects-- no matter what else is going on in our lives. This paper-shuffling bureaucrat Sale --dippity-doo-dah, dippity-A-- is just a piker when it comes to putting in the time, the bust-ass labor, of making art. All of Saturday. Shite! This is an artist?
Master, schmaster: I like tossing myself into something I don't really have mastery of. I can grab a mistake and follow it, and see what it tells me. It adds realness. There's possibility there.
I like tossing myself into something I don't really have mastery of.
And it's got you hired into a cushy job, probably more by your schmoozing than your tossing.
I can grab a mistake and follow it, and see what it tells me.
It's telling you that you've made a mistake, over and over, but you won't listen and it doesn't matter anyway because these days they reward your kinds of incompetence and lack of imagination; it's reassuring to them; your foreseeable future is assured.
It adds realness. There's possibility there.
Your recent paintings resemble the work of a five-year-old learning the alphabet. You are forty-four. And the way you talk here is on the same intellectual level. That's what's real. And there's no "there" in "There's possibility there," nowhere man.
Seven Two Crazy / Life Trumps Art. Digital Photography by Jerome du Bois. Seventy-two-patch crazy quilt, created by anonymous hands, late 19th Century, with hand-sewn quilting.
by Jerome du Bois
It's all about the work, about doing the work.
I'd rather look at this on my wall than any non-objective, non-representational painting. It stays so fresh it could have been made yesterday.
The Twin, 2003. Acrylic and pen on Arches paper with collage.
I always called him Jesus. He always called me Sonny.
--Robert Duvall, The Apostle
by Jerome du Bois
The recent news about The Gospel of Judas sent some internet searchers to a piece I posted on Christmas Eve, 2004, The Gospel of Judas Thomas The Twin Of Jesus of Nazareth, about the artwork above. This painting is a palimpsest of a concrete poem I composed years ago, and which I finally published here.
Both artworks reflect the belief that whatever Jesus was, we can be too. He told us so. He showed us so. The Kingdom of God is within you. But I call this Kingdom, Humankind. Each and every living one. Everybody counts or nobody counts.
As for the truly evil people among us, they also count, in the sense they shall be called to account by the good people. I say they're beyond redemption. But for the rest of us --we imperfect, broken vessels, many times mistaken, sometimes unintentionally cruel-- for us, the Torah says that redemption was established before the foundation of the world.
Whether God presides over us or not, we still have to save each other, I say. Jesus of Nazareth made the greatest attempt to show us how; but back then people were even more power-hungry, envious, jealous and cruel than they are these days, so they killed him in the most protracted and painful way yet invented.
The rest is history, with his passage running through it like a red-gold thread woven of his blood and soul. When they divided up his bloody robe at the foot of the cross, it was a metaphor for the different factions piecing off the action from the crucifixion. They've simply been using him, in myriad ways, since he died. The Gospel of Judas is a prime example of such primitive spin. No way would the Jesus I know say to any listener, "Only to you do I impart this secret knowledge." Crap. He was mystifying all right --but he mystified in public. As for the eventually dominant denominations --when they tried to turn him into God they ruined him. I know from my own experiences that as long as I accepted Jesus as Christ, I lived in a world of pressure and pain, which eventually sheared into schism. Christ occluded Jesus. I couldn't see him at all clearly.
Now, everything I say here is formally heretical, and none of what I say here is original. How could it be? Jesus is probably the most thought-about human in history, and reductions of his extravagant personality have been adopted and adapted, corrupted and exapted, by thousands of agenda-driven congregations down the years. Plus millions of unchurched individuals carry their own personal Jesus around inside their heads --and naturally, and just as importantly, their hearts as well. Again, I'm no different here. I left the Christian churches behind when I realized that too many self-important people were only getting in the way of my ongoing wrestling with this human angel.
Today Jesus rides into Jerusalem to his death for about the 1,973rd time. So I thought I would pay my respects to a person I never met, but whom I've alternately loved and hated, cursed and embraced, and certainly studied on, for almost twenty-seven years. What is he to me now? Among other things, he is a constant reminder of how cruel humans can be to one another. (Every time I look over, I see the holes in his wrists.) But better than that --look at the title of this posting. This invisible man taught me a lot, some of which I will share after the jump. But not as an essay. More like a pastiche --including reflections, quotations, sudden asides, aphorisms, even song lyrics-- as thoughts occur to friends in conversation on the road. Come on along with us if you're interested.
* * *
According to Harold Bloom, I am a member of the American Religion. If so, I'm on the fringe, though I can agree with the core of the excerpt below. From his book of the same name:
One of the grand myths of the American Religion is the restoration of the Primitive Church, which probably never existed. The Southern Baptists in some sense take as their paradigm an interval about which the New Testament tells us almost nothing, the forty days the Disciples went about in the company of Jesus after his resurrection. I think that not only Baptists but all adherents of the American Religion, whatever their denomination, quest for that condition. When they speak, sing, pray about walking with Jesus, they mean neither the man on the road to eventual crucifixtion nor the ascended God, but rather the Jesus who walked and lived with his Disciples again for forty days and forty nights. . . . The largest heresy among all those that constitute the American Religion is this most implicit and profoundly poetic of all heresies: the American walks alone with Jesus in a perpetually expanded interval founded upon the forty days' sojourn of the risen Son of Man.
Walking on the same common ground, side by side. Not one bowing down before the other. Breaking bread at the same table, and relating each other's lives.
* * *
When I first left the faith, I used to say to myself that if anybody asked where I put Jesus in my life, I would imagine him taking a prominent place on my Mental Moral Board of Directors. That sounds so cold to me now. But then, I was very angry at him for a long time.
* * *
I'm a Darwinian of the Dennett school --no god made us, The AllGoRhythm did-- but I consider atheists arrogant. "Brights," too. Who says they get to settle the issue? I'm more sympathetic to Tiplerians (the Omega Point Theory and the Singularity). There is a spiritual world, whose lineaments we still barely see. Energy cannot be destroyed. (Jesus is on that Mainline. Tell him what you want. Why don't you call him up and tell him what you want?) I believe the dead have been evolving right along with the living. This strange belief in no way interferes with my reason. That's the strength of the human mind, with its capacity for endless and obsessive reflection, and its ability to deal out of an infinite deck of alternatives and imaginary scenarios, with reason as the arbiter, like a master juggler --or the ultimate slingshot, I think Dennett called this development.
I've read every book Dennett has written, and many of his journal articles. He is my intellectual hero. But when I was reading his new book, Breaking The Spell: Religion As A Natural Phenomenon, I had to keep looking at the title page to see if this was really written by the same man. It was awkward and kludgy and embarrassingly dismissive, and pocked with hurried conclusions based on a few sloppy interviews. Ye gods! I says to myself, he done dropped his spanner; it looks like the Great Engineer has finally found a subject to confound him. And ironically enough, it turns out to be religion.
That oughta tell ya somethin.
* * *
I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the Most High.
* * *
I will try, and I will stumble,
But I will fly, He told me so.
Proud and high or low and humble,
Many miles before I go.
Many miles before I go.
Like babes we come whining
For some forgotten sin
Surprised to be shining
Just like diamonds in the wind
Every facet so perfect
And every cut the proper size
When we find ourselves staring in God's golden eyes
We find ourselves staring in God's golden eyes.
* * *
Talk about being ahead of your time. Maybe he came too soon, but maybe they needed to see such a vivid contrast to their own barbaric behavior --and thank God he did. (Maybe he saw the future shadow of Muhammad, and came to thwart him in advance.)
* * *
A pop note: Returned alien abductees as examples of mini-resurrections. I don't mean to be crass, and I'm not being facetious. Right now I'll assume they are merely fantastic. From what little I know, some abductees have wonderful experiences; but most of them suffer terrible tortures and suffering. Why would they bear these crosses and immerse themselves in these vivid nightmares? To me they represent a quietly desperate hope of playing a part in breaking the chain of evil by becoming scapegoats, sharpened by an American challenge: if He can work that divine loop, why can't I?
* * *
It just hit me that perhaps The Passion of the Christ --that one long bloody sustained note-- was Mel Gibson's churlish attempt to outdo and overshadow Martin Scorsese's far more subtle and heretical The Last Temptation of Christ. I will never see Gibson's movie, but I soaked up enough from the media blitz to get the general idea. I think the main story begins in Gesthemane. That means that, for the purpose of the story, Jesus just follows the prewritten script; he needs no personality, no evolving awareness, no series of conflicts and obstacles to overcome. That's over. C'est la denoument. Nothing is required of him but sheer endurance and total obedience. He's completed his mission and he's on the track to his inevitable doom. There are over six billion people living in the world right now, and apparently Mel Gibson made sure Jesus took at least one hit for each one. In this movie Jesus is just the perfected pharmakos, the sacrificial lamb, staked-out and moving down the bloody rail to the shredder. A golden robot and soon-to-be celestial cliché. A holy zero. C'est la vie, c'est la morte.
Now, with all this religion talk this week, I decided to re-view Last Temptation. What a difference --even though it contains some similarly gruesome scenes as Gibson's movie. The movie begins with Jesus being clawed at by the Holy Spirit and saying when it's over: "God loves me. I know He loves me. I want Him to stop." In the next scene we see him making singletrees for crucifixes for the Romans. He's the only carpenter in Nazareth who will. He carries one to the execution ground while wearing his nail belt; then he helpfully holds the piece of wood steady as the Roman soldier drives a big spike through it and some poor Zealot's feet. Blood spurts into his eye. "I want to crucify all His Messiahs," Jesus tells us in voiceover. Clearly, the Chosen One has a long road of learning who he is ahead of him, and the movie shows him confronting, time after time, what tradition calls temptations, but many of these were just the complications delivered by life and other people's egos and ambitions. Like ol' Mel.
Who wants to hang out with Superman, anyway? Much less follow him?
* * *
If You Pray, Pray Standing.
* * *
Some notes about that concrete poem, The Gospel of Thomas. Formally it's merely permutation, elementary and mechanical. But permutation is a garden of serendipity, as here. In retrospect a no-brainer, and maybe ten million people have already noticed what happens when you start with IJESUS and run the I through the algorithm. But maybe not.
Anyway, it really began when I read that I and J used to be the same letter. That got my brain buzzing. I wrote them down. Then I thought of ways of tangling JEROME and JESUS with the I. Nah. Too complicated. Simplify, reduce . . . Fiddle, fiddle . . . aha! Voila.
Notice on the left --Lift The Stone-- the words rise along with the letter J repeating itself until --voila-- at the top, the I --in a complementary color-- revealed.
Now follow the red I as it splits the other word, moving through time and space like a believer exploring who this other person is, and what they --the US on the right-- the relationship itself-- ought to be. Sometimes that relationship is institutional, in buildings of wood and stone. At the end, at bottom, the I splits the US as soon as they reach the same level. You love Jesus, but you are not completely defined by him. In fact just the opposite. In this last line--Je suis-- I am-- you, having brought him back down from cross and crown and Heaven, completely absorb and redefine him. Even his name is gone --but only because he is inside you. Eucharist.
* * *
Roseanne Cash, from "The Wheel:"
Take up the hearts you came to heal,
Put down your dagger and your shield;
You need hide nothing now from me.
I see the essence of the man.
I stand before you as a friend.
The truth moves through us, even as we sleep.
* * *
Some notes on the painting.
Why The Twin for a title? The best answer: as the journey progresses, and the conversation flows, and mutual knowledge and affection blossom, the two become one, the I and J fuse again, but with the I becoming fully enfleshed. I Am. The only trace of the J is the color green, the color of life.
Another, much darker interpretation I bring up only in light of the ridiculous DaVinci Code juggernaut, and its attendant conspiracies. Again, it's simplicity itself, although horrible: Judas Thomas, not Jesus, was the one hanging on Golgotha. Three days later, Jesus comes out of hiding in his cave. Not my Jesus. He'd condemn, and probably kick the ass of, anybody who would propose such a disgusting deceit. I thought of it, of course, while composing the piece; but I refuse to acknowledge it, and condemn it as well.
Instead, look in the mirror: My God --It's Me.
Now look at the overall painting. The neat double-rank of I-forms, like pillars, simultaneously stand tall, march and oscillate, and better embody the notion of the self moving through the time and space of the Jesus/Christian experience than the concrete poem does. And the two I-forms which merge completely appear at the beginning --a fresh green shoot-- and just before the end of this passage, when the believer, an integrated personality, finally believes in himself --and part of himself is thanks to his sojourn with Jesus.
* * *
Awareness, centered on the self, is faith for the American Religion. Emerson, writing in his journal in 1831, gave his nation one of its prime statements of its spiritual predilictions:
Remember, then, were not the words that made your blood run cold, that brought the blood to your cheeks, that made you tremble or delighted you --did they not sound to you as old as yourself? Was it not truth that you knew before, or do you ever expect to be moved from the pulpit or from man by anything but plain truth? Never. It is God in you that responds to God without, or affirms his own words trembling on the lips of another.
My Jesus didn't utter everything attributed to him, I say. Or I could say that I won't put certain words into his mouth. As I wrote above, we all --I admit it, anyway-- must reduce this extravagant and overwhelming personality, and not be intimidated by all the baggage around him. But I do listen for his voice in the world.
The voice of my wise, long-suffering friend, no longer a man of sorrow, but still acquainted with grief, and on intimate terms with the tears of things.