Stilllife Studies - PART I. 1-5, 2005

Stilllife Studies - PART I. 1-5, 2005

Study No. 1

The thought on my mind these days is consumption. I am pretty sure it is the issue of my generation; the malaise of a psyche constantly fed and constantly never full. At 29, with thoughts in my head and wonderings about what I’ll be doing in a year’s time, or a few months for that matter – in a time when I look around and see Stuff that a part of me loves and another part could leave behind without a blink, if only I never thought at some point I might miss it; at 29 and in a cozy home with a humble income that allows me more Stuff than some of my friends but much less than most my age; at 29 in a world that seems to be increasing in the intensity of tragedy – natural disasters, war, disease; at 29, healthy, dancing, making art, making love - making love to a man I dearly love but in the shadow of another, one who did not believe in Stuff, one who slipped through the veil a year to the left, and left many things on my mind; at 29 in this constitution and constellation, I am beginning to feel the weight of all Things and I am beginning to wonder, Could the weight of all things rock like a boat being tossed in waves, or quiver like a leaf on silent ripples? And in this constant movement between swell and hollow, curve and cave, could it somehow see itself rocking between relative extremes, and in this seeing, unselfconsciously smile at the extremes or at least the relativity; and in that moment of smiling somehow recognize a moment of simple weightlessness, or at the very least, marvel at the simultaneous capacity to be heavy AND suspended, held quietly between two worlds, between rise and fall?

No, it is the things that I touch, other than people brushing by, or grass on a spring day; it is the things I spend money on, earned from making art; it is the things that I consume from aisles with bright signs that clothe my bones and weigh me down. The world is not getting smaller, it is the space between things that is. Yes, it is the things: the objects, the food, the electricity, the gas, and mostly just Things, that are on my mind. Despite the move, despite all the past moves, and donations, and roommate’s silent acquisitions, despite honest attempts to reduce, reuse, recycle, I am - with all the stuff of my past and present - gathered here today - in a small apartment furnished with alley finds and carefully accumulated stuff – why is it the innocent ones who question - and I am feeling the weight of both immediate Stuff n’ Things and the inevitable weight of More Stuff n’ More Things. It is the density of those things that once were, these things that are now, and notions of those things still yet to come that are collecting in my mind. And like most collectibles, collecting Dust.

And maybe I wouldn’t be thinking about this stuff n’ these things if a small part of me, for a short moment, held between the joy of ownership and the fear of loss, or the fulfillment of variety and the emptiness of volume, didn’t slightly notice the almost imperceptible graying of grey matter that shouldn’t be grey because of Dust. Without being dramatic or unhealthy, I believe there is a quiet invasion marching along the currents of my mind; I feel it pushing through stuff - organizing on a good day and reorganizing on a bad one; finding new hiding places to put all the little things I’m sure I don’t need but once thought I did and all the other things I keep because of course one day I might. I feel the bones creak beneath me as more stuff is rearranged, as rooms are made for yet more little things I’m not sure I ever needed, and big-little things that were once needed for sure but for sure (now) will never be needed again. There is a shifting of space to host all the things I even pretended I needed, and all those I never even pretended to need but wanted, because of reasons I could name but would rather not.

Clothes – too many clothes – justifying closet space because they are costumes and artful expression of inner change. Or too many shoes justified in stride because of their playful connection to the earth, to height and verticality, or to the weight of the body falling off itself from different angles. There are also books – not too many but still more than enough that have been read and would feel, if they could feel, more worthy filling an imagination rather than a heavy corner. There are also the objects that will never become art pieces but remain poetic in their potential. And because that isn’t so bad, I prefer to healthily focus on the things that got replaced by newer, better things of the same but never stayed for excuses both loyal and shameful. The momentum of collection has accumulated conviction over the years and as I push a cart through fluorescent-lit aisles at Winners or Value Village looking for change and upgrades, I wonder if somehow remarkably, in the excessive searching, one day something might really be found - something really necessary, something really poetic, something really Real.

Because, as we both know, it is not the Things that are heavy, but the needing of things. The clinging. The bargaining. What is really gained in a bargain? I’m thinking about the black velvet skirt I bought for six bucks because it was six bucks but will probably never fix and never wear. Or that red shirt with gold trim which was one buck and bought only because it was one buck, but which will never be worn because it is polyester and red with gold trim. A comedic addiction to ownership. And then there is that tune in the head of parroted lines from the Individual Justification Act - it’s on sale, it’s second hand, it’s like the last one but even more perfect, you can give the old one away, anyway. At 29, I feel the weight of my disposable generation heralded for infinite choice and endless renewal. In a generation where it is cheaper to BUY ANOTHER! than to repair the original, to buy three rather than two, in a system of immediate, individual reward where there is no reason to support fair trade or labor rights, or human rights, or environmental rights, or anything right and / or fair for that matter, well, it makes the mind spin and the Dust fly.


Study No. 2

It’s still late and I am still up thinking about things. This time, I am thinking about the feeling of sadness. It’s not that I want to be dramatic or emotional or anything like that. The truth is, I was never the type of person to reveal, let alone flaunt, the true depth and complexity of emotions that I could feel, and I am still mostly the same. If someone looked carefully enough, as few have, or deeply enough, as fewer have, they would see however, that my heart could be stopped – that it has been stopped, and on many quiet occasions through my 29 years I have been so overcome by the intensity of sadness in a true moment of sadness, or by the intensity of sorrow that makes a truly beautiful moment possible and real, that I could have sworn it was not my own heart that stopped.

Anyways, there appeared an image in my mind this morning, an idea rather, of making a little sculpture of a heart. First I would need to find the materials to make it just right without being the real Thing: things like found-objects of course, or hand-made fabrics and imagined textures - anything and everything to give it the right density, the right dimensionality, the right consistency, the right clarity, the right fluidity, the right fragility, the right sturdiness, the right stability, the right suppleness, the right sweetness, the right elasticity, the right viscosity, the right texture, the right torque, the right rebound, the right radiance, and the right warp, weft and weave that quite honestly only the hands of time could work well. To the best of my ability then, because I’m not trying to replace the real with the unreal, I’d fill it with an infinite bank of things – not the Things I was writing about earlier, but (things).

Of course I’d represent these (things) with other things - like images, words, letters, thoughts, objects, colors, photos, substances, and with these things I would build the structure from a scratch, line the walls with a sweep, crease the hollows with a squint, and fold the bends in a snap. I would layer upon layer upon layer images and text and fabric in some places and in others there would only be an indication of silence and space. Slowly, and sometimes quickly, the structure would thus be filled. I would insert things - sometimes carefully, sometimes haphazardly, sometimes violently, sometimes methodically or meticulously or meditatively or meanderingly. Some things would hang, some would fall, some things would be stacked, and in one chamber, perhaps a heap of things would melt into each other so that in time they became just one heap of Thing.

Photos would of course be placed carefully, perhaps like stamps licked and secured onto a letter to a lover in another lifetime, perhaps like old Polaroids frozen in frames in grandma’s foyer. I would not worry about the perfection of either form or content. It would fold and unfold organically and fit together like a good puzzle, which always has to have a few key missing pieces. And then, when all the things were finally in place, I would play music. (Insert music here.) And more. So much more. Then, I would sit the structure in a bath and wash it gently with salts and sponge while I read poetry – from Synder to Whitman, from Basho to Keats and of course, more.

I would sing to it, whistle like a bird, yell angrily at it from a distance and then lay it to sleep whispering fairytales through its windows which I would have made with glass found on a foreign shore. I would do it all, all the while carrying this project around in a bag, or in a pocket, or in my arms, or on a leash, or wrapped in a scarf, to tone its structure, fortify its walls, to weather its sails. I would take it to the park to watch leaves falling to the ground and birds flying south. I would take it to a playground to observe children building castles in the air. We would watch the Discovery Channel and RESTRICTED channels and unrestricted news channels. I would take it for long walks on lonely roads to listen to stars whispering wishes back and forth. I would teach it to dance while drinking scotch and to smoke a puff while staying upright. I would put it in my basket and we would ride to the edges of the city, from east to west and north to south, and when we hit the river’s edge we would jump in and comment on how cold but refreshing it was. On a summer day we would ride a rollercoaster and scream; on a fall one we would ride our savings at the racetrack and scream louder still. We would do this and more. So much more. And much more still.

I admit what you feel. I feel my heart like a cliché. I also feel it like a metaphor and a poem and an organ playing over itself, laughing and crying to its own crazy tune. Like I said, I am not trying to be dramatic. Drama and unauthentic poetry are killers these days. I have no patience for them. I am suspicious of all romanticism. I am irritated at all glances too long and all looks too self-consciousness trying to impose meaningful meaning. I have to say that because there is something I forgot to mention because I got sidetracked in the invention of my idea, sidetracked in a good way though, which is why I didn’t stop. The original idea was much more solemn, much more sad, at least on the surface, but like I explained, I am not trying to be melancholy.

Anyhow, running straight through the thickness and the layers of this heart, both learned and protected, both made of real things but not The Real Thing, shot clear through its center, there is a hole. 



Although this image too seems cliché, hear me when I say, ‘it is just a point of departure,’ for it begs the question: Is a heart ever really whole? One may mend a broken heart, cork the holes, sew the seams and sew them twice again. But, is not every whole heart then, really just a quilt of patch-worked holes? I don’t mean it in a bad way, or a sad way necessarily, but in a necessary way. I ask the question, feeling with the in and out of air through my lungs the same permeable answer. A hole is a portal, a port of exit but also of entry. Indeed, if a heart has no holes it can never be emptied, or filled. It must have holes. And the size of what enters is only so large as what has left, and vice versa of course; both are dependent on the size, or the stretch and bounce at least, of the only space that is ever truly empty – occupied by nothing – the hole.  

So, my heart here, this ongoing art project, perhaps made of glass in some places, plastic in others, clay, sand, concrete, jello, glue, hairspray, lambswool, silk, blood, dirt, soap, milk, juice, paper, meat, bricks, bark – this heart that hosts a million small holes and certainly one large hole would be hung like a coat left out in the rain – but in this case maybe in the northeast corner of some industrial factory, the kind that has greasy, ashy walls and pipes like arteries running through it like a maze. Anyways, it would be hung there, a large disconnected, disembodied heart dangling in space made of every material known to man, and filled with every thing known to all. Then, rather matter of factly, through the hole there would be a single light, lighting the room via this hole. I know it evokes all kinds of religious connotations but because I believe in the reinvention of religious archetypes I don’t mind. Anyways, in the dark space of this building, room, world, the light would be focused on a word, placed on a table, maybe next to some newspaper whose clippings I would have included as walls of the sculpture, or maybe next to a drawing of some fruit in a basket and a title that we could all imagine saying: Stilllife No.189,9879,990. Anyways, the light would mostly shine on the word. It would be discreet and many people would not even notice it. Some would have to squint. Some would need to take a piece of glass and bend it into a round to magnify the image. Some would only notice the paper but not the word. Those that managed to see however, would smile softly, or maybe slowly run a finger beneath their eye in a gentle sweeping motion. I don’t know why, I don’t know anything really, but maybe some would walk out in a huff – either feeling nothing but a waste of time, or that everything leading up to that moment still contains the possibility of being wasted time. Anyways and regardless, it would somehow be important. Not dramatically or overly romantically important, but important nonetheless to the overall reading of the work; that this sole structure housing every Thing and every (thing) that lines, frames, and supports the weight and walls of a world, should in its fullness, read only through its emptiness, an impression of a singular-lit notion: WHOLE.


Study No. 3

There is also an ongoing dialogue in my head that deals in the realm of ethics. Or ideals. Or righteousness. Or moral action. Or revolution. Or, simply possibility. I think what is happening is that I am not just questioning Things and Stuff, but the stuff that things are made of. Like, if the world was made from a ball of yarn and the yarn got tangled, who would undo it, and how would it become untangled without everyone having to get off first? Or what if something sent it in the direction of unraveling – at what point would it be pointless to imagine it raveling back on its own; how would the end be found and who would turn it back to become a new raveling? Or, what if the world was made of sand, which is really not so far off if you think about it, again metaphorically. And if this is the case, I can’t help but imagine that the weight of All Things filling this particular sandcastle might eventually cause the floors to creak, the flags to wave and the towers to crumble. Unnoticed at first, a few grains of sand would slide off the surface and back into the sky. Maybe that is what stars are, little bits of earth falling off itself, and maybe that is what is meant by the sky is falling. Anyways, who or what or how - when the last grain slides through the glass hole, will everything flip upside-down, in order to begin again?

Is it naïve to think of the natural balance of Things as a theatrical boomerang when the point of no-return will be slung-shot back on itself? Is it apathetic to think that someone else will be able to switch the flip, or flip the switch, before the edge has been reached, or that there could even be an imaginary someone, something, somehow out there anyways?


Study No. 4

I should get out more. I should watch more classics. I should read more. I should read more real philosophy rather than making up my own. Or not. I should do ovarian kung fu. I should paint my bathroom. Red, or green? I should cut my cat’s toenails. I should sew new ideas out of recycled clothes. I should be more consistent in my principles and actions. I should do half the things I spend time thinking I should be doing. I should stop thinking, at least about nothing. I should not judge the intentions and intelligence of my fellow humans. I should meditate more. I should go to Burning Man next year. I should look around me and at least admire and enjoy the stuff I do have, while I have it, before I give it all away or it burns in a fire or gets faded by the years. I should be less shy and meet more people. Or should I? When I lie in bed I shouldn’t think about all the things I think I should be doing, I should just enjoy lying there in the emptiness of it all instead of trying to be creative about how it feels or what it stirs. I should use less water when washing dishes and brushing my teeth. I should keep my lights off when I am not using them, but first I should find out if it is really true that you use more energy by turning on a light than by leaving it on. Anyways, I should definitely have my own buy nothing day once a month and my own waste nothing day once a week until the routine becomes habitual. I should sign up for French classes and practice more regularly, much more, je sais. I should volunteer with dying children because the thought alone makes my heart sink, but in a good way – the kind of way that makes me realize beyond thought that I am alive. I should think about what I am going to do for Johnny’s show. I should practice, but first I should make something to practice. I should go to the studio tomorrow and have a good attitude and I should be gratitude to all the micro-intersections and nano-moments that have conspired to form this life I am living now. I shouldn’t apologize for being an artist, I should recognize its privilege. I should take a run in the mountain, I should run in the mountain every other day. I should make slides and do that exhibit I want to do of juxtaposed images. I should make that other piece with the wishing pool, and the other one where the projected person dances along the wrinkles of a room. I should dance naked in the rain on a full moon and howl on a new one. I should go out and video strangers living life just to see how others do it. And I should thank them after. I should leave poetry in magazines and seashells in waiting rooms. I should perform more acts of random kindness. I should make that heart.