Sunday, May 30, 2010

Oil Painting, Art, and Presence

Should I paint today or take the car to be serviced?  Maybe I should empty the cat box, or pay my bills, or answer emails, or play computer chess, or check the price of gold, or go to the gym, or have the doctor check the mole on my ass, or maybe just make my wife happy for once--maybe just stay in bed all day watching classic movies?  I know!  I'll just put in some chew and pee off my second story studio deck!  I love the simple things most anyway--I can paint later.  What did happened that is interesting and profound is that I discovered today, 6/1/2010, that it makes absolutely no difference what I do next--with a few tiny exceptions.

Have you ever been doing one thing and wishing you were doing something else? Have you ever been with somebody while thinking of another?  How about being in one place wishing like crazy you were somewhere else?  Most of my life is spent being three places at one time--pretending to be listening, hoping she would just shut up--painting while wishing I was on the golf course, being on the golf course wishing I was painting--saying one thing while meaning something else.  I could make this list a mile long!

Do you know what I am describing?  I am describing your life my dear fellow artist!  O yes I am!  Now come on--who loves ya?  Hell--you probably don't even know--you're so distracted!

I have just painted a picture of living in hell. I know about this because I have spent decades in a semi--no complete--State of Non.  Did you know that Non is a state?--its capitol is Everywhere, and its zip code is 12345--ready, set, go--non-hearing, non-presence, non-passion, non-art, non-life.

I have lost fortune, family, friends, fame, face, fraternity, and other things beginning with "f" from fleeing focus and friendly forces and following instead fiendish fettishes feigning friendship--finished?--foowey!  Well fine! Yeah, right--you didn't do this because you read the book and went to therepy and became a Buddist--not so fast, Bucko!  If I think I am imperfect and have not lived a perfect life--then think how much I believe you are not perfect and have not lived the perfect life--are we still friends?--hope so.

 Several things  come to mind here.  Sorolla said he was doing art all the time--even while in conversation with an interviewer.  Robert Henri said that the person, not the painting, is the art.  Oral Hershiser said he was singing Amazing Grace while on the mound pitching for the Dodgers in the world series--which they won.  Sergei Bongart said--"...don't think, just paint."  What do these things suggest?

I am not sure what they suggest--sorry. They may suggest that more is happening than meets the eye--something very profound and wonderful may be happening that is multi-layered--I don't know. One thing is fairly clear to me, however--time, aging, events, Jesus, the Holy Ghost, and the Virgin Mary are converging in my life--showing me that my time is short and that the Second Coming is in the present--that it has already occured---that I have already been included in the rapture and, most of all, that the time is now for this stuff--what stuff?

Well I don't know all about the "stuff", but I do know where it happens for me--it happens in my existence--in my real life here and now, in the moment second by second--in an existence interrupted, nudged, whispered to, invaded by something that is mysterious and faint (yet screaming)--intersected  by something that interrupts the train of all that is selfish, self absorbed, self indulgent, self destructive, and dangerous--this something I did NOT create, can't control, can't exploit, can't begin a start-up with or make money off of or hand to you free of charge.

It seems that an intersection occurs in the moment, and can be grasped internally by any man, any time, in any circumstance.  An "intersection"--that's as good as I can come up with.  Is that oblique enough for you?  You took Philosopy 101--right?  You read the book, took the class, went to the ashram, heard the sermon, watched Dr. Phil, Oprah, Tony Robbins,  and that other asshole whose name slips me at the moment.  OK--then why hasn't anything changed?  Why are you so absent?  I am not begging the question here--I am just being rude!  It comes naturally for me--remember?

Well, this "stuff",  this "intersection" happens to me--in my life, my time, my heart beat, my bones, my art, and my soul--while I still have breath.  I know that this sounds very Californian--more like Southern Californian--where preoccupation with the self is a cultural trait.  But what I am suggesting here is that art, success, meaning, satisfaction, healing, pleasure--even glory confront every man.  Presence, not transcendence, is every man's heritage--no matter what his circumstances.  Presence mingled with irony, mystery, and confusion--this is the ticket to heaven.

Many believe that your life is what you make it, and that the great game of chance leaves some in and some out.  Make hay while the sun shines, keep your hand on the plow, your ear to the ground, your head up and your mouth shut--try to play golf in that position--hell with'em! 

What about that little boy or girl playing in the garbage heap in the third world, what about the stroke patient that requires three aids for a butt wipe, what about the baby born with no cranium to protect his  precious little new born brain?  We are better off than they--maybe.  Maybe not.  Since you are so sensitive, so smart--you tell me.  Since I am writing this--I will venture a few closing (thank God) thoughts or ruminations on the above profundities.

I'll make is simple.  If you are profoundly present in your own life, in the moment--a moment that is open to intersection with mystery, irony, and confusion--then you are an artist.  It doesn't matter if you paint, sculpt, change transmissions, farm, shovel manure, teach school, are a nanny or the president--or live on a pile of dung that is your life at the moment--art is happening.  You see--art is not what you do--its what happens to you--you don't do it--it does you--you don't create it--it creates you--you are the art, silly.

So, then, whatever you do for the rest of the day--art is going on.  If you get to paint a little--then you get to leave a record that others may see and think--another human was here and left us this nice record of her journey--wow!


  1. Thanks, Don . . . .
    You're right on!

    I've been planning to write about this in my blog and your GOOD words today have given me the courage. Blessings galore to you, Don .. .

  2. Dear Nora: Always first to read--first to comment--thanks, my friend--Don

  3. Don, I'm at a lost for words! That doesn't happen very often. You've said a mouthful and I will ponder it awhile. Do love your humor and your conclusion. (I feel like this is an answer, you're comment, to my latest post. I must see myself in this too much!) You're thoughts are uplifting in a mysterious, confusing sort of way.

    I've missed your profundities. You make me laugh and think deeply at the same time. So thanks for posting again... Yeah, we're still friends.

  4. PS: You must be wondering how much I'd have written if I wasn't at a lost for words...?

  5. Perhaps maintaining "presence" is a corollary to "praying without ceasing"--and requires practice. In any event, thank you for being fully present when you teach.

  6. Don, somehow I feel like I went to a therepy
    session, got a pep talk, swapped jokes,got a shot of BS and was offered a doggy bag!

    How'd ya know? it was just what the Dr. ordered!
    (ha)I was hoping you'd post soon!

  7. Well--my latest post is about as clear as mud--but I wanted to say it as stiff as I could to see if anybody out there is still alive--it looks like it.

  8. Don, LAarts sent you an email and would like to hear from you.
    Things are shaping up!

  9. Don,
    Have you been reading my mind? or reading my email? Or looking over my shoulder?
    sheesh.... you nailed the conflict that is my "life" lately. But, just maybe, since God never wastes experience, the "I am doing this, but wish i was doing THIS" of my existance lately is just a warm up for something really good. thanks for posting.

  10. Deb:Yes Deb--I have been looking over your shoulder AND reading your email--I feel sooo busted! I agree competely with your comments--blessings--Don

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