Monday, December 12, 2011


I feel like I walk in the company of other artists, some dead, some alive. I want to tell you some stories about the company I keep.

I recently had this conversation with a friend -- that I really feel like my "artistic parents," are Marina Abramovic and Richard Serra. This is not because I have chosen them, but, more like actual parents, my artistic parents are the ones I just somehow ended up with. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and I feel compelled to react to them, live up to them, rebel against them, piss them off, let them drive me totally up the wall and, incomprehensibly, love them anyway.

My chosen artistic parents would be R. Crumb and Patti Smith. Hands down. But they're like the big kids at school, who are kind to me even though I'm considerably younger than much-much-much too shy to even make eye contact. They'll smile and do nice things for me. They'll help build my confidence. They'll look out for me in the halls. They'll show me a really cool new cassette tape or album, or book, and whatever it is, I'll have it memorized in a few hours. I'll unconditionally adore them. And even if we lose touch, I'll feel the loss of them very acutely, should it happen.

Then there's Bouguereau. My erudite uncle who died of old age when I was a high school sophomore. He taught me about the value of craft, finesse and beauty. Taught me that I wanted very badly to make beautiful things, but that the finesse part would have to come over time. Mary Engelbreit. My goofy, overweight aunt, who stuffed me silly with thumbprint cookies as a child, and taught me that you could be sweet and witty, and that Prismacolor pencils and markers were so absolutely the shit.

Modigliani: my first love. Clumsy, irrational, obsessive, my first real physical experience--tentative, overwhelming. Moments of tenderness that can't be repeated. Slight, unintentional manipulation. And although I've moved on, I'll always love him.

Kiki Smith, the cool girl in my freshman class in college that I half-hated, half-admired. Wishing I could be flaky and carefree and that I could let my hair grow long, and goof off and get all of the boys, but then remembering who my parents were ... and that part of me actually understood the value of a little structure.

Kevin Huizenga, whopping college crush. Probably a T.A. in a philosophy course, tragically engaged. Felix Gonzalez-Torres, indelibly cool college professor who could walk that high-line between paralyzing trendiness and limpid sincerity. I might house sit for him. Water his plants, talk to them, look through his sock drawers, sip his Yerba Mate. He'd always have candy, so I'd know he was a good egg.

Jean Toomer, the guy I met on a bus, with whom I had the most amazing conversation, and skipped my stop so I could hear him out. Marilynne Robinson, a neighbor who would occasionally accept me for tea on a Sunday afternoon. The lights would be off and we'd look out at her yard, and not say a word. I'd stir, and she'd reach for my hand.

Oh ... there are just so many ... how can I even begin to end? I don't have to. This is my history, my company. I walk with them, and they vibrate and flow around me, through me.

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