A “Working” Controversy

     Jeffrey Gitomer.  Ever heard of him?  Him of the “little books.”  (Jeffrey, if you stumble upon this: Thank you.)  I’ve been reading the green and black books. (His aficionados know what I mean.  Others click here.)

Anyway.  He says on page 47 of the Green book, “When a customer says, I’m not interested, what he really means is You are not interesting.  He … is never going to say You are not interesting.   He … will take the blame himself, and say, I am not interested.”  I had a dealer say recently that he liked “the direction my work was taking.”  I now realize what he was really saying has very little to do with “my work,” and was more along the lines of Jeffrey’s “You are not interesting.”  Translation: We don’t know you ourselves.  We’ve never heard of you.  No one we know is talking about you.  And we are not in the mood to take a risk on someone unknown.  But the paintings are nice.

These objections (that’s a technical term) do not please me! First off:  my “work.”  A hem.  I paintPainting is a traditional discipline (distinquishable from sculpture, drawing, violin playing, carpet weaving, etc.)  Work is not a discipline.  Work is a little too artsy and vague.  The old masters did not make “works.”  They painted pictures.  They made pictures of mythological scenes, landscapes, crucifixions, women in pretty dresses, insects crawling around in bouquets, horses and ballet dancers, skies and treasured objects and symbolic things.  Goodness, even Richard Diebenkorn was a painter.

I think the dealer was keeping the door open a little crack, just in case my name comes up (and it will).  I am also keeping the door open a little crack, too.  For now, though, I am a better representative of what I do because of my rather intense awareness of and contact with the past.  Until the art world begins to participate once again in the larger, older, richer, more daring and vibrant traditions of painting, I think I need to represent myself.  Some.  Until I’m a “name.”  Then he’ll call me.  And I’ll like the direction his work is taking.  Perhaps.

[A note to the painters: we must not be sheep.]

Landscape

     Gainsborough of the previous post was chiefly a landscape painter.  The friend who couldn’t be bothered to see an exhibit of his works has lost, I think, a sense of perspective.  Gainsborough created images from a different aesthetic than we’re used to today, and it was truly a magnificient one.  His sensibility toward nature offers us a healthy healing balm for jaded modern habits and vices.

First off, you cannot skip past Gainsborough paintings as though you were running past scenery in a marathon.  You have to stroll.  The first person out of the exhibition galleries does not get a prize.  The prize was inside.  He has missed the prize, who has vaulted through at warp speed.  You have to walk slowly to see the lovely arching trees and gently meadering paths.  Gainsborough gives lessons in seeing for those with the wisdom and patience to slow down, for whoever desires privacy and delight, for those who linger and let time stand still.  Pause and walk at the same pace as grazing animals and curious children and then you can enter his world.

I took some painting lessons from Gainsborough.  Call it a May/December relationship, he of the 18th century, I of the 20th and 21st.  I could use his ideas with merely a little adjustment. Or let’s say something of his spirit pervades my Crepe Myrtles.  One finds no sheep in my pictures, perhaps because there are no sheep grazing at the arboretum.  However, my painting depicts a private, solitary, only child’s landscape of the earth and mind.  I had painted crepe myrtles because they are cheerful and bright, and because I’ve loved them since the North Carolina summers of my childhood.

A landscape like this one is mental architecture.  These are memory places.  One wanders imaginatively through these spaces like a dancer on Edgar Degas’s stage.  Only you are the dancer.  Here is a space you might visit in dreams.  Here is a landscape of the self:  that part of our selves that makes us long to live, to live in God’s heart, to belong to the earth, that drives us to wonder, that nourishes a longing to have our lives count for something.  I represented some of the furniture of Eden.

Summer of the Present Tense

      Gainesborough was the topic.  This was some years ago when the National Gallery of Art in Washington did a big Gainsborough exhibit — paintings and drawings from every period of the artist’s life.  Thomas Gainsborough is, of course, the great 18th century English portrait and landscape painter.  The exhibit was nostaglic for me because I had seen an earlier National Gallery exhibit on Gainsborough’s drawings and it had stayed lovingly etched in my memory for 20 years.  So this was a chance to see the artist’s works again, especially those drawings.

I told another artist about the exhibit, but his reaction was “I’m not interested in that.”  Why?  Because Gainsborough is “traditional.”  (The “t” word.)  Well, he wasn’t in the 18th century!  He was very up-to-date.  What is the pretentious fascination with things exclusively because they are “modern”?  Is that a form of planned obsolescence applied to civilization?  I always want to ask the hip artists, “if you can’t be bothered with the old masters because they’re old, why should anyone bother with your art after,say, a week has passed?”   The old masters were at least great in addition to their now being old.  You aren’t even great and your art will get “old” a lot faster as a consequence.  In truth, great art is never dated.  Genuine art lives in a lazy summertime of immortality that we should seek and cling to for all we’re worth!

Oh, and Gainsborough also drew cats.  What’s not modern about that?