Monday, June 12, 2023

Others Declared It a Self-portrait. Finally All Indications of a Subject Began to Fade, Leaving the Canvas Perfectly White. He Put Down the Brush

A year ago today I posted that I was starting to paint again. Serendipity: I was in archives because I vaguely remembered an important birthday this time of June (and I was right: David Thomas' birthday day after tomorrow (and double-serendipity since just two posts ago this one I posted about the brilliant and funny and mad new Pere Ubu album)). Of late, reminders of why I stopped painting the last time keep popping like the sparklers my left eye constantly shoot though my current plan to fight through them is holding for now. My left eye:

That's actually bigger than the actual painting. The best scanner I have access to can't capture the textures and colors of the originals (no one has ever *seen* an original except L and C and R) though I set the scanner for maximum sharpness and highest resolution and then enhance the jpg via my chromebook's photo tools to sharpen and brighten and saturate. Difference between the last time I quit and fighting off quitting now: yes, it's cheating, fuck it, though I've used the cheating to talk myself out of submitting to contests at L and C and R's urging. I'm halfway through a project I've thought of as Deck of Hexjeff, or: 104 Head Shots; two hexjeffs are pasted to the other making a single card. The original plan included a poem instruction manual for the card game though currently I am writing zero poetry unless I consider these monologues poetry like once but quit, and I am reading nothing other than feeding my compulsion to grid the clusterfuck. I paint to process the clusterfuck I tell myself but I paint because I can't quit the clusterfuck and despite protestations I want to quit the clusterfuck I am a hot mess and recognize when pressed I will never ain't never gonna turn this wheel again, hey, Hamster! hear this, it's theater, new Theme Song

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John Ashbery

Sitting between the sea and the buildings
He enjoyed painting the sea’s portrait.
But just as children imagine a prayer
Is merely silence, he expected his subject
To rush up the sand, and, seizing a brush,
Plaster its own portrait on the canvas.

So there was never any paint on his canvas
Until the people who lived in the buildings
Put him to work: “Try using the brush
As a means to an end. Select, for a portrait,
Something less angry and large, and more subject
To a painter’s moods, or, perhaps, to a prayer.”

How could he explain to them his prayer
That nature, not art, might usurp the canvas?
He chose his wife for a new subject,
Making her vast, like ruined buildings,
As if, forgetting itself, the portrait
Had expressed itself without a brush.

Slightly encouraged, he dipped his brush
In the sea, murmuring a heartfelt prayer:
“My soul, when I paint this next portrait
Let it be you who wrecks the canvas.”
The news spread like wildfire through the buildings:
He had gone back to the sea for his subject.

Imagine a painter crucified by his subject!
Too exhausted even to lift his brush,
He provoked some artists leaning from the buildings
To malicious mirth: “We haven’t a prayer
Now, of putting ourselves on canvas,
Or getting the sea to sit for a portrait!”

Others declared it a self-portrait.
Finally all indications of a subject
Began to fade, leaving the canvas
Perfectly white. He put down the brush.
At once a howl, that was also a prayer,
Arose from the overcrowded buildings.

They tossed him, the portrait, from the tallest of the buildings;
And the sea devoured the canvas and the brush
As though his subject had decided to remain a prayer.

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