Sometimes I just can’t believe the form my life has taken but then it has never been a very smooth ride. The fireworks are going off outside and the dog is frightened by the noise as am I a bit too as this has always been a difficult passage. In 1974 when I first was hospitalized at the Golden Valley Health Center ( GVHC) I was not exactly diagnosed as much as I was incarcerated in the psych lockup there. I met my first psychiatrist there Dr.James P. Ginsberg and I was really confused about how it came to pass that I was there? I had not been sleeping and I was having some serious problems with reality ( to put it mildly) and I was admitted to the hospital and spent quite while in intensive care before I was released into the general population of the hospital. I will spare the gentle reader any specificity regards this experience except that it was the beginning of my reckoning with my bi-polar disorder . It was summer eventually I walked about the grounds quite a lot ,it was a beautiful setting near Twin Lake. I was immensely confused by the experience which seemed akin to a spiritual collapse a sort of lost of faith . I had been studying certain mystical texts inspired by some writings I had been studying written by a university professor at Northwestern in Evanston Illinois ( i was born and grew up in Chicago). The article published in ARTFORUM magazine , 3 interconnected essays concerned Marcel Duchamp ( the famous French/American artist who came of age as an important figure in the DADA movement). The supposition of Dr Jack Burnham was that Duchamp had been a practitioner of the ancient mystical arts, ie. Ritual magic, alchemy , Kabbalah and that the key to understanding his work was through studying it’s relationship to these mysteries. It was quite an extraordinary thesis and I fell for it hook, line and sinker. I was enamored by his writings and subsequent inquiries and studies I undertook.
The Spring of that year 1974 I attended a retrospective of Marcel Duchamp’s artworks at the Art Institute of Chicago that had traveled there from the Philadelphia Museum where the most significant major works are held in it’s permanent collection. I went with my father who was a Union painter an alcoholic a wife beater and worse a sweet and sour immigrant from Western Norway. He escorted me through the exhibition whilst I took notes and examined the works in detail. My father was quite amused by the works especially the readymade R.Muttt which he found amusing enough to laugh allow at. I was spellbound . I was in the thrall of the exhibition and my unraveling consciousness. I was as it slip sliding away. I visited the Ryerson Library while there examining some of the ephemeral items associated with Duchamp’s art working particularly small brochures little magazines really The Blind Man & rongwrong which contained photo reproductions of R. Mutt the infamous urinal photographed by Alfred Stieglitz. Handling these items was immeasurably inspiring. Anyway on the ride back from Chicago I read aloud to my father from the transcriptions Nixon’s famous secret tape until somewhere in a Wisconsin I tired of repeating the expression EXPLETIVE DELETED which appeared quite frequently in the transcripts.
By the time we arrived in Minneapolis I was quite beside myself with wonderment and a sense of being quite unhinged. At some point as I wrote I found myself in the psych hospital with a distinct feeling I might never be the same again.I was 29 years old. My boss at the art school where I worked helped me keep my job whilst I was absent . He also taught my son how to ride his Schwin bicycle . My students were no doubt bewildered by my vanishing ( as was I!). This introduction to the other side was quite painful and unpleasant and I repeated it the next 2 summers at the same institution. All the while with my students and I began a publication named Artpolicecomics and the Artpolicenewsletter which was inserted as a supplement. The first three years were very sketchy but we managed to create this little publication which we continued to publish together for 20 years.
So the project and much of my art grew out of my madness and my employment as a fine arts instructor, eventually an associate professor at the time of my dismissal in 1986 amidst a complex controversy which was driven by forces outside the project itself indeed a profound distortion of the contents and a persecution followed etc etc. Boring but alas I was let go and given a half salary severance as a reward for my 17 years of untenured services. The madness had finally caught up with me! But the little zine and subsequent exhibitions continued on until 1994 at which time I pulled the plug and put the Artpolicecomics to sleep. No longer able to subsidize the publication we all went our separate ways with new projects growing out of the carcass of our dearly beloved Artpolicecomics..
That was a brief summary treatment a best but brings me back to tonight the eve of the 4th of July 2022. Now the fireworks seemed to have stopped and quiet has returned , The dog is asleep and I am about to take my psych meds and try to sleep a bit before the new day arrives. My psychiatric condition has deteriorated since my accident in 2018 which required immunotherapy and subsequent treatments for sign effects with steroids caused my bi-polar disorder to return and I was hospitalized in a psych hospital in Fridley MN where geriatric patients were treated. The steroids were nasty messy horrible my dear spouse/ caretaker suffered terribly during that time though she stuck with me which I think was an amazing heroic feat. Along the way a terrible family breakdown occurred at the psych hospital where two of my adult children verbally assaulted my spouse and scapegoated her as the cause of my malady and that she was insane. Nothing could be further from the truth as she had stuck with me through some frightening episodes in 3 different hospitals staying near me and helping me find my way back from my horrible injuries and subsequent kidney cancer diagnosis. The family fell to pieces only my spouse and I remained after the incident at the psych hospital. It was truly the end of the family unit, and we never were able to put things back together again. In time things got even worse when the youngest son scapegoated me over his perceptions regards his mothers behaviors and her second husbands violence towards my sons. I was not aware of the degree of suffering the boys had endured. Often I have found people with psychiatric disorders are sheltered from cruel facts regarding their loved ones . Anyway since the time of that falling out both my spouse/ caretaker and I have struggled to find equilibrium with loss of our children and our realities.
It’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride and very painful at times . Now I have become the problem , the unwelcome lodger . One crisis follows another, like dominos or all the King’s men that can’t put Franky back together again. I do not think that psychiatric conditions are contagious, though I know sometimes the caretakers suffer as much as the one being cared for and I remember distinctly how difficult my years alone were when I tried to take care of my younger boys growing up exhaustion was common to the experience and the on going struggles with the mommy dearest were something one reads in fiction. I was a scapegoat over and over but somehow I continue to live and wake to new nightmares. I willingly take responsibility for my madness my addiction to art making and thinking writing dreaming etc. I am no Angel yet I remain alive despite all my bad qualities and my poison pen. I have tried to make sense of my life and sufferings I have caused and all the maniacal goings on around me , I accept cause and effect . I can somehow begin to see the sense of death as the cure to human’s malaise as Socrates did. Perhaps sweet art is a hemlock we drink sip by sip in order to give our meanderings meaning or at least the semblance of reason. No I recall much and I try to make sense of the barbarism of chance and lucky breaks and not so fortunate outcomes. But I do not blame anyone but myself for my myriad misfortunes and accidents. I take full responsibility for my survival since my near death experiences, my lapses into madness etc etc. Art asks all of our resources all of our souls our truth our delusions and ir gives us little in return but some meager hopes for posterity. Some enduring trace some unraveling of our woven tapestry of misadventures. In a world like ours now with diminishing hopes and unanswered prayers one is correct to despair the death of truth.
But art sweet art somehow rekindles hopes and dreams when discovered sooner or later like in Pompei like in ancient Rome like a thousand bits and pieces of dreams scattered amidst the flowered valley of our youth. No I am guilty as charged a medicated mad man who should be carefully circumscribed by all his/her fellows. A dealer in hopes and an abuser of himself and his lives . Yes I know something about Frank that no one will ever know or perhaps care to know my best recollection of my journey through the portals of mysteries deeper than any ocean. But yes I am insufferable , blind to normal ways and means living too long amidst the broken vessels of the tree of life.