and i look in the mirror like i did something wrong (make collage not war)

Is the dignity of the thing in the effort behind it? This is certainly the message we tell ourselves, or at least the lesson we want our children to know. Because it’s a nice idea, an elevating ambition for what it means to be human. But I have my doubts.

I spend a lot of time making failures. They are everywhere, all around me, all the time (and this is only speaking to my personal art, or the art I make by hand, leaving aside entirely the issue of graphic design, which is a wholly different kind of poisonous cognitive dissonance). In my studio, I can step in any direction and pick up a failure and hold it in my hands. I can close my eyes and feel the failure in it, these tiny vibrations of best-before-ness, either idea or execution gone sour.

There is nothing ennobling about this feeling.

Art, like Nature, does not care about effort, about how hard you tried, about how much you believed. Whole artistic movements have been resigned to footnotes in the annals of po-faced, fart-sniffing fuckery (although, historically, this kind of purposeful rankness has always increased your chances of getting an arts grant). And when it comes down to individual works, there is no gold star for just using lots and lots of paint.

The only rational response to this is collage.

Collage lets you off the hook. It lets you have fun again. It is mad-scientist time. Collage is pure experimentation under (some) formal restrictions, like calling a meeting with a six year-old enforcing Robert’s Rules of Order. Every idea is entertained with the tacit understanding that it is probably shit. But the things that click will do so most obviously, in that quick way that makes you snort and smile.

Anyway: I’ve been doing a lot of collage lately. Here are three.

wakewhenyouheartheapplausex

don’t neglect winter chills / mixed media on masonite / 9 x 12 inches

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an escapist picture of the universe / mixed media on book board / 7 x 9.5 inches

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speaking in poems / mixed media on book board / 7 x 9 inches

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the book was a failure and the advance long gone. it was time to secure my inheritance, to force open the door to my future.

ink and acrylic on light-tooth sketch paper (60 lb) // 8 1/4 x 12 inches

are there still dissolute young men, or is that word entirely antiquated? it’s not exactly Leopold and Loeb out there. what i see on the streets is hoodies, almost by default, the new uniform of the lumpen, shambling and woefully ill-equipped –– and yet somehow proud of that fact.

good weed // sightseers

the end of meaning

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the end of meaning

ink and watercolour on found paper (a page torn from a discarded text book, page size 4.25 x 7 inches), mounted on masonite board (6 x 8 inches)

double-sided –– on the back is a transparent plastic stamp with the text

hope, meaning, truth

–– the three vagabonds

the brains trust bankrupted by a girl who doesn’t care

What is it about fall and shifting meaning? Yesterday held humidity in a fist, making me sick to my stomach, while today is dark and sombre with uninflected cold … remorseful, even beneath two jackets.

At the counter of the drugstore, the clerk asked me if I wanted to donate a dollar to “the tree of life”. In my mind I immediately capitalized everything –– The Tree of Life –– and became amazed at what she might actually mean, and if a dollar would be anywhere close to enough. What is the Tree of Life? I asked. She said something about cancer, women and local charities (they’re never very clear when you actually ask). Fine, I said, not really caring either way.

I’ve written about this kind of checkpoint-charity before, but it seems like I’m never going to get over it. Who, exactly, thinks this is a good idea –– this afterthought kind of charity, which demeans and embarasses? Is that what charity should be, something clumsily tacked on to the cost of consumption?

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you can never know

you can never know / pencil and ink on paper / 6 x 6 inches

an Errol Flynn or Gary Cooper or Rudolph Valentino or Tyrone Power (all characters in their own right but somehow strangely similar, as if conjured by studio system smoke)

I’d forgotten to put this in my gallery/shop. It happens. But then came this rainy day, this chance to look at things, and the ashen grey in this sparked some kind of memory.

 

untitled (sleeping on the back cover)

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untitled (sleeping on the back cover)

original drawing on found paper (paperback cover)

5.5 x 8 inches

A back cover ripped (part of the spine is on the right) from a found book (a book someone was throwing away), then used as a surface for a pencil drawing with watercolour.

The title of the original book is Politics and Culture in International History. In other words, it needed to be redeemed.

What made me save this was the deep, soft cream of it, the way it almost invited some pencil and drops of colour.

A girl, putting her head down, as if on a desk, in a classroom or library.

Meant for a frame.