Written by O’Connor when she was barely in her twenties, A Prayer Journal was published last year by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The book includes a facsimile of the original so you can see the author’s “very innocent” spelling. I loved The Habit of Being because of O’Connor’s ability to laugh at herself and others, despite her often debilitating illness. She did not lose her faith in spite of so many difficulties. This is excerpted from A Prayer Journal, edited by W.A. Sessions:
I must write down that I am to be an artist. Not in the sense of aesthetic frippery but in the sense of aesthetic craftsmanship … It will be a life struggle with no consummation. When something is finished, it cannot be possessed. Nothing can be possessed but the struggle. All our lives are consumed in possessing struggle but only when the struggle is cherished & directed to a final consummation outside of this life is it of any value. I want to be the best artist it is possible for me to be, under God.
I was listening to the old radio show The Green Hornet. He had a vehicle he called the black beauty. This is mine; using so much black paint is challenging and provides mystery to the final product. Last night I heard Joyce Carol Oates speak at Labyrinth Books and she said being an artist or writer is stressful because it is difficult and if it isn’t stressful then it is not worth doing. I paraphrase, but that is how I heard it, and I couldn’t agree more.
I am beginning to call the San Francisco area fighters the Olympic Club fighters because the name is more concise, as the photograph album images I am working from contain fighters from that athletic club. An observation I made while painting was I am using paint like I am building a body from clay: pushing parts together with force. Though I often paint that way, the surface being naturally colored linen (a beige color) makes the painting of the face that much more difficult. I have to make the colors more vibrant to compete with the surface, and this pushes me to be more forceful with the paint application itself, not just the colors I use.
The past in the present. The present seen more powerfully and clearly through the past. Archives have long been controlled by the anointed few, and used by scholars who had the inclination to view their contents. With the advent of digitization, many archives have been opened to anyone with a computer and access to the internet. Personal pictorial archives can also be found on blogs, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram, among other sites. In my series of painted portraits of Olympic Club fighters, taken from a photo album found in the Rare Books and Special Collections Department of Princeton University, I began the exploration of a particular photographic archive of mostly anonymous athletes. Their faces are a vocabulary I read and interpreted through the application of paint on canvas. To communicate emotions, I roughly built up the surface of the paint, and created color combinations that were jarring to the eye. I used dripping and rapid brushwork to create movement. Through these painterly procedures I was symbolically bridging the gap between past and present. With my recent portraits painted from photographs from public and private collections I am continuing my desire to connect the present to the past while adding my imagery to the flourishing archives of today.
Carthage, a new novel by Joyce Carol Oates takes us to lives that must expand outward to embrace suffering, their own and others’ in order to build their second Carthage on the ruins of the first. In the novel, the writing echoes the characters’ emotional states; form providing function flawlessly. This novel is both a work of fiction and a religious meditation. Certainly one of her best. Reviews.
It was delightful to hear CUNY Professor Jesse Prinz speak about his philosophy of Wonder as a defining principle of aesthetics. Since he studied art before becoming a philosopher, he really cares about what constitutes a work of art, and why we should care. I left the lecture feeling exhilarated, and could not wait to read his articles and books. Read his article about wonder here.
It is wonderful to know that artists are being appreciated no wonder where they may live, as a recent article in the NY Times shows. It is interesting to compare what the curators from the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art are undertaking with a book by Kelly Grovier, which believes that almost no art being created in the United States defines our age. Though I disagree with using the term ‘art’ when describing many of the works in this book; I see most work the author has chosen as information, or perhaps informart, and the artists as informationists. This is because much of the work wishes to utilize and impart as much data as possible, rather than showing us the artist’s own heartfelt response to information. There is a terrible coldness to much of art today, a byproduct of pop and conceptual art which technology has only encouraged.
Here is a recently completed painting of fighter A219:
I was watching The Yearling and had to stop to take pictures of Jody’s progression to adulthood. The color of the film is amazing and the actor’s face (Claude Jarman Jr.) is beautiful. I put together a slide show of my photos with lamp reflection in tact. The pictures depict Jody’s evolution into something else, moving into what his father announces later as no longer being a Yearling. The close-ups of Jarman’s face as he wrestles with the awful knowledge that he must kill his beautiful fawn are painful to witness, but they, along with the other close-ups in the slide show illustrate the universal journey into adulthood. They are the step-by-step progress to that point in time that is the culmination of the other moments which preceded it. Each is worthy of a painted portrait. Jarman shows pain, fear, reprehension, grief, acceptance, and once again, happiness as he dreams of being reunited with his precious deer.