I was just thinking about. . .
Film-Flowers were Modern, as in "Mod", and Cool and I knew I could make them. I mean, I aspired to make them. I was shopping with my mom when I saw the booklet on how to make Film-Flowers, that first image of a Film-Flower is burned in my memory like a commercial that won't stop repeating.
I read the Film-Flower booklet at Lee Wards several times. Mom shopped there, and I went along to help carry her bags to the car. Our Lee Wards was at Apache Mall (the first indoor Mall ever.) I remember a manager chiding me for reading the craft books but never buying them. The women who shopped there read the pattern books without buying them all the time, but they could yell at me about it because I was a kid. So, that's the image: A skinny 14 year old queer boy sneaking around Lee Wards in 1970 so he could avoid the manager and become mesmerized by a booklet on how to make Film-Flowers. It was my first exposure to craft porn.
What I remember about Lee Wards is rows and rows of cheap shit. Plastic flowers, styrofoam balls and cones in many sizes, colored pipe-cleaners, flimsy poster board, glitter and felt. People made really shitty crafts at that time. But Mom was a knitter; she'd go to Lee Wards to buy fifty skeins of yarn when they were on close-out. And she'd use them all up, knitting sweaters and mittens for us kids.
I got an allowance of 50 cents a week, so I had to save up to buy my Fun Film. I collected pop bottles that were tossed to the road side (2 cent deposit) and I did extra work, too, like raking leaves to get enough money.
It was the first time I went to the mall on my own. That was after my feet had healed, but still the longest walk I had ever made. I didn't tell anyone because my folks would have said no. But I felt justified in not saying where I was going; this was for my 'Art'. I was making a pilgrimage. Never having walked that 3 miles before, I can still feel the breath of anticipation as I approached Apache Mall.
I went straight to the Fun Film display rack, and with three dollars in change bulging my pocket like a hard-on, I fondled every can. Twice. The Fun Film came in little 12 ounce paint cans that were terribly expensive: 97 cents each. I chose a vivid purple, a hot pink and a leaf green.
I remember walking home but taking a different way back. I knew the direction of my house, so but I wanted to find another way back. I walked by houses in Columbia Heights I had never seen before wondering if they made Fun Film Flowers there, or would they or what kind would they make if they could. By the time I did meander home it was late, but I was already a Fun Film artist with all these ideas running through my mind. And I had become a little man, though I didn't know it at the time.
I was late coming home. Supper was already cold. But MOM was ready for me. She was angry and I was, true to form, honest. But also, blissful. I don't know who was more shocked by my response, my Mom, by brothers, my self or my dad. I was blissed-out. Unflappable. Well, really just in another world like I had my first orgasm and couldn't hear a bomb explode outside the window. And when it came out that I had gone to the Craft Store, and that's why I was blissed out, rather than doing drugs or sexing under-age girls, a unique and comforting calm became my family. They understood. Of course the freaky little kid could get off at the craft store, right?
For punishment I was grounded for a week. It didn't matter; I was a home body and I didn't have friends. But bless them, my older brothers did console me by suggesting that I could have been drinking or having sex and still gotten the same punishment and how perfect my response was and they wish they could be so cool under the interrogation of MOM. I didn't understand a word they were saying but that they somehow admired me.
My Fun Film Flowers were made in the basement, on the cement floor in front of the cloths dryer. That was the safest place for creating a mess and maybe the first time I sat on that floor in over a year. I formed a loop from the wire I got from my Dads hardware stuff. Then I dunked the wire in the can and when I pulled it out it took on a film like making a film on a bubble wand. It was magic.
Soon my older brother could smell it. The fumes weren't so much intoxicating as narcotic. He liked to huff. Model-glue had just been made illegal and he was jonesing. He offered to show me how to huff it, if I would share. But, I wouldn't let him have my Fun Film.
However, I do know I did get off from the fumes. It was strong stuff. And It's illegal in the U.S. now. But I mean, how much of the times is that? A little hippy boy getting high in his parents basement, knowingly, unknowing, while making beautiful forms of fluid and light that you could hold up to a bare incandescent bulb like looking through a stain-glassed window in a medieval cathedral?
I was looking for a photo of my old art and I found something I wrote August 15, 2005. I feel like I am two oceans away from that time and place. Still, I wanted to post that writing here.
Dear Mark, I dreamt about you last night. I know you were there, too -they say ghosts or spirits can haunt your dreams.
It was so real, I woke up three times and rolled over and went right back to sleep so I could be with you, and weirdly, I went back to the same dream. Surreal. Like a Twilight Zone where you can choose an alternate reality to inhabit.
We had set up house. In our small apartment, we hung crystals in the windows. I walked from the stove to go lay on the couch and you followed, squeezing in between me and the cushions. I could feel the mohair scratching your back -you know how lovers empathize. And I looked into your eyes and moved my lips close to your humid brow. Smelling your scalp. Feeling the hairs on your arm brush my chest. It is all I have wished for.
Does it count if it's only a dream. Can I tell myself that I was able to hold you, again, and you were finally content? It would be no less a dream if that were true.
You rise up and are gone. I follow. It goes like that. Me trailing you like a puppy. Then I leave and you come slipping up to my back. We were living in harmony. And all the while I keep wondering, do you love me. I don't know if that anxiety was empathetic, too. But it was real. Real as any anxiety we try to ignore like a clock constantly ticking away in the background.
In the course of the fluttering of an eyelid, we shared a life time. Exchanging gifts. Comforting and questioning. Leading and following. Walking together on a cold winters night.
Nothing has ever felt better. Nothing. Never. But, I had to wake up to this stinking place. I want to ask you, is that what it's like? Is that what it's like for you? Sometimes, I feel you standing here next to me.
Oh Mark, one day I will hold your hand.
Well, my bedstead. I bought it around 1986. I knew I would find a suitable bedstead at the Sally Ann in St. Paul and I did. If you shop thrift stores you know that a decent bed is hard to come by. I guess folks bang them to pieces before there's a chance to donate them to charity. It aint like a couch, where they buy a new couch because they're going to have company for the holidays and donate their old crusty couch - no, usually the only person who sees your bed is you and your lover, so you don't need to update it. And but if you're spending more time looking at the bed than your lover, it's time to get a new lover, not a new bed. That's why I think beds don't get recycled as much as lovers do.
I'm still talking hypothetical, because I wouldn't know.
My bed is pea green, the Picasso green, if you know that color. The green he used like a Mediterranean grey. Soothing, neutral, a place for your eye to rest while scanning his zig-zaging compositions. The bed was made in the 1920s but it's simple, almost neoclassical, with a gently arched headboard, straight moldings, glassy oil paint. And pea green. It looks today like the day I saw it in the window of the Salvation Army on Paine Avenue. I knew it was waiting for me. Mind you, this isn't a special bed but it's my bed.
I was sick of sleeping on the floor, that's how it all came about. I mean, I'm a pig and I'm a mess, but it's nice to be elevated above my own filth. I had been sleeping on a mattress on the floor, a futon no less; sleeping with the dust bunnies and feathers.
I was moving out of the 'Nice Slum.' It was a slum, but it was still nice. The heat worked most of the winter and tenants were known to knock out a wall without being evicted. Hell, I did it. Then I moved across the ally. I had just been hired at the museum after skipping through jobs every 6 months for 10 years. I finally committed to a job, so I was moving into a real apartment and re-inventing myself.
I moved everything by hand, by myself, because I was able to get into the new place several weeks early. Since I had to pass the dumpster along the way, I decided I would toss all my white-trash furniture into it as I walked by. I did it thoughtlessly. The cinder block book cases, toss 'em -gawd I'm too old for that! That's how it went. Armful and box full, dishes and clothes and books and books and paper. And in between I dumped the legless chair, and dumped the crooked table and dumped the broken lamp, until I was moved.
I didn't appraise my progress until I was all moved in and I realized I didn't have a stick of furniture. I had thrown it all away because it was 'trash'. Listen, I was sleeping on the floor, what little furniture I had was worthless. That's when I decided to buy a bed. I was going to elevate my existence, Physically, financially, and conceptually. That's what I did and I still have my first purchase, the damn bed.
There's one other thing I was thinking when I was thinking about my bed. I worked as a guard at the collage for a while and made a woodblock print of me in my bed. I should have gone to school at that art college when I was 18. I was better than most at that time; I can honestly brag about that now. But my craziness kept me from persuing it. And I don't know that I would be a better person if I had gone. But I will admit my envy.
As a guard at the school, I was impressed by a student project where the kids made wood cuts of their beds. That was my first wood cut, too. I took an extension class and I did a wood cut of me in my bed, even though that wasn't the assignment. How sick is that? It turned out to be a handsome print and if I could put my fingers on it, I would show you. To be honest, I think that creating that print was the moment when I first felt safe saying that I was an artist.
For one thing, Marisol is one of the art worlds most physically beautiful sculptors.
Born Marisol Escobar, she has always gone by just, Marisol. She studied painting under Hans Hofmann and hung out at the Cedar Tavern with the Abstract Expressionists and her friend Willem de Kooning. As a sculptor, she is self-taught but had her first exhibition at The Leo Castelli Gallery. She even appeared in two movies by Andy Warhol.
Much of that is stuff I just found out on the internet about Marisol. But I do know about her. I know her because our museum showed one of her most famous installations, THE COCKTAIL PARTY. It was on permanent loan from 1975 till it was sold recently by the Robert B Mayer Family at Sotheby's New York for $912,000. A steal, even considering the original price in 1966 of $14,250.
The 15 sculptures in that piece all use Marisol’s own face, photographed, craved or molded. They are reflections of herself at certain moments, herself as other people might see her or herself as another person. They are herself symbolically. In that way the perspective of her work prefigures much of the feminist art created 10 years after. Also of a later feminist canon, she works as a sculptor. In the 50s and 60s sculpture was still a mans world. But unlike the few other women sculptors of her time, Marisol worked with masculine materials, wood and metal, but embellished her work with female accouterments, like pearl necklaces and repetitive patterns. Again prefiguring the later feminist artists.
So much of her work has informed the feminist artists of the 70s and 80s, it is sad to see her contribution largely ignored: because she wasn't an activist. She was a woman expressing her world. In that way she was political in 1958, and therefore her work was provocative. But today, as an artist, she is unchanged. She is a woman expressing her world.
In an interview she was asked, "Did you always see yourself as an artist?" in part, Marisol answered, "I was born an artist. Afterwards, I had to explain to everyone just what that meant."
I like to say that I have laid my eyes upon every inch of THE COCKTAIL PARTY, more so than anyone else on earth, even the artist herself. It was one of my favorite works at the museum. And since I no longer work as a guard there, I can admit that for 15 years I spent hours ogling THE COCKTAIL PARTY when I should have been watching the galleries. Every pencil scratch, sanded surface and imagined fingerprint. Even when I worked for a while at night in the basement, I would come up on my breaks and turn all the gallery lights on to be with her work.
I remember when I first saw the sculpture. It had to be soon after the museum installed it. One of my first, and most vivid, memories of the museum was seeing it. That was long before I worked there. And at that time they had THE COCKTAIL PARTY crammed into a tiny space at the bottom of a stairwell, as if all the people were squeezed into an elevator. But even at that, I was mesmerized.
I met her old roommate. Marisol is a solitary soul, so I'm sure the folks who know her doubt she ever had a roommate. But she did and the woman came to the museum and saw the sculpture while I was guarding it. That may seem incredible, but I am used to being the center of such happenstance. I don't recall her name, (sorry, but if you read this -email me for some dumb reason) Her old roommate now lives in one of the x-burbs of Minneapolis and she looked like it, so I will call her Judy. She looked like a "scrapbook artist." You know, I wish I had not met Judy, because she tarnished my romantic notion of Raushenberg and Warhol and Leo Castelli and all the rest.
Judy and Marisol had a parting of the ways that I imagine was the type familiar to anyone who has had a first roommate in any city. They "lost contact," but Judy had heard that Marisol started doing sculpture and now, 40 years later, Judy was blown away to see Marisol's name on a didactic on the wall of an important museum. And that's how we started our conversation. "Is this the same Marisol who is Venezuelan, you probably don't know... , " she asked, but I did. And I pumped her for information about the artist, because Marisol, like many of her contemporaries, is mute about her private life.
I want to pause here, to reflect for a second. Because I think this is the often undocumented desire of every misunderstood artist. That someday, all the folks who treated you like nothing, will stumble into an art gallery and see that the rest of the world knows you are somebody. Shit happens.
What I found out is that Marisol had dated Judy's husband, that's how Judy met him. But Marisol dumped him and Judy, 'the roommate', started seeing Marisol's ex. So, Marisol got pissed. Doesn't this sound like an episode of Friends?
Judy and Marisol parted ways, not hateful, just parted. You gotta know what that's like. I can't imagine what Judy's husband would think when he found out an old fling was a now a world famous artist. I'm sure Judy told him, I mean -this is SOMETHING to talk about in the x-burbs? And now is the time that I'd like to point out that Marisol is famous for admitting to self-inflicted acts of penance. So, no wonder she dumped the dude; I don't see self-flagellation as being part of the TGIF suburban scene. As far I know, Marisol has never had a husband or paramour.
By the time I started working at the museum, they displayed THE COCKTAIL PARTY with the elbow space it requires. (Apparently the owner was non-plused by the sardine can arrangement.) But even with the wide open space, I always thought that the 'arrangement' the museum chose was wrong. They had the figures grouped in private conversations. Wrong. The figures are together in one room and celebrating but ironically isolated. That's what I saw. And when I met Marisol, I was vindicated in my impression.
When I met Marisol she was close to 60 years old, yet as attractive as when she was 20. Breathtaking, really. And I have to let you know, when I met her I was in uniform, and I was able to approach her and say that I loved her work. Like a fan. It was like that. I didn't ask about her old roommate.
She was in town and stopped at the museum to arrange THE COCKTAIL PARTY. That was the official story. But I always wonder if she saw a photo of the museum installation and decided to come here expressly to arrange it. Regardless, this was a special moment for the museum.
They placed the piece in the near foyer for her visit. A commanding display area for any work. I was able to finagle it, so I would be on the floor above, there was an opening where I had a perfect view of Marisol while she worked.
She brought her sketch pad / diary from 1966; opened it up and laid the pages out on the floor. That was so fucking cool! The art crew carefully positioned her pieces where she wanted them. Alot of artists fuss over every quarter inch, every half a degree in a placement, but Marisol was not persnickety. After getting a basic arrangement, she swapped a few pieces, over here -over there. She was very direct. And even though the work was cumbersome, they were done before lunch.
Marisol said, "I never wanted to be a part of society. To do what I do, I need to like and value by own world."
and she is a night owl, like me, too.
So, now you know.
I'm A Creep.
Of course you heard of that song. I was listening to the Damien Rice cover (Live radio version 2003) just now and I thought this song would be a great coffee house number. (dude told me once that he wished the had discovered Damien Rice sooner in his Karaoke career, maybe it was Ryan Adams?)
And I was compelled to read the lyrics, again. The first Google hit I found is YouTube, of course.
It is Radiohead performing Creep in some huge ass colosseum somewhere. I suggest you spend the few moments to watch it, not a waste of time.
Thom Yorke must have performed this song thousands of times since it's release in 1992, the bands first single. There is something ironically wrong when a man worth mega-millions stands on a stage and sings to hundreds of adoring fans, "I wish I were special." But when Yorke does it there is something awfully poignant about it. Not because he is pulling on some heartstring I haven't strummed since the first time I heard the tune. But because I am painfully aware of the man singing it.
Of course I am thinking of Kurt Cobain.* You can seem to have everything and really have nothing special at all.
And I wish I was special
Youre so fuckin special
But Im a creep, Im a weirdo.
Did I see a fan at one moment on the video, who was self absorbed with singing his own version of the song, take a gulp when Yorke's voice makes a weird turn he didn't expect. And then he's not singing the song, he's hearing it? No, that was probably me in my head. And but, then Yorke sings, "I dont belong here," and I see the spot light glint off a tear on his cheek. Don't tell me it was stage sweat, because there was a tear in my eye at that same moment.
*yes, Radiohead has been called the "British Nirvana," and this video was posted by some dude at a japanese, Kurt Cobain fan-site. I mean, I'm not saying I was having an original thought -just saying, that's what I was thinking
I used to write about loss, and I wonder if you only write about one thing, one topic like loss, is it poetry or just poetic therapy? Poetic therapy is nice, I mean better than boot-camp therapy.
So I took a look at some of those lovely little turds I call poetry, and I offer you one that is from 28 years ago, "His Jeans."
Then one that was written this summer about a moment 28 years ago. "Orgy Room Carpet."
And last, in case you haven't grown weary of my words, another poem written 28 years ago that's about the lad I mention in "Orgy Room Carpet."
He pulls his trousers off, that's all
there is. His jeans.
He brushes the hair from his eyes
and squints at me.
On his couch breathing wet on my neck
and moveing in spasms,
this is passion
before somebody comes home
and we have to slip out the back door.
We towel off.
He pulls his jeans on, that's all
he needs to do.
He brushes the hair from his eyes
and squints out the windows
when he says good-bye.
Orgy Room Carpet
My Curly Haired Country Boy
My Curly haired country boy,
Before we kissed I wandered the dark halls,
outcast among the outcasts,
till at last among the recruits,
You came, taciturn, not knowing what to give -we but
looked at each other,
whoa! I felt more naked than the dawn.
The world was beautiful, as the heated sigh,
Beautiful this den;
And its carnal deeds must
In time be utterly lost,
But your coarse fingers incessantly, softly
wipe my face again, and for ever again,
the soiled world we passed through;
For my love is muffled, a love divine as myself is
I think of the dark rooms like coffins-
shared by all,
And I think of how sweetly, my lips touched lightly
would lighten up the face of Dracula in his lair.
-after Leaves of Grass , by Walt Whitman
You Were Never Meant
Quick to open a door for me
or hold the pipe to my lips
with your head cocked, but
you were playing
at being with a man
like me. A man
you bumped one night.
I fumbled and a flower
crumbled in my lap. Your eyes
dull, like wet money and sad
to warrant my tears.
I settled my hand on your neck,
pulling back you blurt out:
let's just roll it up
and smoke it that way.