Friday, May 30, 2014
The reviews were lavish. Gallery owners
swooned at the thought of hanging just one of her
paintings. She was Picasso without the blues, Van
Gogh with both ears. She was Frieda flat on her
back without the dark shadow of Rivera looming
over her bed.
Her art sold so well she began to suspect
something was wrong. Maybe she hadn’t suffered
sufficiently. Maybe she’d rushed through her
experimental phase and produced no embarrassing
body of early work.
Sadly, as an artist she was just too good.
While picking up a paintbrush with her
left hand and holding a cup of coffee in her right,
a dollop of hot coffee splashed onto her wrist. She
winced, but at the same instant a glob of cool, blue
paint pooled on the back of her other hand.
The school of Un-naturalism was born. Its
main tenet held that any idiot could be trained to
paint with the hand that felt natural. Discipline,
knowledge, order, and technique rule through that
hand. But the opposite hand is more powerful,
for it contains everything that’s hidden and
By duct-taping her paintbrush to her left wrist
(the hand, she claimed, wasn’t strong enough to grip
the brush on its own), the school’s founding mother
produced work that only vaguely reminded critics
of her former paintings, as if her masterpieces had
been copied by a six-year-old.
Un-naturalism attracted immediate followers.
A few artists faked awkwardness by painting badly
with their good hands, but their talent showed
through. One ambidextrous watercolorist had
almost given up trying to be a part of the new
school when he discovered the practice of duct-
taping his brush to one – really, either -- of his feet.
A reviewer whimsically mused that “the boy
had finally managed to get his foot in the door.”
Not until a lecherous old fart who dabbled in
acrylics decided that sexual energy could be better
expressed by taping a brush to his erect penis did
the movement of Un-naturalism lose purchase
with critics. The public was actually afraid to
show up at his openings.
The movement had come full circle in just
one year. But art is like that, a passionate attempt
to hold a vision perfectly still and to render it
faithfully without arousing suspicion.
*Thanks to Arts Perspective, where a version of this first appeared
Friday, May 23, 2014
These hands, I say, and hold them out
before me like two slabs of meat
reduced for quick sale. Did I forget
how marbled, how gray, how like
old shingles nailed to a roof?
How is it then, that as I cradle one
with the other, caress an ache
running the length of a thumb,
I start counting my fingers once again
as if they were supple and I was young?
Friday, May 16, 2014
When I fall asleep
spring runoff churns
my blood, so much
sediment I can’t help
dreaming of dirt,
my mountains of duty
reduced to mud,
washed by currents,
braided between rocks,
spilling over banks
that were meant
to contain me.
I am one moment
passed to the next,
a rapid, an eddy,
a relentless tug
where all that’s unseen
roils, boils to the surface
for the sake of one
deep breath I hold