That last post was influenced deeply, no, haunted-by-the-ghost-of John Muir, whose biography I started to read while in a cabin without running water or electricity. Accounts of this man’s absolute dedication to being outside have been intoxicating. Below are quotes from The Sierra Club‘s website; Muir co-founded the club:
Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature’s sources never fail.
Fresh beauty opens one’s eyes wherever it is really seen, but the very abundance and completeness of the common beauty that besets our steps prevents its being absorbed and appreciated. It is a good thing, therefore, to make short excursions now and then to the bottom of the sea among dulse and coral, or up among the clouds on mountain-tops, or in balloons, or even to creep like worms into dark holes and caverns underground, not only to learn something of what is going on in those out-of-the-way places, but to see better what the sun sees on our return to common everyday beauty.
If my soul could get away from this so-called prison, be granted all the list of attributes generally bestowed on spirits, my first ramble on spirit-wings would not be among the volcanoes of the moon. Nor should I follow the sunbeams to their sources in the sun. I should hover about the beauty of our own good star. I should not go moping among the tombs, not around the artificial desolation of men. I should study Nature’s laws in all their crossings and unions; I should follow magnetic streams to their source and follow the shores of our magnetic oceans. I should go among the rays of the aurora, and follow them to their beginnings, and study their dealings and communions with other powers and expressions of matter. And I should go to the very center of our globe and read the whole splendid page from the beginning. But my first journeys would be into the inner substance of flowers, and among the folds and mazes of Yosemite’s falls. How grand to move about in the very tissue of falling columns, and in the very birthplace of their heavenly harmonies, looking outward as from windows of ever-varying transparency and staining!
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I will consider the lilies; I will consider the ferns. I will consider the fragrant ragged edged weeds that bloom with delicate purple stars. I will consider the wild ginger root that brightens the mind and cleans the teeth. I will consider the earthy-tasting richness of the stinging nettle, once it has been blanched in boiling water. I will consider the dizzy cabbage moth wheeling in ecstasy over swaying blossoms. I will consider the plantain weed with its parallel veins: chewed into a poultice, it siphons away bee sting. And I have proven this. And consider it. I will consider long grasses and spongy mosses, layers of generations of trees both standing and fallen, falling water, trickling water, misting, foggy, frozen, shimmering, ebbing and flowing water, always rising and always falling. I will consider the ruffling layers of stony oyster shells and the curving worms that shelter beneath them at low tide. I will consider the scuttling claws and waving tentacles, the slimy and bony mounds of trembling life washed by the sea in its heaving rhythm. And I will be rich and will not be poor, though the city would deem me so. I will be rich and eat dandelion greens. I will be rich and bathe in gold, when that gold is post-rain sun.
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Gardens are a constant metaphor in my mind, and, lately, in my drawings. The funny thing is that I’m a really rotten gardener. I covet the endlessly thoughtful arrangements that house-owners keep up here on Crown Hill above Ballard in Seattle. I take long walks and drink it in. And then I come back to my rental and see things like this:
It looks lush, yes– green stuff grows everywhere in the spring in the Northwest. But it is all a tangle. An unkempt, unkept mini-wilderness that makes me want to shield my face from the surrounding upstanding-citizens-of-the-yard. Arguably, my drawn or painted gardens also reflect the untidy version of growth. Many wouldn’t even see them as gardens. But maybe this is the year. The year for trimming and choosing, even in this rented space. Maybe I’ll learn some more about what I’m thinking if I get my hands into the soil.
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I was interviewed by Nari Kirk, of Poetry Northwest. It was easy to go deep (running down the field for a long pass) in response to her very rich questions.
Lots of new work going on in the studio, which has been mostly the dining room table. Some of it is going to Vessel Gallery in Oakland, CA, and a big wallop of it will be going to a show with the luminous Diem Chau at G.Gibson in the Fall. Updates inevitable.
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You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine…
You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.
However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.
It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general’s head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.
And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.
It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.
I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.
I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman’s tea cup.
But don’t worry, I’m not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and–somehow–the wine.
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Tags: billy collins, lille carre
Summer Workshop season is on the horizon!
If you want to learn how to make books, explore the history of the book form and visit the inimitable Oregon Coast, join me at Sitka Center for Art + Ecology 08/02/2013 – 08/03/2013
If you are in high school (15-18 yrs), and want to jump start your art college experience, come learn Color Theory in a one-week intensive at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle 08/05/2013 – 8/09/2013
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In her 1972 article, “A View of Modernism,” published in ArtForum, Rosalind Krauss describes the Modernist progression of -isms as a series of rooms in a line. Theorists and artists during the Modern period, she says, perceived each leap into a new ideal art as the entering of a new room, with the door to the previous room closing securely behind them.
No à rebours was possible, no going backward against the grain. The history we saw from Manet to the Impressionists to Cézanne and then to Picasso was like a series of roms en filade. Within each room the individual artist explored, to the limits of his experience and his formal intelligence, the separate constituents of his medium.The effect of his pictorial act was to open simultaneously the door to the next space and close out access to the one behind him.
When Krauss wrote this essay, however, she was standing in the swirling waters of what had been dubbed Postmodernism. The doors to all of the rooms had recently burst their hinges. Anything became fair game; any part of history was a sampler platter of possibilities. Looking at where painting, specifically, is right now, I have been picturing Rosalind Krauss’ line of rooms as walled gardens, like the Secret Garden Francis Hodges Burnett described in her book by the same name. Each room of painting ideas, as the door was closed, stood in its semi-neglected space, planted in the forms of its own ideals and quietly continuing to put down roots and send runners. The plants went to seed and produced new hybrids of their predecessors. Weeds grew up and some mealy or weak ideas were choked out. The neat form of the original garden became overgrown, but still full of life—there may have been some secret gardeners who snuck in to tend it periodically. If you look at exhibitions like Painter Painter, at the Walker Art Center currently, you can find the sprouts and vines of Arte Povera, Conceptualism, Expressionism, Abstract Expressionism, Geometric abstraction, Art Informel, Constructivism, Suprematism, etcetera. Look at the uncannily similarly named Painters’ Painters coming up at Saatchi, and you see another set of rooms airing out… all of the above, plus the more figurative rooms of Surrealism, History Painting, Appropriation, Pop and Photograph-based painting. Wooly and unkempt! But very, very alive.
Ajay Kurian, an artist working in Brooklyn, caught my eye with another set of ideas relating to gardening as a philosophical tool. I wish I could have attended this talk at the New Museum:
Ajay Kurian will present a Proposition that suggests “the garden” as a new metaphor for time and space. Kurian is an artist and curator who has run the itinerant project “Gresham’s Ghost” since 2008. “The Persistence of Gardens—Nuclear, Digital, and Otherwise” will serve to workshop ideas for Kurian’s upcoming solo show at 47 Canal. Unlike previous Propositions where a speaker’s presentation is followed by a panel or critical response, Kurian’s talk will be interrupted by J0HN, a projected presence within the theater.
On the ideas in his talk, Kurian writes: “Stromatolite is a fossilized record of ancient microorganisms that stretches back to the very beginning of life on Earth nearly 3 billion years ago. But does looking at this colorful rock really give you a sense of what has persisted and fallen away for so many eons? Does knowing the half-life of plutonium give you any sense of what the future will look like 14,000 years from now? How then can we legislate such stretches, let alone conceive of them? How are we to regard something that makes our finitude look squeamishly brief, especially when our focus tends towards those things that seem to persist not for eons but for mere seconds. The screen time that has come to dominate our lives can sometimes appear to be Narcissus’ pool, but as the larger objects of our planet begin to rumble – as the oceans rise, hurricanes hit, and radioactive waste is buried – our tiny kingdoms are beginning to feel the unwelcome shake. Through touring gardens both metaphorical and metaphysical, and speaking with J0HN, we will approach time as the persistence of things, emerging from objects rather than the reverse, and I will begin to reckon with my preoccupations: why does everything I think about recently exceed the human? And why does J0HN disagree with me so much?”
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Tags: Ajay Kurian, Rosalind Krauss