Is this BLOG an experiment? I doubt it. It’s not a reasonable, predictable space. Words can be heavy. Stones, they were called. How to love them?
A place of pleasure, that’s my goal. Encounters and exchanges about art and life. A selected group of people will come and play the thinking game. They will send their thoughts by e-mail. We might be read by the global village. Let’s give them pleasure! Let’s learn to be light. Fleeting and temporary, at least for one year. Personal, fearless, bringing out uncertainties, pauses and hesitations, conflicts and doubts. Most of the artworks reveal idiosyncratic states of mind that are not allowed to writers: no smoking in the toilette during the flight! Unless they are poets.
I was an Eighteenth-century philosophy scholar who turned into a journalist and a maker of hand-sewn books. So my hands give the books a body as the secluded princesses of the old tales, making their lovers’ body with flour and water. None of them have a beating heart. Lack of love makes me sick. Lack of confidence, same effect. Plaintive commentaries about climate and institutional collapse are a black mask on my eyes. Reality is painted black. But The Arts keep me alive. Meredith Monk sings without words, only voice and feelings. I wish we could write like she sings.
No yes, no, I like, dislike, no evaluations. Intelligent kindness. No aggression nor rivalry. Reading, writing, “an exchange of desire becomes possible, of an enjoyment that was not foreseen. Games are not done, let’s play.” (Roland Barthes) Wind and earthquakes shake our landscape. Los Angeles is luminous in the middle of April. We can wear the on-line dress, all the possible colors and shapes, because ideas have colors, if someone cares. The kite needs hands holding the thread as well as the winds and the sky; it needs tension, inside and outside.
“I play them on a blue guitar / And then things are not as they are. / The shape of the instrument / Distorts the shape of what I meant, / Which takes shape by accident. / Yet what I mean I always say. / The accident is how I play./ I still intend things as they are. / The greenish quaverings of day / Quiver upon the blue guitar. (Wallace Stevens)
Distillate of Metaphorby MICHAEL C. MCMILLEN, 1996 A blend of thirteen selected images, triple steam distilled and aged by chiaro di luna. Bottled on 1.Feb.1996 Gillock Laboratory and Research Institute* 13313
Photographsby PETER KIRBY
Quotes from Wallace Stevens and John Cage and indirectly from Paul Valéry
E-mail conversationwith SIMONE FORTI
Winter in Los Angeles is short if it ever comes. The sky cries out all the the clouds he can spread like blankets closer and closer to the tree tops but it’s easier to smell the rain’s proximity than to see how far the gray pillows hover on our heads. December days are short.
It rains. Sitting on a chair surrounded by darkness I reach the big hole within. I don’t have metaphors to describe what I will never see, and if I could I wouldn’t have the words. The distillate of metaphor that cousin Michael collected in a bottle for me in 1996 keeps silent. It cries for the moon. The liquid density sealed with wax, like envelops or parcels from a past world —a metaphor escaped, it is not this or that. Which is the common secret between the tangible bottle and my intangible inner hole.
The day was dripping lack of light like an hourglass passing sand through the bottleneck. The day slipped into the night. “By metaphor you paint a thing,” says Wallace. Language becomes a freeway of meanings running away and stopping very briefly on pebbles and papers and poles and palms and on the spots of dirt the violence of rain spatters over the glass. We don’t really see the single moments —a camera does it much better that the natural eye— we feel them in the dark hole until they come out god knows how, words? images? watercolors?
Here they are, Edgar Honetschläger’s watercolors. In some ways Austrian, in other ways Japanese, as the artists holds both spirits in his experience. Even though that is not that important. It’s our liquid nature so masterfully disguised by the skin that craves for merging into the fluid landscape diluted and melted by some ungraspable force out of human control.
From John Cage Silence:
‘When desire is silenced and the will comes to rest, the word is beautiful
and removed from the struggle for existence.
This is the world of Art.“ (I Ching)
“What are the important questions: what is it that is not just beautiful
but also ugly, not just good, but also evil, not just true, but also an illusion.”
Edgar’s spirited images awaken all the wet winters soaking my life like a castle of sponges. But first of all they bring back a mysterious sense of excitement, being immersed in an indistinct, fuzzy world deprived of clear definition. A physical experience of merging and getting lost, without disappearing.
In the morning, beyond the glass door to the deck, a little squirrel appears. Peter talked to him and took a picture. I sent it by e-mail to Simone:
Simone answered, “After a cold night. A lively image.”
Rosanna “Do you need a blanket?”
Simone “I don’t need a blanket but I thought maybe the squirrel did.”
Sculptures by MICHAEL C MCMILLEN Poem by WALLACE STEVENS
and a story by ROSANNA ALBERTINI
Photographs by PETER KIRBY
my Christmas is a kitchen looking at the road through a line of shivering trees they are phantoms of trees for eyes behind a window opaque with ice in the room poor as the winter. the stove mumbles chewing the red pieces of coal as red as the persimmons on top of the credenza. mother and daughter have a Christmas dream to celebrate deeply hidden in the night of time. they place some dry grass out of the window on the windowsill for the donkey of little Jesus coming by with Joseph on their way to Bethlehem. it was mother and daughter’s secret not to be told not even to grandma. a silent tiptoeing in the morning to check: the grass was gone and my heart lifted.
I WISH MERRY CHRISTMAS TO EVERYBODY
WITH THE SAME SIMPLICITY
OF THE SECRET CELEBRATION OF MY EARLY DAYS
FOR A CLEAN SPACE IN OUR MINDS
AND A BROOM OF LIGHT SWEEPING FEARS AWAY
STANZAS FOR “THE MAN WITH THE BLUE GUITAR” by Wallace Stevens
The parrot in its balmy boughs / Repeats the farmer's almanac.
A duckling of the wildest blood / Convinces Athens with its quack.
Much too much thought, too little thought, / No thought at all: a guttural growl,
A snort across the silver-ware, / The rose-leaves flying through the air.
....... I read. "The subject of poetry / is poetry, things are as they are."
We hear them on the blue guitar. / The poet picks them as they are,
But picks them on a bue guitar / A guitar that makes things as they are.
But then things never really are. / How does it matter how I play
Or what I color what I say? / It all depends on inter-play
Or inter-play and inter-say, / Like tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee,
Or ti-ri-la and ti-ri-li / And these I play on my guitar
And leave the final atmosphere / To the imagination of the engineer.
I could not find it if I would. / I wouldn't find it if I could.
I cannot say what thing I play, / Because I play things as they are
And since they are not as they are, / I play them on a blue guitar.
I play them on a blue guitar / And then things are not as they are.
The shaping of the instrument / Distorts the shape of what I meant,
Which takes a shape by accident. / Yet what I mean I always say.
The accident is how I play. / I still intend things as they are.
The greenish quaverings of day / Quiver upon the blue guitar.
To ride an old mule round the keys-- / Mature emotional gesture, that--
Blond weather. One is born a saint, / Complete in wind-sucked poverty,
In such an air, poor as one's mule. / Here, if there was a peak to climb,
One could watch the blue sea's blueness flow / And blacken into indigo.
But squint and squick, where no people are: / On such a peak, the blue guitar--
Blond weather. Give the mule his hay, / True, things are people as they are.
Michael C. McMillen’s sculptures were exhibited by LA LOUVER Gallery in “A Theory of Smoke, ” 2021
in the exhibition NOW AND THEN, CMAY GALLERY Los Angeles
November 14-December 18, 2021
Lies Kraal : what painting does to reality
and words, how real are they?
by ROSANNA ALBERTINI
The sound of a day in a hidden garden surrounded by city life can be recorded: but the real sound is lost, in no way can it be reproduced. Who’s the listener? Where? Still or in movement? The real sound is the imaginary activity shared by one or more living persons and a density of invisible waves hitting each other in the air before they reach -some of them- the nerves in the ears, vessels to the brain. I can’t avoid the doubt that our trust in knowledge as a way to the truth is mainly hoping to access, like a poet says, “the only access to true ease, /the deep comfort of the world and fate.”
Lies Kraal kept seven large pantings made in 1989 in her studio, never shared them with the public until now. Let’s avoid the mystery. It’s a fact and a surprise. On linen, vertical on the walls, they are painted images of the floors of seven different art galleries in their 1989 temporary space. Some galleries moved, others disappeared, fragile and fleeting like the art they embraced, like the lives of visitors, owners and workers.
Yes, we go back in time in front of them, not able to see the reality of each place because the solid nature of the floors has been violated by painting. Not at all reproductions, these images are portraits. Layers of ghostly presences: steps, flying eyes, a long range of feelings if they were artists, gallerists, buyers or curious visitors or writers hunting for juicy food to fill their pages. First of all Lies and Judi’s experience. Judi is Lies’ devoted companion. Judi Russell, artist.
Seven paintings who are not monochromes, and they are alive. They don’t want to be monuments for a world oblivious to yesterday or cynical toward tomorrow, not to mention skipping today. They make me think of sails slowly navigating through time. Breezes pushes them in our lives with a gentleness that is not easy, and a beautiful nostalgia for Turner. Lies made herself the storyteller of life details under-estimated, forgotten, diluted in conventional words. What appears is the painted breathing of the places, as if ironic abstractions could undo the stiffness of floors, bring up a light memory of geometrical grids by evoking, invoking, the atmospheric aura of each room as it was more than thirty years ago. Portraits become interiors; for some of us now it’s a pleasure to return, knowing without illusion we step into a mental journey scattered with images, also of artworks sometimes placed into the floors.
Once painted, each space moves out from chronological frames, becomes the intemporal image of the artist’s perception. Exactly like the monochromes: reality is in them, and it’s intangible, forever elusive. See for yourself, I accept my ambiguity.
A few notes by Lies and Judi go with the paintings. They are all 54 x 52 in, all made in 1989, acrylic and cement on unstretched linen.
Burnett Miller What a fabulous gallery this was. He introduced so many important international artists to Los Angeles. Very intense, yet gentle man. Always made us feel comfortable about our naiveté, having just moved here from Santa Cruz. One day when we walked in to the gallery on La Brea, Ulay and Marina Abramovic were sitting there back to back with their hair braided together. He and us loved food and talking about it. One time he turned us on to getting uni (sea urchin) fresh off the boat in Santa Barbara. We got a whole bag full of live ones for around $10. More than we could eat at once. Loved him for that experience.
Shoshana Wayne This is from their gallery on 5th in Santa Monica, before she and her husband became the developers of Bergamot Station. They had David Pagel as a receptionist at the front desk. I remember his red frame glasses in particular... he was a rebel. Among always very interesting, provocative artists, in the back room they once showed some very strange videos from an Austrian performance group… I think it was Hermann Nitsch and company.
Margo Leavin A very brash, yet classy woman who had a good pulse on the contemporary art scene… local, national and international. I learned a lot about art looking at her shows. One time I was invited to the backroom for something and I was overwhelmed by the smell of cigarette smoke. I had to comment on it... it was: oh yeah, Margo smokes. I imagine she must have lived so long because of her passion for art. I think she was great. Her floor was pristine.
Luhring/Augustine/Hetzler On 4th Street in Santa Monica, another nice surprise bringing New York and international artists to Los Angeles. One time we saw Jeff Koons’ provocative paintings of he and his porn-star wife, Cicciolina.
Richard Bennett On La Brea Richard Heller and Bennett Roberts had the gallery together. They were young and fresh. Smart. Their floor was like them: high contrast that works together very nicely. Now they both have their own galleries here in Los Angeles.
Ace This floor was somewhere in this vast, beautiful gallery. There were so many nooks and crannies full of surprises and so many rooms on such a grand scale. Doug Christmas did a remarkable job of directing many great exhibitions here. Kudos to him for using that space so beautifully.
Santa Monica Museum of Art Tom Rhoads was the director of this new venue on Main Street in Santa Monica. In an old 1908 ice storage facility he had exhibitions of fresh new and emerging artists, including a lot of conceptual art that was kind of new for Los Angeles. The first show was while the building was still under renovation. It was by David Bunn and had ramps up to telescopes that focused on various spots he found beautiful in the patina of the old construction. The floors had lots of fertile material for my series, so it was hard to pick a spot.
Twenty years ago I wrote a text about Lies Kraal’s monochromes. I include part of it below without changing a word, yet I need to rethink the way I objectified her self expression, as a separate thing that doesn’t intrude into the smooth perfection of the monochromes. That’s unreal, simply impossible. Lies’ art renews our world in every piece, her life filters light and colors so well that new colors appear, reminding us of flowers or rocks, never being them. In the end, they are human, they are her colors. Reproduction is impossible. The following images are imperfect suggestions of the real pieces.
From the year 2000, in a catalogue with a white cover:
And one cannot help feeling looked at by the paintings as if they were impenetrable presence, compressed volumes underneath a smooth, regular surface that doesn’t speak a human language — silence of the matter is disconnected from any psychological temptation.
“Leaving no trace”: Kraal’s touch on the canvas is made with hundreds of layers, always the same color which is made of many, it doesn’t matter in the end it looks monochrome, it’s impure dominance of one color over the others. The physical impression of a thickness has the same undetermined quality of the unwritten book we hold inside, a transparent page after another, on which a tint is put by marks slightly impressed in our mind by the transient perception of things around us; colors and shapes not really needing to be sewed in names, so movable is the quality of attention one turns on them, usually thinking of something else.
Thickness one grasps in these paintings is an absorbing power, endless giving and receiving between the artists and her materials, the art piece and its environment. Each painting an impersonal presence — the ultimate purpose– rather than the tool for the artist to reveal her own self. Yet it is also an individual form becoming a painting through a sacred dance that doesn’t take from humans any anthropomorphic similitude or naturalistic analogies.
Today, my wish is to have all the seven painted floors around me, in one room, a table in the middle with friends, and a moment of ease as Wallace Stevens wrote it:
An ease in which to live a moment’s life,
The moment of live’s love and fortune,
Free from everything else, free above all from thought.
It would have been like lighting a candle,
Like leaning on the table, shading one’s eyes,
And hearing a tale one wanted intensely to hear,
As if we were all seated together again
And one of us spoke and all of us believed
What we heard and the light, though little, was enough.
WALLACE STEVENS, A letter from Opus Posthumous, 1957
I am happy to add a short text about Lies Kraal’s paintings I just received by e-mail.It comes from Alberto Albertini, my 94 years old uncle (my father’s brother, son of Oreste Albertini, painter), a frequent contributor to this blog . He wrote it only looking at the paintings, without reading my text. I found interesting that he wrote it without knowing about the floors, only considering the artworks as paintings.
Se Fontana con lo squarcio nello spazio bidimensionale tradiva l’inquietudine di andare oltre, Lies, al contrario dice il suo equilibrio sereno di fronte alla tela: lo spazio è l’essenza dello spazio, sereno, implacabile nel suo essere fermo e sicuro come una pietra: l’equilibrio oltre il quale è inutile cercare. Vuoi del bianco, vuoi nel colore. E nemmeno crolla l’ansia nel coprire gli spazi con strascicati stati di pensiero indefinito ma brulicante nell’intimo, sia che sia pacatamente distribuito senza ingiustizia, sia che un doloroso stracico lasci traccia della sua stanchezza. Come se un nuovo processore fosse riuscito a stendere sulla superficie il protocollo della sua esistenza. ALBERTO ALBERTINI
While Fontana, tearing apart the two-dimensional surface, revealed his desire to go beyond, Lies on the contrary reveals her serene balance in front of the canvas. Space is the essence of space, calm and implacable, showing the same stillness and certainty of the stones: a balance beyond which it is useless to search. Either white or in color. And anxiety doesn’t even crash as the surface keeps being scuffed with layers of undefined, and yet swarming thoughts: either peacefully distributed without injustice, or moved by the remnants of something painful leaving trace of its weariness. As if a new processor had been able to lay out on the surface the protocol of its own existence. by ALBERTO ALBERTINI
Free donations would keep THE KITE flying over the stormy encounters of art and life.
And I will give you the sun, the secret life of THINKING in unusual artists, because thinking is LIFE and ART is the DESIRE of thinking fresh. THE FOREST FLOOR of contemporary arts is plentiful and still unknown. It's the beating pulse of our time, our keeper of hope.
Donazioni volontarie sarebbero d'aiuto per mantenere il kite, l'aquilone, in volo sopra gli incontri tempestosi fra l'arte e la vita.
In cambio posso darvi il sole, il pensiero segreto di artisti insoliti, perché il pensiero è vita e l'arte è desiderio di pensieri nuovi. Il sottobosco dell'arte contemporanea è fertile e in buona parte sconosciuto.
E'il nostro tempo che pulsa, uno scrigno che protegge la speranza.
It’s a steep way going into a painting. It drops down almost vertically, leaving the skull up in the air. My whole body is a filter. Memories and thoughts are the leftovers, like dry leaves and flowers of camomille sitting in the strainer after the water has washed away their juice. Life’s juice is fluid, uncontrollable, bloody, one and many lives so confused with each other they become sombre, and gather under names: feelings for instance, with all their court of terrors and wishes. Daughter and mother and son among the most mysterious, a vaste biological landscape we never cease to explore.
Kristin Calabrese is no exception. But her visions as an artist escape simple stories. They come to light after dipping and sleeping in darkness, belonging to many other Kristins, one below the other, joining hands to reach the strength of being herself completely, one and many, detecting her feelings, undoing cultural artifacts, digging for all the truths she doesn’t know. When the vision comes, she has to paint it.
What I mean is: underneath the precision, the well defined visual figures of each painting, the process heading there is the opposite of a clear design of ideas. She is immersed in personal experiments, needs that are not defined at all. Like walking in the dark and yet keeping going.
We have grown weary of the woman that thinks.
She thinks and it is not true. The woman below
Imagines and it is true, as if she thought
By imagining, anti-logician, quick
With a logic of transforming certitudes.
Wallace Stevens, Sombre Figuration.
(“The woman” replaces the original “the man”)
Painted things look like a surface, not different from the skin wrapped around veins and organs of the human tree. HOW THINGS FEEL, she paints. Capital letters overwhelming, visually, the texture of pencil words underneath repeating and repeating one idea: it flows effortlessly, it’s so easy, it just flows, without effort. Beware! she means the opposite. I don’t know any step in her life that was easy. And I follow her in an incognita middle zone where life moves in a fluid, between the way things look and the new presence they develop under her brush strokes, minute after minute, day after day, sometimes for years before they say “i’m done, I am here.”
Let’s join Kristin Calabrese emerging from the last three years of painting.
K C 2021: “My realistic oil paintings tell the truth when I can’t.
I don’t think art should always be forward-facing to the audience. Sometimes it should be seemingly unpresentable.
I work forward rather than start with an overarching idea and then set about to illustrate it. I believe in following the work.
I’m trying to get free. I’m trying to manifest what I see in my mind’s eye. I’m trying to keep from influencing my own work, let come what naturally arrives so it’s the real and natural thing – distrustful of whether our consciousness is actually natural (only half true).”
Life size on the canvas, Kristin’s mother’s panty is such a punch in my stomach I can only laugh, speechless. Two years on her small chair, two years cleaning every stroke from the burst of motions in her soul. There is a day when she/me/every girl, almost by accident, looks at the real forms of an adult woman, what she wears directly on her skin. Mother is the closest. “Never like her” was the knife in Doris Lessing mind for most of her life; and my obsession for fifty years. We open mother’s drawers when she is not at home, shivering with fear. How can those things be so big, and mother herself: breasts, big belly by pregnancy. Yet, the worse part of such intrusion into the intimate garments of adult age, the most shocking, is the crack that starts breaking the childhood’s imagined world. Reality becomes solid. Kristin’s mother’s panty is a delicate monument painted over an entire life of conflicting feelings, of struggle for a distant life. An image that reappears: soft, semitransparent, solitary. Light blue as the sky, a leaf of infinite tenderness.
Over the years Kristin the artist has acquired the ability to go beyond the rigidity of things as they are. She imagines, and the ecstatic expression of feelings goes through her images. Her paintings don’t want to draw attention because they are spectacular, or unusual subjects. Whatever they are, how they are painted is their appeal. The pictorial quality brings together the objects she sees and the vaporous bubbles of a fantasy world that must remain hidden inside her cells, coming to life only through light and colors, and composition.
And these are the stories I listened to from other paintings. My own reaction, not necessarily coincident with Kristin’s experience.
My mood is dropping. I’m the canvas waiting to be ready. She put something wet on me, and I‘m softer, not so tense as when I’m dry. Oh no, dry again. And now? Worse: same spots I had when I was wet, but oil painted. I hate her. Could she paint little flowers? Noooo. Cigarette’s butts! Yes, life has burned the tail, - I under - stand - but the butts look so real they smell… insensitive, I must be. BUTT 2020
So much talking in this painting, it is blue. And vertical streams of red straight down from the glasses. A friend devours my life talking and talking for hours because I’m there but not really whiteness in my eyes and grinding teeth an empty bag I have become looking into the void little by little I empty my glass my blood pours down. FOUNTAIN 2020
No more periods one month like the other no more anticipation fear wondering no more condoms pills diaphragm starvation fluctuating estrogens no eggs anymore no reproduction a part of me was dead tic tac I am a mammal with clock and this is what happens we all go away little by little piece by piece as we keep cutting celery making soup buying eggs washing dishes cleaning the sink. SAVING MY EGGS 2019 Magnificent painting!
They gather take some distance meet the same color then depart towards the black always avoiding geometry being little spots or drops the little painted things like the cells of our body during their uninterrupted conversation the chemistry of the living things. Here they wear their Sunday dress and happily dance on the flat space. They celebrate the importance of nothing just existing they are not content but bring to the eyes the seconds of time free from the clock the beauty of colors meeting for no reason flowing without effort some of the time. In reality they are the side effect of the painting with dirty dishes and broken eggs in the sink’s corner being the left over paint that becomes something else on a different canvas. A LOT LIKE LIFE 2019
As I write these two words, ’‘in memoriam,” my brain moves to details I remember, about meeting Jane and becoming friends to the end of our days. Yet, single facts are the opposite of what I want. Here I’m only bringing up my “brief little dreams” about her, hoping they can explode like flowers of dandelion when a child blows on their fragile globes: heads covered with tiny soft stars, white, that spread everywhere in the wind not far from the ground.
That’s what Jane was, a field of energy planting seeds inside people around her, into the ground of the desert. Her attachment to the land, and to her family history as a blooming garden of humans and trees, moves the past into the present and gives roots to the future. Her memorial was the epic of an extraordinary figure of a woman never tired of learning, giving, and improving the juice of life. And, at the same time, the least conventional. She was dancing by the pool with her daughter the evening before she died. Friendship was a secret pleasure without embellishment, or explanations. A sharing for real, no safety belt.
Even during the memorial it wasn’t possible to elude the impression she was sowing a new garden of connections passing me on to her five sons and daughters, and to their proliferation as fathers and mothers. For the first time I met her two sisters. They are equals to Jane in intensity, grace and generosity. One had eight children, the other nine.
A long time ago Jane decided to produce bread for the Inn, family and guests, sourdough bread of course, but how to make it? She found a French chef, invited him to teach the technique, and the Inn has fresh sourdough bread every day since. All the facets of women’s lives dismissed or underestimated because careers and professional skills -by necessity- erase them from the personal storyboard, were valuable, intact treasures in Jane’s hardworking days. One day in August, 120 degrees in the garden, I helped to clean a big quantity of mesquite pods, because Jane wanted to transform them into flour like Native Americans do. Her oasis is an ancient Native American site.
The wave of energy that for me started with Jane, became an ocean after she moved to eternity. Waves follow one another gently overlapping, they never stop. Same bad habit time has. The memorial turned into an island of kindness. Running tears and smiles and enchanting youngsters: one of them, a five year old girl with dark hair and big open dark eyes, not afraid to shoot them in my face, touched my heart. The same fearless gaze as Jane. It was, it is, a face to face conversation stripped of words: who are you as a human being?
Little Gwyneth helped my pick up colors and paper to make washi flowers for grandmother’s ashes. Behind the couch where we were working, the box with the ashes was looking at us. It had migrated from the main house to another residence of the Inn. I was surprised and pleased seeing Jane’s remains move through the oasis where she was born, lived and didn’t say goodbye. With them next to us, we all worked as much as we could. Jane gone? not at all. Each inch of the garden, each step of the cabins, the old friendly furniture reverberate her figure, they will keep her myth alive.
Myths are the souls of our actions and our loves. We cannot act without moving toward a phantom. We can love only what we create. —Paul Valéry
The garden of Jane is unexpected in the desert. The metal gate was designed by an artist. The soil grows mint, thyme, basil, parsley, grapes, lettuce, cabbage, pumpkin, zucchini, fava beans, figs, and pears. This year grapes were promising, I took a picture of her hand thanking the plant. With Jane I picked zucchini blossoms and cooked them for her birthday. Exchanging recipes, stories, and cooking together we built friendly moments of happiness from which time flies away, and the beauty of being human stays.
I’m dreaming that early in the morning, when she squeezed her soul out of her body, she flew to the boat house in which she had spent years with husband and four children on the ocean water. Moving back to the oasis with the whole family to continue her father’s commitment in keeping the Inn running, she brought the boat with her, and placed her in the pond. It is the only monument in that place, a boat impregnated with the growth of young lives. On July 22 she took the boat with her one more time, likely a light aerial replica, and happily left, to explore infinity.
Holding her hand, I thank every second of my present, past and future. Sometimes I think back, in some fleeting delusional flights, on the smell of African and oriental spices of my favorite drugstore in Paris. I know she would love it.
2015-2020 Five years of Matt Wedel painting potted plants
gouaches on paper
“I have been painting these potted plants over the past five years. They seem to be about my mother who is a gardener and my father who is a potter. They remind me to be in the garden, or to make a garden. They are a reminder to celebrate that garden and learn about other ways to be alive in the world. In many ways they are not about being art at all. They are about finding ways to exist.”
— Matt Wedel
FROM MY BROKEN POT
by Rosanna Albertini
Memories are dull. The present scene is red. I still am trying to understand my mother, rethinking untold stories. If red is blood it must be invisible, said Jochen Gerz from his conceptual fantasy, otherwise it stains everything. That’s why along with his students he lifted each stone in the municipal square during the night and engraved them with the names of the Jewish cemeteries near the extermination camps in Germany, then put the stones back in place —their engraved face on the ground— as if nothing had happened. German people did not know they walked over their manipulated memory. Memory is like blood, it must be stopped from running.
It’s May 4th, 2005. In the Kurdish city of Irbil a street is streaked with the blood of job seekers: one of the daily suicide attacks in Iraq. The soldiers’ boots are splashed with blood. It is the same red of the flag that carried socialist ideals for half a century, my little stamps on the cover of my blue Catholic doctrine book were red; but now, right now I see each of these images as a spring of lifeless memory. Every day human blood runs on the ground somewhere and soaks the first toast of my breakfast. No news anymore, no movies, ketchup please, mayo and chocolate, Paul McCarthy is a prophet. Since Cain and Abel, this is how war works. I scream against such massacres of human grace by myself, my blood vessels cry through the skin.
Footprints trod on the page. Please mother, go away. She doesn’t. She mails me a baby clothe for my recently born daughter: a white shirt with tiny red dots. Something is wrong in that red for a newborn girl, as if the color punctuated our distance as well as inevitable blood links. Her skin, I can touch it on me. The eyes instead —the ones I found in pictures— are never present in that instant, as if they were moving her away from her own face. Invisible, her blood flows in me. It is the only undeniable connection, a thread impossible to break despite the stories that the mind brings up justifying abandonment, long nights and days on the train from North to South and back, by myself, hugging a pillow. I am twelve, thirteen, fourteen… Next to me faces of immigrants coming home from Germany. None of us knows if home is there, at the end of the trip.
The curtain is pulled through the open window, it barely trembles. Sunlight, and rumbling noise from the freeway, and bird screeches interrupted by silly mocking birds who imitate snoring early in the morning, make a sort of density, a rumor kept outside by the curtain that I see like a luminous screen, vibrating and warming. Yes Kristin, for the first time I understand why you painted on canvas a big, vertical curtain with little flowers blue and green. The painting is an absorbing screen raised to take time, asking things from the world not to come in for a while. Let us veil their impact. Maybe the Muslim veil that covers the women’s face allowing them to see through, while keeping them perfectly hidden, is much more than a discriminatory symbol. It could be a privilege.
Not to be seen anymore is the reason one leaves, not to be regarded by people who are only partially in touch with our life. I have been biting my tail going away by degrees over decades, while the story which is mine followed me like an unknown ghost. I see why people do not usually leave their hometown or their country unless their roots have been snatched and pulled out. When they do, they often move as if they were inside a diving suit that makes their movements slow and uncertain, as if air were water.
It took me a remarkable number of years to realize how strongly my eyes have been wide shut to the ghost story that was glued to me like a shadow. I had to adapt my sense of space to the New World’s sky, my nervous system to the soil’s vibrations, my mouth to the tongue, my whole perception to an American story that seemed to be forever new. I was yearning for the excitement of the new —a curse that makes me think of my own death as the very last adventure. You float over your worn out body, mother, and fly god knows where. Will I join you? Instead of receiving food from you, or dresses that I did not like, I would rest with you on an apricot tree. We rest and laugh, hidden by the foliage. Your body was your screen, wasn’t it?
She smiles like Alice’s cat, her smile expands in the air until there is nothing else than an impression of her. She is back being an absence. I can only sing through her genes, enumerating the few keys she gave me to understand her mysterious withdrawing —most likely not knowing she was doing so. A movie and an opera have become indelible detective stories in my mind. My mother’s pink lipstick was also indelible. The cream for her face —why am I remembering such details?— was named from herbs and leaves: “botana.”
I’ve always strongly disliked memories because time doesn’t exist. Memories, illusion: as if we could bring the past back. If time doesn’t exist, it’s obvious. The instant of our present is short, infinitely short like a film, only existing when the film frame encounters the small window of light. We do know there is a story within the film reel, go get it! If you have a film, you can project it again. You can’t do the same in real life. Although memories are there, to think of living them again is nothing but frustration. Only the present, whatever the situation, is life, and thanks to our endless reaction times we are lucky enough to feel the present longer than an instant. For the vagabond each sip of beer is an instant, a sequence of instants extends the present. Past and future are always in the present. Being a moderate beer drinker, I chop onions and write this.
We used to walk through Corso Magenta to save the tramway fare, myself and some companions. Dirty jokes they told to each other were beyond my understanding, I was so different, their talking was strange. One of them was happy because for Christmas he was going to receive the balilla moschettiere gloves! [part of the uniform of fascist youth] Another was expecting a pair of shoes: for Christmas! That is something to buy when needed.
My uniqueness was in trouble when Gloria was with us. A complex work. Gloria —her name was the same as the movie theater of the neighborhood— used to appear and disappear, only randomly she strolled with us in Corso Magenta, yet to me she represented an exceptional presence of uniqueness. First her physical presence completely oblivious to me, and second my imagination about her which was strange because after all I didn’t often think of her nor for long, but I was waiting for her. Gloria was a girl with straight hair short enough not to touch her shoulders, and she was easy, mature, among the talk of her walking peers.
It is hard for me to understand the key to her charm. As she was intermittently with us, I wasn’t allowed to know her better, but first of all it was me who had transposed her person into a story of an adult woman about to behave like an emancipated woman knowing who she is, able to run life and passions without reticence. Was it then that I perceived her, or now that I resurrect her eighty years later? Maybe Gloria never existed, I invented her in my unconscious, the unconscious invented her.
Giorgio had become a friend of mine after we spent so much time to design the recording studio that a song writer wanted to prepare for his sons in Rome. I met him again in Merano; instead of taking a vacation he was having a second job with P, the head of a studio that recorded and published Tyrolean and local groups’ music. If I was going to P, I did it in order to sell equipment. P’s wife was interesting: a true lady of the Serenissima [Venice], she stood out, conducting herself as if she were the Doge’s wife, shapely without excess. I couldn’t understand why her husband wouldn’t consider her as a woman or as a secretary.
In the evening we went for dinner at a castle over Merano: myself, Giorgio, P’s wife and someone else, but not P.
On the way back, Giorgio with P’s beautiful wife brought me to my hotel and he left with her.
The following day I congratulated Giorgio and asked: is P disregarding his wife because he is homosexual? No, absolutely not! He has fun with the young girls that come to the studio.
A strange survival instinct often pushes human beings to turn themselves inside out trying to justify things they might complain about. Thinking of imaginary compensation, they keep their resentment quiet and often accept to be exploited, abused, cheated. Only when the pressure goes beyond the limits, rage explodes, maybe even stronger than necessary.
We kept living quietly as long as possible, and the creeping regime exploited this, of course. It’s not a mystery that jokes about the regime in the fascist era not only were tolerated, but also sent out from the regime itself. Giving vent to the discontent, while the regime kept going undisturbed. It comes back to my mind when I hear or receive jokes, often very beautiful, on our present creeping regime. Here it is, could our intense on line communications be a verbal vent good to console, making us able to endure?
Why is the talk of action missing, now?
SILENCE OF ONIONS – by Rosanna Albertini
First time Alberto stuck in my memory was the day his father, my grandfather, ended his journey on earth. It was summer. In the field next to our garden there was a small, temporary amusement park not worth noticing except it was noisy. The dismay among the living people in the house translated into equally noisy complaints that I found annoying. I was seven years old. The whole house from basement to the roof was pervaded by a sense of control: flowers! To me: go to your friend’s houses and ask for as many flowers as you can. It was a way to keep me out. We were like bees buzzing around the room where the only significant person of that day lay still on the bed, dressed up as in winter, with socks but no shoes.
That dead copy of my grandfather wasn’t interesting at all for me. But, I knew the real one was gone, probably flying to paradise with mountain boots on his feet, and naked like god had made him. I was so angry nobody mentioned him. It was a tragedy in which the characters couldn’t speak out the core of the story. I didn’t spill one tear. In the kitchen I found some people sitting around the table, grandmother and Alberto among them. Alberto’s eyes were red and puffy, no doubt he had spread many tears. Implacably dry, my little person asked him bluntly: why did you cry? He was silent. Grandmother answered for him: he was chopping onions.
The artist tries to see, and grab, the undefined images that are ghosts of reality drifting in his thoughts, in his feelings, in his guts. It’s surreal and it is work. Before they become drawings, sculptures, and paintings, things randomly absorbed aren’t necessarily visual. Somebody’s scream, explosions, crows whining a perpetual discontent, the dust in the wind along with a tormented flag that would like to cover all the stories of intolerance in our time, and fails.
Naotaka Hiro could recount the poet’s words as if they were his:
I am the truth, since I am part of what is real, but neither more nor less than those around me.And I am imagination, in a leaden time and in a world that doesn’t move for the weight of its own heaviness.
And he could say — art is my armor making me the blue warrior, a skin without body because all of my inside has been invaded by the pandemic, the news, the riots, the killings, my living space has been devoured, my only strength is my art.
Reality found a place somewhere under the skin, as every experience of life gets sucked up, filtered, and sits in us if we feel and think about it long enough. No no, memory is not the major actor. Imagine particles of reality becoming parts of us. We don’t even know we have them. Unconscious? Who knows? Physical rather, what and who merge into each other.
What the eye beholds maybe the text of life. It is, nevertheless, a text that we don’t write. Wallace Stevens
Here we are. What am I doing? I replace one absurdity with another. Naotaka Hiro’s own world, squeezed out of his body (somehow like playing an accordion) appears on board or canvas giving an external presence to some things that were already deposited, or crystallized in each of his organs. Impossible to separate real world and the imagined. That’s the secret dance of the living. Everyone has a share of this destiny. But Nao discloses the mental offsprings he generated in unique visual partitions gushing and spilling from his hands like music. Flat bodies whose parts fluctuate spreading layers of colors. Lines have their inscrutable developments, forms don’t have any resemblance to what comes from nature’s womb. Even less they meet words able to express them. I might be delusional, yet I see a few eyes, or crickets? things that are more masks than faces, leaves here and there. Tunes trying to be images without leaving the aerial freedom in which they vibrate.
I can see from my keyboard how desperately the artist wants to export something, intuitions that push him to bring them out, he is obsessed by his blindness about them. Imagination has already reshaped them. Restless, they change and change, they slip away. They must be stopped. Nao gives four legs to each board, two feet high, so he can introduce his body underneath the board. It’s surreal and it is work.
I crawled underneath the wood panel and laid flat with a face-up position. With the physical limitation, I have to keep my body quite close to the surface. I drew, often with both hands, reflecting my body parts, positions, and movement. I flipped the board over, stood, and sat on it to analyze, edit, and paint colors in. I repeated until the distinctions and binary systems got blurry and abstract, merging the two personal worlds.(Naotaka Hiro)
The finished pieces reveal the accomplishment of these magnificent self-portraits of an artist facing the constant transformation through time (the six wooden pieces at the center of the exhibition) and the endless variations that follow board by board, half conscious, and half blind. Although impossible, his desire to resemble himself is so strong that his hands at times stub the wood, inflict exasperation and pain, you bring me in, stubborn surface! There he is, painted and sculpted in bas relief on the same surface. Our sense of reality in front of the hidden conflicts of cells, organs and limbs, grows emotionally and mentally.
When we look at the blue of the sky
“…we live in the center of a physical poetry, a geography that would be intolerable except for the non-geography that exists there —few people realize that they are looking at the world of their own thoughts and the world of their own feelings.” Wallace Stevens
When we look at Nao’s self-portraits, we are as well in the center of a physical poetry. Because we are as humans as Nao is we can try to be him, and admire his challenging work while our body, inside, kicks our brain: I am your real treasure, and you don’t know me. Ha!
ROSANNA ALBERTINI Painting is deceiving. I ended up loving being unsettled in front of paintings I see for the first time, almost lightheaded. Like heaving to burst a dam, a barrier: that is not my world, not even the same colors I see. Each brain is hit by light in a personal way, we have our own colors within. The artist has hers, I hope she doesn’t believe we see them. Something similar. That’s why I let my whole body exposed to the paintings and wait. I wait for the heart beat.
Rebecca Campbell paintings are the second skin of her life. She expands through the texture of time, feelings and light. Members of her family, the first boyfriend, images from the memory appear as her brush made them, as if guided by a state of mind that floats in midair. Gestures and tasks of every day are erased, what remains are symbols.
Feelings of the present wrapping an imags of the past: a friend passed away and the following day Rebecca made a painting of a family member when he was a boy, a beautiful boy holding four puppies, but the painting is the symbolic portrait of the dead friend’s kindness. The touch of pink beyond the edge of the house gives the mood of the piece: a twilight that once was dawn. “Purification and oblivion.”
“What texture is this
of will be, is and was?”
That texture can be painting. I thank you Rebecca, for the constant displacement and mysterious tension you gave to each of these pieces. Feelings remove from the scenes the certainty of only one moment in time. Time flows like light that makes the landscapes fluid, dissolved by colors, the seashore a repository of air and transparent secrets, almost ready to give birth.
Painted humans seem to keep their features steady; their visage, their body defies the pressure of time. Not their story, which remains untold. Children are almost swallowed by exuberant bushes or trees so luxuriant and dense they could hide them forever, or clasp them in the density of ponds. Marvel and fear are tight together. In real life children share with nature a surprisingly fast and untamed transformation. As if an act of magic had given life to them. As if their growth, their unique figure had been prepared by the same secret Dreamer who refuses to be detected in any physical configuration, except his creatures. Shells, trees or humans are the development of His/Her/Its nature. Each destined to the same kind of measure, the only thing we know says Carlos Williams, each trying an infinite number of dances.
The flower dies down
and rots away .
But there is a hole
in the bottom of the bag.
It is the imagination
which cannot be fathomed.
It is through this hole
we escape . .
(William Carlos Williams)
Is it the children presence in some paintings that makes the brush strokes lighter and lighter? melting foliage into soft clouds, spreading veils of luminous gold, a dry rain of painted light may be the artist wishing to preserve forever the beauty of a moment? It was, already. Is and will be. Shaken in the memory’s bag, at every instant they are not the same.
Patterns. Adult life. Search for an order of things. Everything that mind can build: good, rough, perverse, uneven, smooth, hard. Rebecca has recently introduced patterns into her paintings. Soft and benevolent. The white young men wearing a white shirt doesn’t care if colors and lines from the pattern behind him go through his body. A smiling face. The woman sitting on a chair wears the pattern in her silky dress, and the regular texture might help her to face the opacity of the black box she holds in her hands. A disturbing darkness sits on her laps. A man wears a blue pattern, the woman next to him had a sudden De Kooning style transformation. The contrast is striking.
Through Rebecca’s artwork, the order of things, geometry we rely on to make sure our feet are still on the ground and our head is not spinning, progressively adapts to the human body, expands and mutates. It becomes a cluster of bodies softly falling asleep on one another. The magic touch of her painted images. Not a crossing of straight lines: every shoulder is a pillow for a head giving up with awareness, heads become heavy, slipping into sleep. Geometry is only a mental thing, living bodies gladly forget it resting in their round, fleshy, heavy physical presence at the edge of light and dark, of black and white.
“Between dawn and dark lies the history of the world.” (Borges)
“Nature gave to Raphael the gift of painting the sweetest and most gracious expressions on faces” Vasari wrote a few centuries ago. I would write the same about Rebecca. Not only her skill equals the old masters, here and there she adds to these contemporary portraits a cut of the scene on the right side which brings into the painting the colors of time, in which eternity quivers.
JORGE LUIS BORGES, In Praise of Darkness, transl. by Norman Di Giovanni, New York, Dutton & Co., Inc., 1974
WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAM, Paterson, 1946. A New Directions Book, 1995
GIORGIO VASARI, The Lives of the Artists, New transl. by Julia Conaway Bondanella and Peyer Bondanella, Oxford University Press, 1998