the structure of artistic tangents
Wednesday, February 12 2003
To me, my most powerful creative moments come in artistic tangents from non-artistic activities. An example would be the Punch Buggy Green, which I began painting as a way to correct some damage sustained from running into a fence along Old Greenville Road near Staunton (Virginia). The new paint never really matched the old faded green, and so I just went with the difference, which (over the course of months) spread organically across the bug's entire surface. Much of the painting was done with paint leftover on brushes from real canvas paintings I'd been working on in my nearby Shaque. I'd go from my Shaque to the faucet outside and pass the Punch Buggy along the way, and I'd usually stop to make a few daubs. I hate seeing paint (or anything else) go to waste.
More recently, I've been working on my laboratory's floor. What had been a comedy of errors (starting with the use of expired caulking compound) became a random series of white lines along the edges of the sheets of the tongue and groove particle board. Today these lines led me off on an artistic tangent. I could tell the tangent was artistic when my work embarrassed me; I found myself rehearsing how I would explain it all to Gretchen when she came home later in the evening. If what I had been doing had been for any practical purpose, such rehearsal would have been unnecessary. There's something in me, a result of nature or nurture, that still feels the need to apologize for strictly artistic endeavors, since they usually don't result in a roof overhead or food on the table. If weren't for this little Calvinist voice in my head, there's no telling where my life would have lead.
Today's artistic tangent saw me painting the floor with leftover colors from the other rooms of the house. There was the mint green from Gretchen's study. There was the dark blue from the Sealife Bathroom and first floor powder room. There was the lemon yellow from the two basement guest rooms. And then there was the ultra glossy white I've been using on moulding. I applied these colors in large organic shapes to make a sort of alien animal skin pattern, like one would find on the hide of a blue, green, and yellow giraffe. I didn't think of it at the time, but the general look I was going for wasn't much different from the one achieved on a rickety wooden table Bathtubgirl bought back in San Diego. (I learned recently from a reader that this table broke into pieces during Bathtubgirl's move back to Michigan. Bathtubgirl gave the table to this reader and he managed to repair it.)
An artistic tangent is an inherently irrational thing to go off on. The mind is taken over with thoughts of shapes and constantly engages in arguments with itself about whether or not a specific line is smooth enough or otherwise "finished." There's no place in these thoughts for concern about the structural integrity of the work, other than the notion that if the paint soaks in good between the particle board chips, then maybe they won't be so eager to flake off (as they seem to love to do). But thinking rationally about the "floor painting" that resulted, I can't help but wonder how it will wear beneath my feet. Perhaps I'll need to coat it with the hard transparent layers of some as-yet-unknown miracle substance whose manufacture destroys rivers and funds the campaigns of electable religious fascists.
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