Tuesday, March 12, 2013

All Roads Lead To Paint

I listen to Gregorian chants on my computer when I write. Something about the melodic strains that helps me think in words, cohesive sentences, at least from my perspective. When I paint, thinking in color and form I can listen to anything, the other day while cranking out the beginning of a new piece I listened to The Rolling Stones, The B-52s and Ike and Tina Turner on my playlist, very motivational, otherwise I just listen to the playlist that I work on daily. That playlist is my painting music, it is also what I will play for my Friday Night Salon here at the residency.
Music is an integral part of my process, my life as an artist, my life in general, a day without music is something that I have not had in many years. I begin each day with my playlist on what used to be my web page on the artreview website, now it is called "4art", one of my chums in Britain calls is Fart. Why they made the change in domain is not exactly clear, but so be it, my work is there, my music and occasionally some rambling posts that I write while listening to Gregorian Chants.
It has been two and a half years since I left NYC and relocated to Santa Fe. I only started to miss the city recently. I am not sure why, maybe I miss going to the museums, yeah leaving the Met behind was heart breaking and of course I miss my friends, but I was wondering what the move here has done for my "art career"? It seemed at first like a win-win situation, talented, good looking for most of the day, painting about the American West, how could it not be a triumphant return to the land of my ancestors? Maybe that has something to do with seeing my artist pals on facebook and all that they are doing, I loved being a part of that vibrant culture. But then there is the quiet here at night, sure a drunk tourist will wail by the windows, or the garbage truck churns by at 4am, and yeah so I get pulled out of deep sleep by the stench of skunk spray filling my bedroom, or someone burning some damned chimney in the middle of the night till it smells like I sleeping in a vat of frying bacon, otherwise it is very quiet and my dreams have become so much more vivid.
I have a lovely life here, great friends, this wondrous place to live in, creds for my persistence in the studio, I host many delirious gatherings, have a support system that keeps me mostly afloat, inspiration, this light, this light, so what is my problem suddenly that I would want to leave? Is it just my art career? Is it that I don't try as hard here, did I need a break from the hustle? I don't see my family very much, that's fine, was it that I was expecting something else? I live in the moment now, are these moments not enough? Is it the small dating pool? I am enamored with studio production and have very little distraction in the was of men. Do I even care about getting laid right now? Maybe I was just missing the whole art fair thing.
Been working on my crowd sourcing fundraiser on USA Projects, oh what a delight. I did reach the halfway point to my minimum goal, this is terrific, and I still have 18 days to ask for help from friends and colleagues. I have had some responses from some people that I know, hard times in full detail, happy that they would share or even respond. I get a lot of bitching in the emails about NYC, didn't we always bitch about the city to begin with? It is a great opportunity though to spread the word about my work, and I have made several new contacts that could prove to be interesting in the future.
I should be painting, I should be working on the fundraiser. My window is open to the portent of springtime, sun shines through the screen, shadows dance along the floor, tourists on spring break shoot my window ledge from outside that is  strewn with paintbrushes and water cans, oh look, an artist. The clock ticks, birds chirp, I'm getting hungry, is it time for lunch?
The chanting has ended, I feel like taking a break from thinking, maybe a nap involving vertigo inducing dreams like the one that I had last night about Jason getting a new apartment in a building at World Trade Center that wasn't finished and you had to climb down a fire escape from the 81st floor to get to the 80th floor because there were no elevators on the 81st floor. I should eat, Harrison is at Santa Fe Clay working on his sculptures and will probably swing by in a couple of hours, and I still need to get some work done on the fundraiser and my new painting as well. All roads lead to paint.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Hope Springs Eternal

Tuesday afternoon, in between paintings. Everyone is urging me to paint another gun piece, or even just remake the one that I just finished only make it big, real big. I'm not sure about that or what to paint. In the meantime the windows are wide open, glorious sun shining in. Do a little spring cleaning, Distract myself from my real job, keep the place neat for company that drops in nearly daily.
There was plenty of ice out in the yard a few days ago, now it has mostly melted only to reveal Frodo's ashes from that solstice party. Reminds me of Greg to a degree, his ashes were out back for a couple of months last summer, weird to think that it has already been a year.
Started a fundraiser on USA Projects a couple of weeks ago, I had no idea what I was in for. The platform is for artists of accomplishment. I did get a matching grant from a local arts organization, which is great, but then it becomes all about daily emailing and reminding people that I am asking for help. I've never really been good at that, maybe it is because I have been living as an independent "starving artist" for so long now that at least to me and my biggest benefactors my need was always obvious. The experience certainly has been a learning curve. I have 25 days left to reach my goal, if I reach it I can certainly finish my tenancy here at El Zaguan and have my solo show in our gallery.
My studio costs are not that much higher than my rent plus food and some supplies. I will always find some paint and something to paint on. But with the money from the fundraiser I can produce some prints of my paintings and photographs. That would allow me to begin to create a sustainable income, even if only in conception. The award would also keep me working and free to pursue my art without daily anxiety and threat of eviction, how cool would that be! 
The public aspect of crowd sourcing is a little embarrassing, I don't know why, it's not like I am not an exhibitionist. I guess that it is the potential of being humiliated if I don't reach my goal, everyone will know, all of my calls for donations will have been ignored, I will wonder why so and so didn't even chip in a dollar, where that collector of my work went and why they never responded. I have applied to many grants programs before, winning some, losing others, but it is such a private affair, as long as the paperwork is in order then only a handful of people will see the why I should be queen for a day.
But above and beyond all of these anxieties I must remain hopeful, stay steadfast in my vision, which at this time is unrelenting and there is nothing that I can do about it. So in between some spring cleaning, taking pictures, thinking in colors, sending out pleas for support and writing maybe I can take a moment to relax, get my blood pressure down, know that I am doing the best that I can as an artist, as a friend and as a supporter of my friend's artistic endeavours. I am living the life that I chose.
It's Harrison's birthday, he'll be coming over later. Some of the gang will drop by and wish him well. The house is clean enough for a Tuesday, ain't got nothing to offer anyone but love, I think that that is more than enough, for now. Nature will provide the rest.
Oh and my fundraising site is here:
Take a look, let me know what you think.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Life Of An Artist

I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord
And I've been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh Lord
Can you feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord, oh Lord
Phil Collins

I always thought that the chorus of that song said hold on, hold on. 

 It was our first summer in the city, 1982, Emile, me, young, hot and humid. Most people did not have air conditioners. There was a guy once who tried to pick me up by telling me that indeed he did have one and wouldn’t I like to feel it, what a feeling. Not hot enough.

People used phone services to get their messages, I applied for a job to take calls, some random basement in the Village where an assorted bunch of recently transplanted New Yorkers sat at a phone and kept a record of which agent was calling for the new young up and coming actor. It all seemed so sophisticated and only made me want to be in show biz that much more, I didn’t get that job. 

 My diaries are a little sketchy from that period and like I’ve said I don’t have them on hand, but I remember reading some of them before I left the City a couple of years ago. The first one is nearly absurd, an abstract recollection of memories and experiences, ticket stubs to movies and shows, drunken subway ramblings, poetry, photos of people who are strangers now, all collaged together with tape that longer has glue. I remember feeling very lonely, lonely for my big loving protective family, being so very hungry, but at the same time filled with a blind certainty and an unrelenting passion.

Emile found work, an antique store in Chelsea, I was back at Bloomies, life was good. We didn’t make much money, a hundred bucks a week or so but New York was a cheap place to live. We spent most of our expendable recourses on going out, we were young, heartache to heartache, drinks at home before heading out, cigarettes that were smoked in smoky bars, snacks afterwards, a gyro at the all-night place by the bar, buy a pack of clove cigarettes for the long ride home. 

I was sure that I was some ancient tortured and brilliant soul convinced others that it was true, you make it up as you go along. I was meant to understand what happiness was and what the blues really feel like. I absorbed the city and relied upon its spirits to protect me. But since I had been fucked for the first time by David my body understood something else, something new, there was a craving that would sometime overpower me. 

I was just another kid from nowhere America, wanting to be from somewhere, moving to the big city like so many do, having a hard time finding my place, trying to finding myself. New York City may be the melting pot but it takes a lot of stirring to get the soup going.  I was so fervent in my religious faith, would still attend mass, wore my scapular, read my prayers., loved going to St. Pats in my hot pants with the zippers up the side, kneel at the cross, cross myself and then cross the street and spray myself with cologne while pillaging the samples at Saks. It really was an amazing and inspiring time to be in the city. The long and dangerous train rides didn’t matter or how broke everyone was.

Soon enough it was time for company. Our first guest was Tony. Things were different then, the closet was a funny little place. Emile would go on about how he and Tony had been childhood sweethearts, how he would think of Tony when they were boys while ha was commanded by the nuns to kneel on the hot tarmac in shorts while praying for forgiveness. They grew up in the same neighborhood, childhood friends, shared backyards and horror stories from Catholic school. Emile always had a fixation with nuns.

The three of us all pursed in skintight jeans out and about in the Big Apple, three coins in that filthy fountain. The bars were near work or in the village, Bogart’s was the place for cocktails after Bloomindale’s closed, all of the gay guys would go, it was crowded and everyone pushed up against the bar, two for one, three of my favorite words. What did they call it, a suit and tie crowd, something like that, I like suits and ties.

Then we discovered Uncle Charlie’s on Greenwich Street. Soon enough that bar became our home base. The doorman was sweet, he’d let all of us too young to be there gay kids in. There weren’t any other places to hang out beside bars. We sharpened our claws, got into trouble and saw the new videos from MTV. You really needn’t be distracted by the older guy who wants to fuck you, just stand there, someone sends you a drink, turn, smile laugh, turn away, watch the new Tina Turner or Cindy Lauper video.

I loved to tease, still do, although had some notion then about torturing tortured men.  Still I knew that I was looking for something real, something that would last, love, true love, oh such a romantic young artist, in the meantime I was just a prick tease. I would get approached by any number of guys, found myself attracted to older men, including those that were affectionately called monsters, I wanted to know their stories then ignore them the next week. Some nights no one would notice me, I‘d go home deflated, waiting in isolated subway stations,  men would attempt to initiate random sex in some darkened corner, I would get turned on, I was always turned on, but would always turn them down.

Tony flew in from Vegas, welcome to Queens! Tony was like family, at least to Emile. I suppose that Tony and I had some kind of rivalry, we still keep in touch Tony and me. Maybe Emile wanted me to be jealous, maybe not. We were young, free and out to have fun. We ended up at Uncle Charlie’s. Turned out that Tony was on a mission, pretty soon he was making out in the cool boy bleacher section with some strange guy only to deny it later. We all rode home on the M train that was covered in extraordinary graffiti, back to Middle Village, back to a certain reality, none that we were truly dealing with, but a reality that never stopped no matter how hard we fought it. 

The next visitor was my Mom. Emile’s family would never visit.
Mother was a terrified person. She was broken hearted, love that failed, dead ex’s abilities never assumed, failure assured by some family curse. I was her baby and she was coming to make sure that I was all right. Our relationship was very tight, she was one of my best friends when I was at home, if not my best friend. I never knew how hurt she was when I left home.  

She was flying into LaGuardia, I left the house early that day, took a train, caught a bus, got off at the wrong stop, too shy to ask the driver if I was at the correct location, I wasn’t. Eventually I found my way to mom, we were happy, reunited and it felt so good. Finally I was going to be in charge, prove to her that I was all grown up, New York was my home and I would show her a good time whether she liked it or not.  We took a taxi back to Queens, the driver got very lost, we ended up in some strange neighborhood. Ma and me got out of the car, stranded, I called a car service from a pay phone and soon enough we were at the apartment in Middle Village. Mom wasn’t known for being much of a traveler, easily prone to freaking out, expecting the worst, that trip was a big deal for her, we would spend the next week together. Everyone relaxed, everyone had his or her bottle. 

She was an avid diarist when I was young She would say that she was going to write her memoir, call the book “I Always Cry At Parades”. I gave her a small notebook when she arrived, you’ll write down what your experience I told her. After her death I found that notebook, there wasn’t much written in it, some things that I could tell I had told her to write, some notes that were dictated, recollections that I had written for her. Then there was the story of her long flight home, seeing her first husband back at the trailer, some disdained dalliance. She wrote that she never wanted to see him again. After that outside of letters her diaries stopped.

But it was time to have fun, mom and Emile got along famously, he loved her and she returned the affection. I was a little snob who would prove that I could maneuver the city with ease and grace, I had to show her that I was secure in my new surroundings even though it was her only wish was that I would return home.

To the top of the World Trade Center, she was afraid of heights, I made her go all the way up and sit on the outdoor observation deck. She was fearless that week in the city. We went to Studio 54, the club was on its deathbed, you could get free passes that were handed out on 8th street.  Let’s have a drink then go out for snacks at that renovated highway diner followed by more drinks at Uncle Charlie’s. All the while walking through the dark streets and then the crowds of daylight, faster mom faster! How on earth did she tolerate me? I took her to the Met, instructing that the only way to see the museum in one day was to take off our shoes and slide through the marble floored galleries in our socks. We did, no one said a word, the guards looked on in amusement. We saw the entire museum that day. 

I wanted to grow up and I wanted her to grow up with me, so our relationship may have been too close for years but we were both adults and the time called for moving on, moving on up, moving out and taking life on without regret or fear of failure.

The trip was a success, ma said that she was happy to see that I was safe and that everything was going well. How she came to that conclusion I’ll never know. I quizzed her at the end of her trip and she said what she thought that she had to.  Suddenly she was powerless and we both had to deal with that vacuum.

I called for a car from the payphone on her last day, it arrived hours before her flight was to depart, I didn’t want anything to go wrong and it was time for her to go. I stood on the sidewalk as the car drove away, she looking back at me through the back window of the taxi, waving, crying. It was only then that I felt what she must have when I left home. There would be no way of knowing whether she made it safely, no phone call to say that she had arrived, no text or facebook post, you just wished for the best and accepted the outcome.  

Sure I was worried about her. Writing about mom makes me miss her more, makes me feel a sadness that has no release. I would like to talk with her now, tell her that I am not so sure about Santa Fe, that I am thinking of moving but that I don’t know where to go, that part of me wants to stay, how do I make it all work ma?  She always had terrible advice.  

I dreamed of her the other night, in the dream she was sleeping, I kept waking her, she screamed at me, just let me sleep she said.