. . .In dejection from all the awful and discouraging news about reactionary political victories, rampant viral sub-variants, catastrophic droughts, and increasing violence (as well as, for me, unhappy views about my own self), I found myself doing something that I’ve done on occasion over the years, especially under stress: I was hand-writing, long past midnight, a list of my favorite artists and mystical writers. That exercise can calm and comfort me. not just as an obsessive-compulsive ritual, but as a reminder of real treasures that I’ve been given, for inspiration and illumination.
In certain of these posts, I’ve put together two stories or quotes that go at one thing from different directions, or whose common ground isn’t obvious on the surface, aiming to spark for you some realization that can’t just be given or explained. This time, the two sets of words that I’ve joined come from two seemingly-almost-comically-different sources. The first is a poem by Juan Ramon Jimenez, the Spanish poet who won the 1956 Nobel Prize for Literature and was a leading figure in what is sometimes called (with good reasons, like the writing of his kinsmen Antonio Machado and Lorca). The second set of words is from a speech by the American comic actor Jim Carrey. Jimenez may not have had the same kind of extremely zany humor that Carrey has shown in his movie and TV career, but Jimenez was anything but a stiff. One of his most wonderful books is a work of prose, Platero y Yo (Platero and I). Platero was his donkey.
I want to introduce you to a new portfolio of mine: “Towers and Devices of an Alien Race.” But I don’t, don’t want to squeeze it into an ill-fitting box of conceptions or drown it in chat about techniques or influence. Still, I want to tell you a few of the thoughts and feelings that I had in making these works.
Recently, my wife and I watched a 1980 documentary about the avant-garde composer and musician, and idiosyncratic, self-styled visionary, Sun Ra — Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise, directed by Robert Mugges. The life of outer space and the mythology of Ancient Egypt were touchstones for Ra, acknowledged sources for his music, self-image, clothing and stage settings.
Fire has often been not just a symbol of the holy Spirit, but its embodiment. . . Even fewer people will know what faith and fire lay behind the phrase “Chariot of fire.” It refers to certain events concerning the prophet Elisha, told in 2 Kings 6:8-17.
I wrote to you about the story of the cat at the heart of this photograph, but why is the cat wreathed in flames, and why don’t they consume him? I’ll respond to that now, not with pretended analysis or explanation, but with a kind of “Biography of Fire.” . . .
As I said I would, I’ll write to you soon about the Fire in “The Friend Who May Not Seem a Friend.” But I have to share with you first an exceptional, timely gift that came to me this week.
To understand why I show you this carved cat in flames, you need to know that my childhood was plagued by sweat-through-the-night terrors, terrors that could take hold even in daytime. . .
The artist’s world is limitless. It can be found anywhere, far from where he lives or a few feet away. It is always on his doorstep. – Paul Strand
It’ll be tempting for me at times to get lost in exposition or explanation, but I want to stick as much as possible to what’s central to this series of posts: an experience that I had some years ago on August 28 in Israel that suddenly came to mind as I was looking at Keith Carter’s Fifty Years and thinking about his use of shallow focus.
I’ve written posts before about the inspirations or events that come to us, without our having planned or willed them, to spur or add force to artistic works (you don’t … Continue Reading We Don’t Know How
What you see above is a reproduction of the cover of the July 1992 issue of OMNI Magazine, for which I wrote the month’s “First Word” piece. The “First Word” … Continue Reading Art and the Mad Machine: The Spirit of Life vs. The Spirit of Addiction
We’re all taught – or, rather, misled – by our families, our schools, our occupational or professional training, by the ubiquitous stream of advertisements, to believe that what is unreal … Continue Reading A Little Guidance and a First Pair of Clues
If you’ve read my first post on this blog — “Welcome to Artists, Lovers of Art, and Unknown Friends” — you’ll have a good indication of my intentions here. And if … Continue Reading A Welcome to Further and Farther Voyages
“. . . there is only one thing valuable in art and that is the bit that cannot be explained. To explain away the mystery of a great painting – if such a feat were possible – would be irreparable harm . . . if there is no mystery then there is no ‘poetry,’ the quality I value above all else in art.”
-- Georges Braque
Li Bo, how could you keep your heart from loneliness, calling always to the moon?