Saturday, July 23, 2011

No Room At The Inn

I know there is no room at the inn. I won't take it personally. But that doesn't mean I won't ask. You never know. Something might have opened up.

Life is a little like the line at some nightclub. Life smiles on you and the guy at the door lets you in. Or doesn't. Sometimes there is no room at the inn, or sometimes there is no room at the inn for you. You never know which.

I know I don't have the pedigree. I know I don't have the credentials. And I don't have an entrée. But sometimes none of that matters. Sometimes you have something else that will get you in the door. It could be talent, or beauty, or brains, or money! Or something else, some je ne sais quoi, like confidence or energy or style. Or grit. Like true grit. Will you try again if you are turned away? And again? And again?

I once knew a woman who went to a school that she didn't get into. She just just showed up; she just went anyway. I don't know how she did it, but she did. She didn't take no for an answer. She had sand! It shouldn't be any surprise that she also did very well, and went on to have a successful career.

When I first moved to Boston, once I had settled in, I took my portfolio to visit a dealer I had recently done a favor for without ever having actually met them. Before I could introduce myself the dealer read me the riot act. I had no entrée, no pedigree that she was aware of, and there was no room at the inn. Effectively, how dare I? When she had finished venting her spleen at me for my audacity, telling me what was what, and pointing me to the back of the line, I reached out my hand and introduced myself. Her head snapped back and she gasped. Then she rushed past me to block the door, which she would not leave until I had accepted an apology.

It was a shame really, because she had actually told me the absolute unvarnished truth, something you never hear, and that I would never hear the likes of again. I later went on to show in Boston, and even got to know some dealers as friends, but no one, not even one of those friends, was ever honest enough to tell me what was what. It was an "ah-ha!" moment where I got the straight dope, and not the dressed up bullshit.

I have gotten a few of those along the way. Those rare glimpses at the truth that you can carry with you to make sense of this world. Like the teacher that confided in me that my strength was intimidating, explaining why she had treated me so badly. Another "ah-ha!" moment.

So when you're standing there at the door, and they don't let you in, it might not be because you weren't good enough, but because you were too good. I actually got that from another teacher when I had asked about the hesitation to let me into a program. They told me it was to make sure I wasn't too good. Needless to say at that point I was a little disappointed that I had been accepted, .

These days I make it a special point to avoid lines with gate keepers. I'll accept an outright invitation perhaps, but never one to compete for room at the inn if it is willy-nilly up to some gatekeeper. Accept this invitation at your peril.

I was once interviewed by a man for a spot in an elite graduate program who kept his back to me and never looked at me the entire time; years later I was casually informed that he was no less than mortal enemies with the man from the program who had recommended me. That was an "ah-ah!" moment that did not reveal itself for almost thirty years, not until the man who had recommended me unwittingly mentioned their deep seeded enmity! Luckily this was also confirmed by another intimate who detailed the great pride of that particular gate-keeper, as gate-keeper.

I mention these things to illustrate just where we find ourselves when knocking on the inn door. It cuts so many ways. As further illustration I once secured a position as a columnist for a newspaper that I had been previously turned down for. The first time my recommendation came from the publisher who assured me that his support would undoubtedly be the kiss of death. He was right. Later I was joyfully hired by the very same editors who had forgotten about my previous application because they had never even given me the time of day. Go figure.

Again, I say all this because, and you must be prepared, what are you going to do when you're told there is no room at the inn?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, July 01, 2011

Measured in Roses

Parvolae partes ventris tauri, linguae anitum (Small parts of stomach of bull and duck tongues), 2007, silver halide print, 27 x 30.5 in

Mimosa, Hibiscus, Bougainvillea. The language of love. The language of sex. Of unfolding petals, of pistons and stamens and pollination. The language of life. Of beauty and art, of birth and death. Plant 12 inches apart. At least six hours of direct sun. Water regularly. Good drainage. Life can be measured in flowers. First marriage, Freesia. I once lived with a woman who was like one of those rare species that produces a single bloom in a year. Felt like an eternity! I learned that I like a woman who shows up everyday, like a pot of Geraniums! And I married her!

Shaker Heights. I was three and looking from the window of my baby blue bedroom. Steven our handyman’s bloodied body lay in the Hydrangea bushes down below as figures cut towards him across the lawn. A ruby red flashed and whirled in the failing light. At seven I was walking barefoot down a stoney road on the cliff of a Greek island with an Easter Lily in my hand and three small and ancient women in black crossed themselves as we passed. My mother explained that it was the flower of death. Waxy and almost fake in its perfection, I never thought of it as a flower again. More a trumpet of doom. At ten I sat with the Azaleas on the Spanish Steps while my mother cashed an alimony check at the American Express. We lived nearby on Via Margutta. The Oleander’s had flowers like little helicopters and my sister and I would launch them from our terrace.

Cut flowers. Roses. Cut the stems at an angle under water. Immerse them in cold water over night and they will last forever. Some people put them in their refrigerator when they go to bed. Same thing. They look good at every phase. From small and closed to past their glory and dried up. We had apricot colored ones above our bed when Stacey’s water broke at three in the morning. She did not scream “911!” but called the midwife and got out a shower curtain and placed it on our bed. I washed my hands about five times. The midwife never showed. Little Ecco was born quietly while her three brothers slept in their rooms. I always have plenty of cut flowers. My one vice. I’ve tried growing roses for cutting but can’t take them from the bush.

When I was a young painter in New York I would regularly buy a half dozen or so roses from the buckets of street vendors and deliver them individually to my favorite people and girlfriends. It is an amazing thing to see someone’s face light up on the other end of a rose. I let them think they were the only ones. A harmless lie I thought at the time but my conscience told me otherwise. The language of deception. Title of first solo show in New York: Flowerheads.

Outside my living room window a Witch Hazel bush lives a mostly uneventful year. Then, as early as February, when color is all but forgotten and I have lost every hope that winter won’t last forever, it performs its brave magic: an amazing feat of delicate yellow blossoms that announce that commencement is at hand. Then Pansies and Primrose show up at nurseries and impatiently start the spring; they stand up to the snow and cold when the change of season is stubborn. Then the wait for Crocuses, Daffodils and Tulips begins. Forsythia! I’m pretty sure I could live inside the blossom of a Silver Magnolia. Lilacs make me savor their moment every year. Dogwoods are synonymous with deer and bring me peace.

Impatiens work their butts off in the shade all summer and build a dome of blossoms well into the fall. Petunias cascade their velvet trumpets. Begonias are as varied as cuttlefish. Geraniums can stand the heat and go for a long time without water. Electric against the green. Cut them down and take them inside for the winter. There are no pedestrian flowers. Every flower is special, every flower awaits us. Weeds flower beautifully. Wild flowers are free. Even the dreaded Garlic Mustard looks quite charming.

When I don’t feel well I see my garden inside myself and let the sun shine on it. I breathe it all in. The bees and the rabbits and the birds and butterflies join the Day Lilies and Delphinium and other flowers, and I feel better. Works every time. Flowers are the language of color. Having a flower garden is a vital luxury that strikes many people as a waste of space and water. Why not vegetables instead? With my gardens I can make paintings with living plants. Blues, yellows, oranges, reds, and violets; infinite color abounds. The energy of each feeds whatever that is inside me, be it soul and/or spirit. After my mother died, Stacey and I spread some of her ashes at the base of a Bougainvillea high up overlooking a bay on the island of St. Lucia. Her kind of flower, her kind of place.

Daisies and Black-eyed Susans bring me down to earth; they are so conversant in the language of sunshine. Morning Glories are just that. But go indoors and Japanese Peace Lilies are as advertised. Christmas Cactus gift us winter cheer. Paper Whites do the same and bring a thick perfume. They all sing to us. Sun Flowers, Orchids, Violets, Iris, Bleeding Hearts, Peonies! I love Peonies! So many kinds of flowers, all over the world, every day of the year!

I don’t do community work anymore.  What I do instead is plant flowers by the road for people who walk or bike or drive by. It is what I give. The cause-minded friends I have laugh. They say Addison thinks flowers make a difference. 

Addison Parks
Spring Hill 2011

Addison Parks, Mykonos, 1960

Measured In Roses was written in 2011 for Heide Hatry's book, Not A Rose, published by Charta in 2012, and launched at MoMA PS1 in 2013. 

Posing as a coffee-table book of flowers, Heide Hatry's Not a Rose turns the genre inside out with her realistic "flowers" created from the offal, genitalia and other parts of animals. Text contributions by 101 prominent intellectuals, writers and artists examine "the question of the flower" from a multiplicity of perspectives. Contributors include Giovanni Aloi, Jonathan Ames, Stephen T. Asma, John Baxter, Claudia Benthien, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Lou Boxer, Rudolph Borchardt, Virginia Braun, Kiene Brillenburg, Bazon Brook, Mary Caponegro, Mary Cappello, Dennis Choi, Steve Connor, Paul Craddock, Brenda Coultas, Karen Duve, Joanna Ebenstein, Ron Flemming, Jonathan Safran Foer, Peter Frank, Martin Gessmann, Bennett Gilbert, Thyrza Goodeve, Jonas Gretlein, Anthony Haden-Guest, Jessica Hagedorn, Donna Haraway, Glenn Harper, Laura Hatry, George Holton, Siri Hustvedt, Christine Isherwood, Meredith Jones, Paul Manfred Kaestner, Gavin Keeney, Robert Kelly, Richard Kostelanetz, Paula Lee, Lucy Lippard, Fiona Maazel, Alex Mackintosh, Richard Macksey, Charlotte Mandell, Wythe Marschall, JW McCormack, Askold Melnyczuk, Selena Millares, William Ian Miller, Lydia Millet, Kate Millett, Richard Milner, Svetlana Mintcheva, Hannah Monyer, Rick Moody, Glenn Most, Alexander Nagel, Addison Parks, Jennifer Peters, Donald Pfister, Steven Pinker, Liedeke Plate, George Quasha, Christopher Reiger, Avital Ronell, Stanley Rosen, Selah Saterstrom, Volker Schill, Thomas Schnalke, Jennifer Seaman Cook, Philip Selenko, Robert Shuster, Joel Simpson, Peter Singer, Justin E.H. Smith, Iris Smyles, Jennifer Steil, Lisa Paul Streitfeld, Joe Summer, Lisa Summer, Klaus Theweleit, Luisa Valenzuela, Dan Wechsler, Jim Woodburn, John Wronoski and Franz Wright.

RECENT PRESS for Not a Rose:

- MoMA PS1

HEIDE HATRY, NOT A ROSE: at  STUX Gallery (530 W 25th St. New York) May 23 - June 22, 2013.
SKIN TRADE curated by Martha Wilson and Larry List at  P.P.O.W. Gallery (535 W 22th St. New York).  June 27 - JULY 27, 2013.
MYKONOS BIENNALE: Mykonos (Greece)  June 21 - June 24, 2013.