spit out the kool-aid (it’s a sugary trap)

If art can’t tell us about the world we live in, then I don’t believe there’s much point in having it—Robert Hughes

but is it art?

but is it art?

I just spent a depressing hour and fifteen minutes watching Robert Hughes’ documentary, The Mona Lisa Curse. This was made in 2008 – I’m always the last to discover nearly everything, and this is partially due to my avoidance of the media. That’s a choice, and I pay for it by remaining unconversant. But eventually I’ll come across things on a journey that is most likely motivated by a need for inspiration or a necessity of research, and that’s how I stumbled upon this documentary.

Hughes’ statement was made in the last few minutes of the program, which focused on the monetization of art, and art appreciation being usurped by monetary value driven up by clueless but rich investors rather than artistic merit.

I mostly avoid the media because nearly everything in it is scary and sad. The scene he painted for us is very scary, terribly sad, and that’s because it’s pretty accurate. It’s not a fantasy depiction of dystopian society, it’s fact. But this quotation, “If art can’t tell us about the world we live in, then I don’t believe there’s much point in having it,” which is meant to denounce contemporary art, is, I think, somewhat missing its own point. Contemporary art is telling us loads about the world we live in. It’s a chilling point, but a precise one.

Modern humanities scare the shit out of me. I suppose that looks to put me squarely in the camp of those who shake their fingers and say “when I was young,” even though a) when they were young is was fundamentally no different, and 2) it’s a little early for me to be setting up my tent. Aside from being untimely, I’m also outside of my demographic in my tastes and viewpoints. I know this, and yet I solidly agree with him in my existentialistic way: Everything’s shit, it’s all shit, and we walk around with this shit on the soles of our feet, oblivious to the fact that we’re the ones spreading the stench.

I’ve tried really, really hard to understand contemporary art. I’ve studied and observed, and I want to see the meaning, the beauty, the reflective messages, but more often than not, I can’t. Hughes stood up and pointed out the nakedness of our praise, and that’s a brave action to take. He was not afraid to be loud, clear, and direct—the way he laid into Jeff Koons was turn-your-head-away “ouch!” And the really painful thing of it was the integrity behind the observation. I think Hughes earned the right to make his declarations based on his nearly 50 years as a professional art advocate and critic. And before you think, “50 years? Yeah, but he was ow-uld!” consider that he started out in the 60s, right when pop culture had stepped into the forefront of expression. He was a young man in the thick of it, so I think his perspective has a generous dose of validity.

Art is subjective, I’ve echoed that sentiment a million times, and I believe it. But it’s also become subject to a popularity contest driven by mob rule. Artistic culture is being piloted by publicity and profit—the very things it’s meant to analyse and decry. Scary and sad, scary and sad.

Why am I so obsessed with this? Because we’re standing around letting it happen, and I really do think that we, the non-moneyed masses, are better than this, and much more powerful than we believe. Unfortunately we’re also apathetic, and more than willing to go with the flow if it means we don’t have to pick up an oar and paddle against the current. Politically, artistically, theologically, we’ve castrated ourselves. And you know what? That sucks.

sad peonies

peonies in happier days

peonies in happier days

Do you know what a sad peony looks like? Its little red heads, all swollen and ready to burst, lay huddled beneath a layer of prophylactic plastic, calling out to be set free.

This is what happens when it snows in May. Lilacs have frozen smiles on their wee little purple faces, roses look shocked and offended that they’ve been caught half dressed out in the cold, hollyhock leaves are sagging mopily on the ground, and columbine blooms are defiantly standing erect, shouting out “fuck you!” to the grey skies.

And me? I’m tromping around in the cold and wet, two layers of woollen winter socks shoved into rubber gardening clogs, t-shirt sopping and too-loose yoga pants sagging lower and lower as I beat the snow off of newly hatched leaves, stooping to peek underneath makeshift shelters for the smallest and most tender lodgers to make sure everyone is still with me. I never fully dried out yesterday, and this morning I was in past my ankles in last night’s freshly fallen snow – that’s a brisk waker-upper.

Tonight it’s supposed to freeze. And to that, I say FUCK.

one of the few welcome multi-eyed creatures in my garden

the bumblebee is one of the few welcome multi-eyed creatures in my garden

I used to think gardening was such a leisurely and refined little hobby, effortlessly sinking perky plants into soft earth and plucking a stray weed here and there while I stroll around, admiring my lush and beautiful borders. Ha. It’s plunging a shovel down with gusto, and ricocheting off of a boulder one half inch beneath the soil. It’s scattering seeds and seeing nary a sign of life. Ever. It’s bending down to smell a rose and coming face-to-face with a wasp, or reaching out to pick a flower, to meet up beneath the stem with the ugliest damn spider on eight legs. It’s surrendering to the weeds, which have launched an overthrow in numbers so vast, it’s useless to fight back. It sucks.

And yet, I am compelled to begin again and again, a staunch pessimist turned eternal optimist every spring. It’s a joke on me, my masochistic nature forcing encounters with arachnophobia, fear of hard physical labour, and continual disappointment. Are the occasional blooms from struggling survivors worth all the pain and heartache? I don’t know—when I see the lilacs in full bloom and contemplate crawling in between the bushes to live there for the next two weeks, when the roses are budding out and the peony is showing off and I’m excitedly waiting to see what colours the hollyhocks will be this year, I feel like Gertrude Jekyll and Beverly Nichols all rolled into one. I’m a gardening fool, a horticultural stud.

cardinal de richelieu, the most beautiful rose ever

cardinal de richelieu, the most beautiful rose ever

So yeah, I’ll continue to tromp around, shivering and hoping for the best as I fight to save my budding buddies from snow in May, cursing and dripping and crying on the inside at the very likely possibility that not all these little beauties will make it through the storm. And when the sun comes out again, I’ll peel back the plastic and give everyone an encouraging little fluff, hoping the little beggars will perform for me.

the bdsm of writer’s block

I’ve been stalled out in my writing, and it’s bothersome. Not just a frustration like a bout of writer’s block, but an unmet need, nearly on the level of basic survival – food, shelter, writing. Even this post is taking effort, and that’s saying something. I can usually prattle on with great ease about absolutely nothing.

I don’t want to bore you, and frankly, myself, with incessant talk about my story (Revolving Door, now available at MLR, on Amazon and at other outlets, ha), but I don’t have much to say about my other work, because other work ain’t happening at the moment.

And I so desperately want to write, and take myself out of this world for a few hours.

I am reading over some stuff I’ve already completed, and that’s been helpful in several ways. It always helps to go back over stuff and find all of those little things that don’t quite work, or are in need of tweaking. I have a piece that’s centered around a subject I know absolutely nothing about. Dangerous, I know. But the story is there, bubbling around in the back of my mind, and I just can’t help myself. I’ll go anywhere literarily. But I found some major fumbles on that one. Stuff that under the circumstances wouldn’t be – or shouldn’t be – said, at least not by someone who knows what the hell they’re doing.

I have another, similar one in the works with the same problem. I’ll just come out with it and tell you that one involves BDSM. Not exactly my area of expertise, and it’s not a good sign when my reaction to some of the pics is ‘eeeoww, what the hell?’ – and maybe I shouldn’t have admitted that, because now you’re going to scoff at me, scoffscoff, if ever it sees the light of day.

There’s a lot you can research and fudge your way through, if properly motivated. I’m always motivated to give my boys, my characters, the best possible roles within my stories.

And I’m anxious to get back to them all, because I’ve left a few in some compromising positions. I’ll hurry back to you as soon as I can, fellas.

P.S. You were going to get a picture of Emily Dickinson because for some reason it came up when I was looking for public domain BDSM pictures. Little tip: there are none. However, my internet connectivity is crap here, and it can’t handle images. You’ll just have to envision a hot BDSM scenario to accompany this rather lukewarm post.