Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Love Me, Love Me Not

You have to pity the poor artist who is not an art lover. I've known a few. Where does that leave them? Hard to imagine. It becomes them against the world, the art world. Every artist is a rival, an enemy really, deeply; every work of art hanging anywhere becomes a loss, a failure, a travesty, a place they aren't. Sad thing.

I won't mention Richard Tuttle. There, I did it. He despised the artist art lover. Almost pitied the artist art lover. Can we make that one word? Artlover? No? Ok. Anyway, like I said, you've got to pity the poor artist who isn't an art lover. You can't get around the built in unhappiness; they are making something that they don't love. It becomes just an extension of the self that they love, but nothing more.

I don't know if I was an art lover or an artist first. Just for the record, yes, I call myself a painter. I used to believe that the term artist was reserved for those who achieved some lofty place and made something recognized as art. A term like genius. You just couldn't go around calling yourself an artist anymore than you could call yourself a genius. Well, I don't believe this anymore; in fact I think it is mean. One more exclusionary tactic by the gatekeepers. Assholes, sorry. One word.

I loved art as a first memory kind of thing. I watched my mother, who was a hell of a sculptor, making a giant head of her lover out of terracotta clay in her bedroom! My dad had abandoned us after they divorced. Went to Europe and bought himself a sports car. Two words. 

The head was extraordinary. It was of Arnold Steinhardt, the violinist. He had a large head himself. I was hooked right there. Transfixed. WOW! Art by example. Artist by example.

My mother had art in our house. Resnick. Kline. And yes, Chagall. I liked Chagall, and I still do. Got grief for it from the non art lovers who thought they were my teachers when they were just my jailers. 

My first loves were Franz Marc and Toulouse Lautrec. Hard not to like as a kid. Color and movement and animals and the dance of life. Like Chagall. Love and Art. And I carried a pad with me everywhere I went, as my mother would tell everyone. And I had my first studio in Rome at the age of ten, the windows above where they filmed Roman Holiday ten years earlier. Where I did my first mural. Where I received mural instruction from Gino Severini, the great Italian Futurist. Hooked. His daughter hung my paintings in their art collection, next to Calder and Fontana and her father. Hooked. One word.

So I didn't just draw and paint. I started hanging other people's things on my wall. I started celebrating what other people made, honoring their work, as a boy.  What could have been nicer it my mind, to be a part of this thing, this phenomenon, this experience, this celebration of life called art. Make it, share it, love it.

In art school things can get ugly. Not enough love to go around. Art students get ugly. Ugly but it's mine. RISD was like that. Sure, people had their heroes, but it was a ruthless competition, and of course you were judged by who were yours. Couldn't like Chagall. But I started collecting the work of my teachers and friends.  Still, the rallying cry at RISD was cool; fuck art, let's dance.

When I went to New York, I traded with everyone I could. And of course, I still have the Resnick. I rescued it from storage and restored it after my mother threw a shoe and missed another boyfriend. Looked at it everyday, and everyday it showed me something different. Still does. Remarkable. One word.

More later...