Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Cultural Program Alteration

Here's quintessential trippy dude Terence McKenna talking about culture as a kind of operating system of the mind that can be overwritten by a deeper, more "vitalistic" program through shamanic practices such as ingesting psychotropic plants. This is akin to my own take on culture, religion, capitalism, evolution, the world...ever since age 19 when a series of temporary mind alterations ("perturbed brain chemistry") wiped clean the old hard drive. To experience stepping off a bus, exhaled into the cityscape like a gush of seawater from a great whale to hear the trees in the park singing my name while they tossed the moon like a ball and the gutters rang with bells...well. I never went back to Kansas. I became the smallest weed cracking through the sidewalk and the farthest star winking in the fog. It flashed through my body: it's all more beautiful, alive, connected and simple then I could know with my head. That's been my stance ever since, seemingly outside the cultural norm but deeper inside something more real. A place where old cliches like "love makes the world go 'round" are reborn to their original radiant profundity. In those days I came upon a shattered store window and plucked a shard from the wreckage. It became an icon for me, a piece of my old world view that showed me where I'd been limited and now had broken free. I still keep that hunk of glass upon an altar of bird nests in my studio and still revel in the beauty of this elegant universe and my place in it.

This clip has some fine far out art by the likes of Alex Grey and Mark Henson, among others, and a rather eerie soundtrack.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Big and Blue

Gray skies make for good painting conditions in the studio, diffused light and an excuse for a blazing wood fire. I've settled into working on several pieces at once which seems to assuage creeping anxieties about producing enough work. I work with a canvas until I've poured as much juice as I can into it. Then I abandon it for another and then another until eventually I'm back to the first with fresh perspective and invigorated inspiration. And so on. This rotation lets me go with the flow easier. When a piece is really asking to be worked, then I dive in. Like my houseplants when they ask to be watered, it's an almost audible sensation. I've been developing this one image in white on black, veering from liking where it's going to despair that I'm ruining it (standard procedure for me). Finally I let it rest. I was laboring and I'm not keen on that feeling. I prefer ease and excitement. So I lay it aside and face the waiting mob of white before me. I'm surrounded by big blank canvases and if I don't do something, they will bring me down. My favorite remedy for this situation is to play. I either sketch a bunch of loose ideas out on paper or, even better, just fool around with color on these big intimidating hunks of gessoed substrate. I find it supremely relaxing, enjoyable and I think I'm good at it. The results are always satisfying to me, at least. Apple green smudging into citron misted with grey and tinged with brilliant red. Or a warm mottle of tangerine and dark pink struck though with browns. Today I tackled the big kahuna. My four by six footer. I muscled it onto the easel and dug out a pint of ultramarine I plucked from Grandpa's studio detritus when we moved him to the nursing home. I slashed though that cruel white with big globs of brilliant blue. Smearing and blotting and buffing out. It took awhile and as I was working I got to know a whole new Blue. Not at all cold. Exciting. Deep. Radiant. Big and blue, like a new world. I think I like this wide open territory and I am enheartened. All is good.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Garbage Vortex

Since "feeling like crap" has been the beat at home lately, it's not surprising that this newsy tidbit surfaced on my radar. I wasn't aware until the other day that there is a Garbage Vortex twice the size of the continental United States floating out in the Pacific ocean. Yes, two enormous patches of plastic crap stew, swirling out there on either side of the Hawaiian Islands, held in place by the North Pacific Gyre ocean currents. The world's garbage has always migrated to this coagulation of debris only to eventually biodegrade but the world's plastics do not break down quickly enough so we are left with 100 million tons of flotsam comprised of every plastic doodad manufactured in the last 50 years. No matter the origin, every Happy Meal toy or ballpoint pen or summer flip flop ever made will end up there. It floats underneath the water's surface so it cannot be detected by satellite photos. Lurking like a mythic deep sea creature it roams the waters "like a big animal without a leash" barfing up garbage when it hits land. Another wonderful creation of modern humankind.

Photo of an albatross carcass from Algalita Marine Research Foundation

More haunting photos here.

In Flew Enza

Gone viral. It has been a trying week dealing with that ancient beast, the Flu. It stampeded through, brutally trampling birthday plans and ruining Valentine's Day. Dad went down first and freaked us all out. Then Mom. Then Eden. Then my brother. Now Rob. Witnessing it firsthand, I can testify. It is bad stuff. Raging fever, bone-crushing pain, torturous headache, tubercular cough, nausea and, scariest for me with Eden, delirium. Looking right through me with these big fevered eyes, jabbering nonsensically. I just hate that. So far I have remained the unscathed nurse feeling my own life expectancy pared down by the blunt edge of worry, garlic-eating like a Sicilian and drinking raw vinegar to stay well. Casa de plague. I wouldn't wish this on anyone. Stay well, everybody.

Picture: Supersaturated superimposition of birds over a microscopic photo of the influenza A virus- by me.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Uncle Don

My Uncle Don passed away this afternoon. My dad's closest in age brother, he had become somewhat estranged from his family, living for many years in a remote area outside of Spokane near the Idaho border so I don't have any recent memories. He was a more frequent visitor in my childhood and I have vivid recollections of him showing up out of the blue with his guitar and the hours-long playing sessions he and Dad enjoyed. A relentless stream of country and blues filling the house, beer and cigarettes, cousins clamoring around and it always seemed to culminate in a full on barbecue with milkshakes or some other looms-large-in-a-kid's-mind kind of spread. It always seemed like something special when he turned up. So I'm posting this photo of Don here with my aunt and cousin Ray in about 1971 or so. He doesn't have his guitar but this is just like I remember him. Hanging out, thoughtful, a little distant but with lots of music. So long, Uncle Don.