Friday, April 8, 2016


17. ART
So, how's that for a pretty picture  -
art people fighting to belittle a
plumber. Like the stupidest thing
I ever heard, and at that moment I
just wanted to crawl away. The
embodiments of 'privilege' turning
their spare and ironic faces on a
real working person. I would
never for a minute do that, and
I was actually and sorrowfully
aghast at what I'd witnessed. These
were all the sort of smug kids who
would go to see a performance of
'Waiting For Godot' or something
and smack themselves on the back
for their ironic wisdom and bearing
and good taste. Real stylists, them.
Sometimes it all just made me sick.
I could sense and I could read the
frustrated anger in the air around
that plumber guy, and I felt bad
for him. Probably even more than
I felt mad for the creeps, at that
moment, around me. It caused me
some real introspection, that night
and for a few nights after that, over
what I was doing there, why, and
with whom. What was it I was trying
to achieve? A career? Certainly not
that here, unless some gigantic
art-world breakout was about to
be mine, which I already knew
wasn't going to happen to me. I
was an out-of-this-world schmuck
swimming in a sea of golden people
who held mirrors to their faces at
all times. OK, don't get me wrong,
there really were some cool people.
But I never got anyone's back-story
and I never really felt I'd met anyone
who had the sort of 'story' I did. Me?
Having literally come from nothing,
and out of a real tribe of nobodies,
these people had me beat from all
angles. They were a fairly strait-laced
crowd; surprisingly  -  guys still with
short hair, and serious clothing, real
clothing, jackets and coats and nice
shirts. The girls were actually a cooler
lot than were the boys : loose shirts,
maybe tee's or Indian-type shirts, often
without bras, workman's loose pants.
A lot of butch-lesbo look stuff, even
though not so. Cigarettes. Tough stuff.
It was more even in the accessories they
wore than the clothes : scarves, mufflers
and hats, leather gloves. Stuff I'd never
have thought of having. If it were today,
I don't know what the differences would
be : computers and communication
equipment, phones and all that. Back
then, you couldn't tell by any of that,
because it didn't exist.
Much of it was diction anyway, and at
least I was good at that. If you don't
much talk like a fool, you're
not often taken for one.
Over time, after Mercedes Matter, I
got on pretty good there with a lot of
the old, famous guys. It was easy to
do, and I was open to art instruction,
and to listening and conversing.
Sometimes that all it takes, just to
sit and listen and absorb and then,
without being obtrusive, give back
whatever you can  -  a few words
here or there about this or that of
interest. I liked it. David Hare, and
Milton Resnick, they were two of
the stalwart guys I could talk to
and listen to all day. Adventures
of art and stories of Amsterdam
and Paris, and old New York
artworld stuff too. It was great.
They were just regular hangabout
guys. Milton Resnick had published,
a long time back, some little poetry
books of his own work, from back
in Amsterdam. Four little volumes.
He gave me a set, I have three, but
can't find the fourth, at present
anyway. David Hare died in 1992;
Milton Resnick committed suicide
in 2004. These were just two of
the Studio School people who
made up my days. Does anyone
here see what my life is made up
of? Hurt and the compunctions of
loss. It's very hard for me to pin
down or discuss. But it's there,
like a constant pang. The real 
world of air and traffic, that's 
one thing; but this chimerical 
world of my own past and 'self', 
it all just fades in hurt and anguish 
unless I fight to retrieve it and keep
it foremost to my make-up. This was, 
for a time, my place and surely I 
wanted it to be my world. Which 
is probably why I really never
left it, and return to it constantly. 
As Thich Nhat Hanh says, 
'everywhere you go, there you 
are'; so I say, 'Everywhere I go, 
there I am.' Meaning NY.
Others of my instructors were great
people too. They'd just each come 
in, walk around, take appointments, 
come up to your studio area, if you 
wished, and sit and talk about your 
work, what you were doing, how 
you were going about it. Just as
comfortable, easy visits. No stress.
The rest of the stuff  - art history 
and technique and all that -  that 
was on you for the more serious 
study sessions, but these in-place
studio visits were cool; Philip
Guston, of all people, by far the
most famed and most historic, was
a regular visitor. We even built him
a 'studio space' for his very own;
a cubby area in one of the old 
brownstone kitchen areas. The
oddest thing was, he'd come 
around, schmooze and talk and
laugh, tell stories, whenever he 
was 'in town'  (I used to love 
the way New Yorkers would say
that, like it was a place of 650 
people). They had a cabin/home
up in Woodstock NY, and a 
Rover 2000 car, a real nice one, 
and they'd either be on their way 
up or back with many of these 
stopovers to the Studio School. 
The weird thing was, he had a 
reputation, famous and renowned 
in the Art World, for very lyrical, 
dense, beautifully thick and colored 
abstractions, by which he'd made 
his name, and his fortune, over the
years. It was in that regard, of 
course, that I knew him and his 
work. What was strange though 
was  -  unknown for sure to me, 
and to many/most others  - was 
that during these years, 1966-71, 
etc, he was quietly in the middle 
of a great stylistic change in his 
paintings and new work. Completely
different. It all came out later, and 
all was well-received and honored, 
but it's funny now to see how I knew
nothing of that at the time, and was 
simply reacting to him as a historic
figure in the art world, from the 
previous 30 years of NYC art. 
I guess that's part of how 
you learn too.

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