Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Out of the Frying Pan...

Sitting here, waiting for the earth to spin in space, so I can get in the car and drive someplace and do something...  So I thought I'd write today's entry a bit early, while I've still got a bit of energy.

One:  I'm telling myself that I come across, here, as incredibly whiny and self-absorbed and disconnected from reality.  Unable to appreciate the tremendous advantages I have, in so many ways.  If there's any truth to this self-generated apprehension, I remind myself of William Styron's book 'Darkness Visible', about his struggles with depression.  He remarked, late in the work, about being in Paris to receive a writing award, and wanting to throw himself into the Seine.  Depression, I remind myself, is not subject to logic or reason.  If it were, no one on earth would be depressed, ever.  Just as, if the flu were sensitive to a good talking-to, no one would ever suffer from that malady again.  However, these 'if only's aren't true.  Too bad, I guess.

Two: While I was sitting here, thinking about... what I could so easily make, given my relative good health, unencumbered daily schedule, adequately generous budget, and great wealth of materials, and I stumbled on this basic question:  Okay, so you've made this (fill in the blank.  I'm day-dreaming, for example of a series of masks), and they're all done, and reinforced inside so they're light and won't warp.  Then.... where are you going to put them?  Where will they go, either in terms of an exhibition opportunity, or in terms more pertinent and painful to me, in terms of long-term storage? 

And once again, I found myself turning back to the sad inevitability of needing to rid myself of at least the lion's share of what I've accumulated, supposedly as material for my work -- whatever that is.  I thought, specifically, of the storage space in Newark, and a pile of weird plastic stuff -- runoff and errors from a little business in the same building.  They make knobs and switches and parts for toys, and sometimes there are dribbles or mistakes, which they toss in the little dumpster in the parking lot.  Which little dumpster I sometimes use for disposal of yet another thing that's been ruined by the water that wells up regularly in the storage space, and while I' stuffing another soggy cardboard box in, I often take out, say, a box of 'on' switches, or a big plastic bag filled with the mystery drips.  Which would look great on or in... something.  Like, for instance, those masks I've been thinking about lately. 

Which leads me to a kind of round-about explanation for my tendency to pick up the various ill-defined metal or plastic oddments I find in my pathway much of the time.  It goes something like this:

When I was in graduate school, and preparing for my thesis exhibit, one of my advisors broke his typical silence, and told me of a hi-tech business in Rochester that was going out of business.  So I took myself over to the failing enterprise, and wandered about, wondering at the big stone tables, perfectly leveled for the optics that were used in whatever these people weren't going to make anymore.  Other multi-thousand dollar gizmos and gadgets, enchanting to look at, but more expensive than all the cars I'd ever owned, combined.  Maybe more than all the rent I'd ever paid, as my cars have been cheap.

But in a wastebasket, I found what looked like the plastic head of an industrial vacuum or carpet cleaner, and on its off-white side was written, in red grease pencil, what I took to be '600 D'.  I was instantly drawn to the no-nonsense severity of the thing, it's twin flattened triangular intake/output chambers opening onto an equally flattened, grim looking mouth.  I could have it for $.50.  Sold.  Along with some miscellaneous wires and other stuff.  I don't know who got the granite table.

When I got back to the studio, and as usual tossed the vacuum cleaner head onto the heap of other things I'd gathered, I had what seemed, then, to be an amusing realization.  That red scrawl on the side wasn't '600 D'; it was someone's longhand notation of 'Good'.  But because this object had already been consigned to the trash, I instantly read its plainly-written label as something else entirely.

This piqued my interest enough to prompt me to press this object into more or less immediate use, and it indeed served as the objective motivation for the first piece of thesis work I finished, titled of course, '600 D'.  The piece has been exhibited several times, and in 1977, three years after the thesis show for which it was built, '600 D' was purchased by Dale Chihuly.  Two years after that, Mr. Chihuly donated the work to the Renwick Gallery of Art, to be part of their permanent collection (where I see it in the basement, shoved off into some corner, out of any curator's way...); it was featured in 'Glass, Glorious Glass', an overview of works in that material, put together by Kenneth Trapp.

A piece of plastic, found in the trash.  Picked up, and seen as misnamed.  Pressed into useless use.  And then, by some miracle, rescued (at least on paper) from oblivion, and assured of a nice warm dry home, until the Renwick does its own internal purge, or the Eastern Seaboard goes under, in some apocalyptic shift of the earth's crust...

Sorry -- got side-tracked there.  This piece of plastic has undergone what I really hope to provide for each and every sliver of worn fiberglass, or twisted car part I nearly step on -- a sort of ennoblement and rebirth, a redemption of a very real sort -- the lifting of the unacceptable and unnamed, into the light of one of the holiest places I can think of -- an art museum.  What a wonder!  What a miracle!  That work, '600 D' really should turn crimson with confused embarrassment, should it ever be shown again, so unlikely is it that this concatenation of materials occupies such a place.

So I'm telling you this, to explain (most likely to myself, right?) why, in part, I experience such pain, just at the thought of discarding -- really, discarding again -- this combined burden/treasure trove.  These things will have been re-abandoned.  I will have failed, again, to meet the silent pledge I didn't even know I was making.

Of course, like the prolific volunteer maple tree overhanging our driveway, and showering literally countless potential new maple trees, in the form of tender chartreuse winged seeds each spring, these mounds of bits and pieces (along with the larger things), can't expect to be housed in artwork.  I would need the State of Delaware, as I'm fond of saying, and a healthy life span of at least 700 years, as I'm also fond of joking, to redeem and house all these castoffs.  These orphans.  These bits that nobody but me could see as having had any kind of future.

Too bad, any reasonable person would say.  Tough.  What were you thinking in the first place, my horrid grandmother would surely sneer.  I'm talking, it seems, about the death of hoping -- I could make those masks, but...  And I still think, as I try to gird myself for the task of finding someone I can afford to have come and help me eviscerate myself, that it would have been a wonderful thing, if I'd been able to leave a huge heaping stinking mound of confusing artwork behind -- how terrific it would be, I think, to hear (they say that hearing is the last sense to go) someone mutter -- Jesus Christ -- look at all this.  This is ridiculous.  This is just too much art.'

Too much art.  I wonder what it would be like, if that were a front-page headline for once?

©   2013               Walter Zimmerman   


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