Saturday, April 12, 2014

Number our Days

 I’ve been imagining myself 50 years ago. I was 23. Majoring in art. Had taken courses in figure drawing, printmaking, drawing and design, ceramics, art history… and many years from childhood-- classes from the Chicago Art Institute, Kansas City Art Institute, Nelson-Atkins Gallery in KCMO.

I wanted to … be an artist? Make art? And there was a fire in the Wichita St. Art building…put an end to that…and I came to Philadelphia on a motor scooter

. I go back to that point in time in imagination, asking myself—what if I’d had the assurance, the focus I feel now.. that I think I have now. Maybe?

And had kept it up?

Skip the interruptions. The 8 or 9 years making pottery, which was both an interruption and a deflected way of keeping the faith… so to speak.

The question on my mind is – can I do it? Am I in any better or worse position than I would have been 50 years ago? What are my disadvantages? Advantages (are there any?... cause in a dreamy sort of way, I keep going back, asking myself… why didn’t I stay with it? What if I had? Now that I know … that this is all I have ever really wanted. Yes there were other things I wanted. But that was the deepest, fishhook in my gut.

Age 23. Imagine I’ve transferred to an alternative universe. I don’t have to deal with what I’ve done since… let it all stand. Let it all exist. In a universe I’ve slipped out of. The alternative is stark—uncluttered: would I choose to be 23—with my present sense of commitment ( I can’t assume what I’ve learned since), so just that, and how would that compare with my prospects now? Age 72 going on 73?

Age 23: Main advantage… I could reasonably anticipate 40 or 50 years to live and develop my work. (Yes, one never knows what may strike one down, and even at 23 I was hyper aware of that.) I would have more energy… though I’m not so sure of that, the vigor of youth and all that. Really can’t think of much else, by way of advantage.

I would have had to figure out a way to make a living… however minimal, and to have the means to buy art supplies. I figure that would easily rob me of ten or 15 years. So the advantage is cut to 30 to 40 years.

And sex. I can comfortably content myself with a daily self-inflicted orgasm—for health, though I might wish for more, but no longer would a great part of my waking life be hi-jacked with –not with desire for sex alone (that would have been so much more simple), but confounded with romantic confusions, the wish for a soul mate, such that I spent so much time and mental anguish pursuing love in all the wrong ways for all the wrong reasons in all the wrong places.

There’s another five years, minimum (WAY conservative, given the emotional energy that consumed) . Down now to 25 to 35 years, advantage to the youthful start.
And I know—pretty much really know where I’m heading. I mean, I can’t see it, visualize it, but I know it, feel it. Know with every mark I make on a page, every piece of scrap I pick up on the street what belongs to the way, and what doesn’t. How long would it have taken me to find that? To shed the need for the approval and confirmation of others? Another 5 years? And working through the marketing shit—giving that up?

All that… leaves me about what I foresee for myself now. Another 20, 22 or 3 years.

And I’m so much smarter… I mean, really. And experience… such an amorphous word, I know—but I mean… the art I’ve seen, ideas I’ve encountered—all that to my advantage, now, not then.

So where is this going? That I have a sense … a compulsion… a need… a drive… to do something. To make something of my art. Fifty years ago, I would have spent, probably years, sorting out what I wanted to do from what the market or critics or whatever wanted. I’m pretty much free of that now. Though I have this inextinguishable sense of … what I need to do … um, how else to put it?

… Justify my existence.

I don’t like that way of putting it. The theological background noise. But can’t think of how else to describe what it feels like. Yes—I do what I do cause it’s fun. Cause it gives pleasure. And maybe, someday, that will be sufficient. Feel sufficient. But not now. Not yet. There is something here I’m after, working for. Some of it certainly psychological… this thing about mastering the skills of drawing (how can I call myself an ‘artist’ if I can’t fucking DRAW… like any run of the mill Renaissance master ?”) But it goes deeper. I can’t explain it. All I can say, is… it matters.

So I have my 20 some years before me. If I were 23, I might have a body of work to measure up to my expectations by the time I would be … mid 40’s. Why not for me now? Another 20 or so years. So that I can look back, as death or incapacity approaches… and feel that… this was what I lived for.

So I go to the figure drawing sessions, one part of me, a 73 year old man, one part – 50 years younger, but in another alternative universe. My ambition has nothing to do with market, or recognition in any terms that exist now—but it isn’t small, that ambition. however defined. 

It feels like a new beginning. Something has happened, changed, reset my course. But can I do it? I mean, can I keep at it… and let others decide whether I succeed or no? 

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