Second day of ice and snow,slush and rain really intense little or no traffic , missed appointment with kidney specialist. , I’ll try again Friday. Many appointments lately whilst on Chemo drug , foot indeed feet beat to hell sores everywhere on my arms and legs. The neuropathy seems to take its toll on my skin and muscles. Teeth and mouth very painful at times full opportunistic infections from Chemo , really not my favorite time in my life. Makes me lonesome and more needy than I like being. Hard to work on much of anything did some spirals I liked on an old record, very brittle and heavy seems like I prefer materials that reflect upon fragility and accidental by nature like my body and mind held together by memory and medications. Still hopeful but that’s always been one of my main faults my optimism.
Read something in old notes from 1973 about Walter Hopps that was pleasurable regards my desire to leave these realms of ice and snow and wall to wall cultural blandness grey as the Russian winters in novels and history. Hopps wondered why the Walker Art Center had not sought me out? Within a short while a couple of curators showed up and examined my wares. One very young fellow and another who became quite successful in Los Angeles. I had had my first solo exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Spring of 1971) it had been rather well received. It was work influenced by my collision with Peter Saul in Oakland ,CA 1968 during my last semester in graduate school.He had spun my work around quite a bit through this adroit criticisms. It took me several years to break loose of his shade maybe I am still in that place hard to say. I was an intellectual by Saul’s reckoning and he was sort of the natural born bad boy of contemporary painting..But sincere and honest.
I don’t enjoy the various interpretations of my work that I have suffered over many decades but I am not shy about Saul’s influence which actually was damn honest about the lack of opportunities that awaited MFA graduates. He shined on me for a while but eventually my actual madness was oft putting for him. If I had any genius it was for surviving my own madness and failures to connect. Oh I had some success but never enough to leave my academic career behind until years later when I stepped on the third rail of controversy. Which was unfortunate but also launched me on my independent career as a freelancer. Another chance to thrive or fail where the criteria were a bit more real and could be measured in dollars cents and rents. My level of suffering rose to new heights alone and often penniless I turned away no clients whether sales commissioned portraits ,writing virtually anything to pay the freight on my obsession to continue my creative work. The writing had some high points but the pay was scant and often hardly covered expenses. Some portraits sold and were exhibited but hardly enough to make up for the regular salary I once had. So the winters were always rough always questions of however did I survive or did I really survive but rather succeed in destroying even more of my sullied reputation, I had been described as hard to work with and now I suppose that was true enough in the hand to mouth business of being independent.
But now different issues bedevil me. Adjacent to my hard scramble life was the deterioration of my mind and body with age and neglect and that curious uncertainty that accompanies creative work. If I was honest or rather even more honest I would confess that being old and more or less cast aside one gains some humility and hunger for self destruction , to be done with all the labor attendant to living, staying alive and hoping to leave behind art that will be enjoyed long after I am dust. I feel as if my delusional experiences attendant to my madness my cancer my mindlessness , the particular cruelty of doubt.
But I have tasted love and I swear some days that has been why I still struggle to stay in this old broken world of ours. I am not so foolish as to think I have survived merely because of my own strength. But rather that I have a collaborator , a helper who has taken nearly 20 years of my roller coaster ride with me. Without her I suspect I would have vanished years ago from my own careless dare I say reckless way of life. More than a care giver but a teacher of sorts showing me a path through my final performances. I do not believe in the lonely romantic genius but rather that the shelter of love and forgiveness gave me more days than I deserved or expected. I am grateful for this blessing of a companion strong enough to stay with me despite my darkening view of my life and times. Art is an intimate affair adjacent to the final cry, the voice of the creative child grown into an antiquity as a body but still anxious for people to see the pictures of his life.