Wednesday, March 30, 2016

"I just LOVE your work!"

It is in the very architecture of humans that they want to relate one-on-one with individuals and if they can’t do it by being intimate, they will do it by picking a fight.  Both are a big pain in the ass, but many of us tolerate and try to harness this stuff so that we can get work out there to the public.  Sometimes you can get money out of it. But it’s frustrating when the work is vital, sometimes desperately needed, but people won't pay attention.  It’s like dealing with a puppy — you point but all the puppy will look at is your finger.

Cuts Wood School in Browning has had this problem from the beginning.  Nobody is as appealing as a primary grade Blackft kid with braids, bright eyes, round cheeks, a busy mind . . .  you know.  So people come hoping to make particular friends with their own little pet Blackft, but in the days when Darrell Kipp was there, he was so fascinating that they forgot even about the little kid they’d had on their lap, and instead began to burrow into Darrell, asking questions about his private life, trying to be his one, his only, his most precious friend.

Darrell Kipp

Then Dorothy Still Smoking would say,  “Just leave the check on the windowsill.”  To be frank, it could be a form of whoring, unless the person really came through and really did learn in order to understand, to look at what they were pointed at.  Children are not keepsakes.

The same thing used to happen with Bob Scriver.  People came and looked at the sculpture to see if it were popular and would reflect well on them, but soon their radar locked onto Bob and like guided missiles they were in his home, yearning to be in his bed.  I resented that, since I was already there.  In fact, a marriage can be destroyed that way.  

Bob always wanted to take every animal he liked into the family bed.  Even patron ladies — I always wondered about a few of the men.  I told him if he tried to bring his beloved horse into the bed, that was a deal-breaker.  But these are cultural jokes (rather nasty ones) that assume everyone always wants sex with important people and even if that were true, it distracts from analyzing the true psychic dynamics.

Bob Scriver and George Montgomery

It’s particularly strange that the middle-class people of Montana claim a special relationship with Charlie Russell even though he’s known to have been sterilized by syphillis which his wife shared, that all his life he consorted with prostitutes, children, and Indians, drunk or not, and came from a perfectly respectable and rather prosperous family in the MidWest where he had a close relationship with his grandmother.  Anyone who attempts to write an honest biography (Taliaferro, for instance) will be excommunicated because the SELLING is that he was a gentle, kind, virtuous old man who just painted things that they pretended he had seen (though he came AFTER the buffalo days).   How he loved his horse!  This leaves his wife to be the wicked one, if only for social climbing.

Not much out there about how Charlie’s work skyrocketed in price and popularity because his timing was right.  The resource exploiters needed to look sympathetic and middle-class art made them seem cultured.  (If you can tell what the figures in the picture actually are, it’s middle class.) They tried to imply they were equivalent to French impressionists and Italian old-masters, and they were sort of right.  It was a little like Caravaggio painting Christian situations featuring his own favorite bed mates (including a little boy) and selling the work to the Pope, who pretended not to notice anything but the purported subject.

There are well-known artists who have “worse” pasts: born in bordellos, child prostitutes, sleeping on both sides of the sheets and so on.  And that’s just the sex part which has always been hit or miss, fight or switch.  No one says anything about all that when selling to the middle-class righteous, but the info might be leaked quietly if it would enlist the sympathies of rich men with dubious pasts.  Besides sex, money participates in about the same patterns.

"Bacchus" by Caravaggio

People love arousal, CRAVE arousal, and nothing does the job as well as yearning, esp. yearning for something one can’t have.  But somehow — I think from being educated — I’ve grasped that the thing to do with yearning is not to find the artist and fuck him or her, but rather to look at where their finger is pointing: at their work, whatever it might be.  At what THEY yearn for.  Not always art.  And then to learn as much about it as you can.  Be your own lover.  You might be really good at it, creating masterpieces, contributing to the world.  Aside from that, to stand beside someone and see what they see is about as intimate as a human being can get.  Physical arousal is easy.  You can buy equipment.  But emotional/
intellectual shared arousal can be ecstatic to the point of merger for a lifetime.

I don’t go to the Russell auction anymore.  The people I knew are all dead or don’t go either.  The publicity is not enticing:  how much money was made, who topped whom.  Nothing about the actual art.  But I remember one morning when I did go.  I was having breakfast in the motel coffee shop because I’d left Valier very early.  The auction is held in a rather grand motel with a huge space in the middle and a swimming pool indoors.  The motel takes all the room furniture out and stores it in trucks.  Then the artists bring in stands and screens for the art and sell from the rooms.  (After the auction when the rooms are empty it’s a good chance to shampoo the carpets.)

In the café an obviously upper-income woman sat down in the next banquette and we exchanged pleasantries.  Then she asked me if I knew any good places to visit, because she had been there so many times that she’d seen all the museums, galleries, locations, and phenomena and she was bored.  I suggested that she go to the college and ask a geologist about the area, or go to the nearest Native American center or senior citizen center and spend some time visiting with them.  I suggested that she buy a cheap paint set and try her hand at portraying the buttes near town that Charlie painted.  I thought she could inquire at a ranch supply place about persons who would let her ride horses with them.  Etc.  She rejected all my ideas.  She wanted something upscale she could go watch and then claim she had crossed off her bucket list, as though she would ever do anything so vulgar as to carry a bucket.  Then she saw a celebrity, excused herself and hurried over to court him.

It was the same pattern in the ministry.  No one wanted the content of the thought — they all wanted the special inclusion in the inner circle, the most beloved, the disciples — except it never occurred to them that disciples have duties.  I never considered it pleasant to have such acolytes.  I always worried that they’ll want to oil my feet with their hair.

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