Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Dictum, A Corollary, and A Vector Walked into a Bar...

Feeling a bit empty.  Which isn't really all that novel.

I did manage, in spite of this hollowness, to get some things done today.  Took myself to the gym (hooray!), where I even increased the weights I've been working with.  I'm transfixed by physical beauty, and am determined that, before I die, I will whip myself into something approaching my idea of a decent-looking male specimen of a certain age.  (Just don't mind that odd ravioli lump on the upper left chest...)  I also used the dread treadmill to nowhere, and kept walking at a clip of 4.3 miles per hour, according to the screen.  Twenty minutes.  Sweat.  If someone had told me, when I was sixteen, that I would one day pay money to go, voluntarily, to a gym and sweat, I would have known that person was deranged.  How things change.

A little shopping.  Home Despot, for a wire brush (so I can clean up the expandable foam that dropped onto the driveway), some silicone caulk (so I can seal up the plexiglass box I think I want to use for a piece of artwork that should have been done already), a pair of shears (because...), and some more expandable foam,  To keep the cycle going.

Grocery shopping.  A few odds'n'ends for the holiday weekend.  And a can of super spray starch for John's cotta.  (Which always makes me think of cheese)  And a cup of coffee, because I realized, as I was prowling through the store, that I hadn't eaten since early this morning, and even then I only had two slices of toast.  I'm surprised I didn't fill two carts with delicacies, and then break into them on the way to the car.

Back at home, after mostly everything was put away, I decided to test out the silicone caulk, and discovered why the plexi box was leaking.  It had two holes drilled through what I think of as the bottom, but which must have been the back, if this was used as a display case.  I found some bolts that fit the holes, coated them with silicone, and screwed them into place.  When the caulking is set, I'll test the box again -- with any luck, I won't have to recaulk the whole interior.  (Which I may do anyway, what with my water issues...)  I will, of course, have to install two more machine bolts, just to balance things out.  Compulsive?  No...

I also brought in, from the van, the glass I'd plucked from the Newark space yesterday, and have actually placed some of it in that plexi box.  I'm continuing to give myself grief about this entire enterprise -- I think of myself as an emotional vampire, sucking up other people's pain, and then turning it into what I want to think is art.  (One saving example -- which may sound vainglorious, but who else do I know about? -- Picasso's 'Guernica'.  He didn't have to be in the village, while the bombs were falling, to feel and express the outrage, right?)

What may save me here, at this juncture of creative quandary, is what I've come to call the Pam Blum Dictum.  Which arrived into my life like this:

While I was in graduate school, I was eager (if not desperate) for feedback on the work I was doing.  One day, I was lucky enough to corral a part-time art history teacher, named Pam Blum, whose opinions I was interested in hearing.  As it happened, much of the work I'd been displaying, for a critique, had been taken down, and the remaining selection of items was scattered across the wall of my studio.  This didn't phase Pam.  She looked, not only at what was still there, but at the traces of what had been there -- and to my amazement, she was right -- even the holes left by the cup hooks I'd used, for a series of wrapped, cocoon-like works, seemed to tell some vague, intriguing story.

After our time in the studio, we went to the campus grill (picture an ill-lit basement room with more fat in the air than nitrogen), for a bite to eat, and to continue our discussion.  Pam is an exceptionally brilliant woman, with a closely-printed two-page disquisition on her office wall, outlining her analysis of the creative process.  I nearly choked on my cheeseburger, knowing I was going to have to confess.  To this most cerebral of audiences.

"Well Pam," I said reluctantly, "most of the time I don't really know what I'm doing..."

"Oh," she said, with a wave of her hand.  "Not knowing is always better than knowing.  But," she said emphatically, "when not knowing doesn't work, you'd better know."

Blessings be upon Pam, wherever she is today.  What an amazing life-preserver she threw to me, and when I'm at my best, I realize that I've never really taken it off my neck -- it's always here, to keep me from sinking into creative oblivion.   Which leads me to what may seem an illogical leap.  Bear with me.

When I was in undergraduate school (decades before my adventures at RIT), I was taking acting classes as part of my flirtation with a theater degree.  One of my teachers, Janet Herron, was a graduate student then, and was appearing in a theater-in-the-round production of Chekhov's 'Three Sisters'.  As the lights came up on the setting -- the stylized interior of a Russian dacha, allowing us to see into all the rooms, each of the sisters was on the stage.  Janet's character was in her bedroom, sitting on her bed, crying.  Every night of the production, she sat on her bed and cried.  Every night.

As neophyte actors, we wondered how she managed to conjure up such a convincing emotional state, night after night, on cue, as the lights came up.  She told us she had a particular memory that she used.  And before anyone could ask, she added that she never, ever talked about this memory, because sharing this bit of inner grief would strip it of its power.  Blessings be upon Janet too.

So.  The Pam Blum Dictum, and the Janet Herron Corollary.   If -- as seems currently to be the case with my self-assigned Combat Paper-related art -- I'm at a creative impasse, I know what personal material I can use, in order to contextualize the choices I'll need to make.  Because of the Herron Corollary, I don't have to tell anyone what the underpinnings of these concrete decisions happen to be. 

(When I was teaching, of course, I broke my own rules, because I felt it was much more important for my students to understand what I was talking about, than for me to maintain some kind of creative talisman for future use)  (Maybe I'll tell you later)  (You won't be surprised)

I'm still left, of course, with the problem of integrating, somehow, the uniform-based paper element that's vectoring in from far left field.  Adding its magnetic pull to time tugging in one direction, the influence of materials tending in another, and all struggling against the impediment of my own indecision and confusion, which wants to drag the whole process off toward a completely different horizon.  I should be used to this by now -- but every time I set out into this mysterious process, I forget that I've ever been through this before, and somehow expect everything to be easy and quick.  Like instant cheese.  And we all know what a treat that is. 

I really hate thinking.  Or, rather, I hate trying to think (a verbal exercise, after all, for the most part) about things that are essentially and even necessarily non-verbal.  After the work is done, I can talk about it until people pass out in stupefaction; beforehand, it seems like trying to describe the exact taste of a vat of homemade soup I haven't even begun to cook.

So.  Tomorrow.  Forward, along some totally unanticipated vector, into covert world of knowing-assisted not-knowing.  I'll let you know.   

©    2012    Walter Zimmerman


  1. What did I tell you about that foam?

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.