As a result of the informal resolution I made with myself, some time ago, to make this blog about my life in general, the blog can take several forms from post to post.
• It can be an exploration of art, both mine and the art of others, with a little amateur art theory thrown in.
• It can be a discussion of art-making, with all its attendant triumphs and challenges.
• It can be a travel and adventure story.
• It can be an exploration of psychology, usually mine... a kind of self-analysis on the page.
• It can occasionally veer off into politics, when that feels necessary.
• And I'm sure I do go off in yet other directions, once in a while.
I know that not all of these topics are of equal interest to all readers. While I imagine that travel and adventure is probably popular with everyone, I'm sure that certain readers are bored (or even offended) by my politics, while others have no interest in my self-analysis, even as others would rather I skipped the art theory. These days, as Christina and Kodiak and I travel a bit less, I find that my posts are shifting slightly more towards the "interior," which is to say more towards stories of art-making and associated self analysis... because, that is what occupies my mental landscape more now. I find, ironically, that I may in fact be in danger of going into that more private territory which evidently makes some people feel forced into an uncomfortably voyeuristic position. I do have to strike a balance here; and I try hard to do that. It's occurred to me that I could put a disclaimer at the start of each post, stating its main themes and topics, so that people could read only that which interests them. I probably won't do that; why make it easer for readers to censor parts of my output?
So, on to the meat of the post.
Here I go... striking that balance... going inwards while trying not to make you all uncomfortable... watch me!
DANGER! Discussions of art-making and self-analysis ahead! (Oh damn, I said I wouldn't do that!)
Christina and I had an interesting conversation the other day about my interest in the female nude and what it really means. It's obvious that the nude (female and male) is a popular and enduring subject for art (nudes could probably put up a pretty good fight with Jesus in the competition for most prevalent topic in the Western art canon) and one can engage with that subject matter without causing a stir. And it has immediate appeal both for erotic reasons, and because it is the 'measure of all things' for us humans, but it also means something else to me. That question, what it really means for me, is endlessly fascinating to me right now, and feels like the most interesting current avenue of inquiry in the department of art-production.
Christina suggested that perhaps it has to do with creating a sort of primordial sense of well-being, something subconsciously related to the realm of the maternal. This dovetails with the "sense of calm" that I first reported feeling back in Berlin at the Helmut Newton museum. My friend Richard suggested some time ago that it was my way of uncovering or discovering the female part of myself, which also seems pretty damn plausible. There is an interesting progression to be observed in the trajectory of my recent artistic output from robot -> human, hard -> soft, analytical -> emotional. The big red robot smelling a flower, called Becoming Human, now at Meow Wolf, looks like a lynchpin transitional piece if we buy into this progression theory.
There is also a very strong overlay of interest in the "strong" female character or archetype, something I've mentioned here before. The images that come to me as possible paintings are all combinations of the (traditionally male) visual trappings of strength - usually expressed in posture and expression - and female nudity and beauty. Christina advanced to me the idea that the nudity and beauty part of the equation undermines the strength part of the equation... that nudity and beauty make the female vulnerable. I suppose that in this fucked-up reality in which we live, there is perhaps some truth to this; some men are intimidated by female power and want to crush it, or possess it through force. But I believe that's not the only way to look at this and that there is a more positive alternative vision, which is that female strength and power does not need to be de-sexualized (think: female politicians) in order to manifest, precisely because beauty and sexuality are a huge part of that power. A beautiful woman walking into a room of men will instantly transform the men into blithering idiots. Christina countered this point by saying that 20% - 30% of those men will have malevolent thoughts towards her, and.. well.. that is a problem (see above.)
At this time, I am generating ideas for paintings much faster than I can bring them into reality, because... I still suck at painting* and also I am having a hard time getting in there to practice, both for legitimate time-management reasons and also because I get discouraged by my poor skills and am reticent to go into the studio and confront my shortcomings. Christina suggested I start sketching the ideas so that they are at least committed to some sort of material form. I've begun to do that.
* OK maybe I don't totally suck at it. The background of my first painting came out surprisingly well, but as I've moved on to the figure I find it very difficult to paint skin convincingly. This is what's caused the most frustration...
Now, before you guys think I've gone off the deep end with all this female empowerment in art mumbo jumbo, let me just drop two words right here:
Yeah, that's right. Wonder Woman. I just watched the 2017 movie version of this comic book hero and, well, I loved it. To be fair, I recognize the fact that it is not exactly a "great piece of cinema," and the climactic battle between Wonder Woman and Ares is a bit too over-the-top fantasy for me, but I think the movie appealed to me for other, deeper psychological reasons in line with what I'm attempting to get at above. There were scenes that left me emotional... and I'm not talking about the reliably tear-jerking type of scene built around deep connections between characters that you find in the last 20 minutes of every Pixar film, I'm talking about simple scenes of clean power, scenes of an incredibly powerful and incredibly beautiful woman kicking ass. Why would scenes like that have such an impact on me? Who knows, I'm trying to paint myself to the answer.
Spending a bit of time on the Wikipedia page for Wonder Woman opens up some interesting topics. Firstly is the idea of Mythopoetics (or Mythopoeia), a term coined by J. R. R. Tolkien in the 1930's to denote myth-making by modern authors through the incorporation of traditional mythological themes and archetypes into modern media. To me, this is a fascinating idea. Joseph Campbell and others have shown the enduring power of myths, and I believe that whoever would use artistic vision to shape and modernize myths to fit our changing times would wield an incredible power. It has been suggested that the 2017 movie has done just that.
Wikipedia points us in another fantastic direction, which is towards the inventor of Wonder Woman. I won't go into too much detail here about William Moulton Marston because you can just read about him yourself, but suffice to say that I find him intriguing. He was a psychologist, an inventor of an early lie detector, an early feminist, a believer that women were superior to men and would rule the world someday, a cohabitator with three women (his wife, his and his wife's polyamorous lover, and his mistress - with whom he shared an interest in bondage), as well as the inventor of Wonder Woman. He modeled Wonder Woman after various aspects of these women with whom he lived. Early incarnations of Wonder Woman were more sexualized and featured elements of bondage, even while she subjugated men and women alike. (Don't ask me how that all works, I don't know.) Interesting guy, to say the least. I will be reading more about him.
Well, it's Easter Sunday (or Zombie Jesus day, as I prefer to call it) and Kodiak and I are about to go fossil hunting in Pot Creek with our friend Thomas and his kids.
Actually I just read that the name "Easter" is derived from the original pagan name for this spring-time holiday of birth and fertility, so I should probably just stick to Easter.