To the Unknown Helper #29: reflections on Mahler

GOING to heaven!
I don’t know when,
Pray do not ask me how,–
Indeed, I’m too astonished
To think of answering you!
Going to heaven!–
How dim it sounds!
And yet it will be done
As sure as flocks go home at night
Unto the shepherd’s arm!

Perhaps you’re going too!
Who knows?
If you should get there first,
Save just a little place for me
Close to the two I lost!
The smallest “robe” will fit me,
And just a bit of “crown”;
For you know we do not mind our dress
When we are going home.

I’m glad I don’t believe it,
For it would stop my breath,
And I’d like to look a little more
At such a curious earth!
I am glad they did believe it
Whom I have never found
Since the mighty autumn afternoon
I left them in the ground.

(Emily Dickinson)

More work is needed on making the details more precise and both softening and hardening the contours. Aldous Huxley, in an essay on Vermeer, said that the edges are a fundamental problem.

Planes of glazes and scumbles must unify disparate shapes. There is for example a light (a triangle) that unifies her face and breast.

At this point, the child’s face needs a Lot of work. It’s a racist caricature. The problem is that the face needs more light, and there are complex planes under her baby fat.

I got my first harassment post today. I think it’s from a guy who’s a moderator at the dysfunctional site http://www.lamma.com.HK who was offended at my correct grammar. The post said the painting was ugly and misnamed it “the Oriental helper”. It said it was a self-portrait where the usual Internet bully likes to say “you want to be a woman and you failed” when he says, more usually, “your gay” (with the neglect of the apostrophe being a stock in trade of these creeps).

I have to remind myself that this bullying attitude is generalized. It’s risky to be an artist. The male of the species is striking out in all directions as the world goes to hell and cannot understand vulnerability. People on this island are drinking their faces off and I could go back to the sauce at any time were it not for steps I have to remind myself to take.

Bad day overall despite making progress. My landlord complained about my swearing at my computer and initially threatened, because we don’t have a current lease, to evict me. I was terribly frightened but handled the situation well. I pointed out that his kids also make noise, that the rent’s been on time for five years, and the place is clean.

I was able to calm things down. He agreed to provide a new lease and not even raise the rent, and I agreed to watch my noise. I seem to be Beethoven, the scourge of landlords, but only in this small regard.

Interestingly, I never lose it as a teacher at the kids, nor when doing art. Only at computers.

Doing art can suck. There’s that mad dream of finally being Culled Out and Seen to be A Genius After All, in a world where people in Pakistan are running for their lives, a selfish dream. There’s the constant feeling of inadequacy: my studies for this painting are overall better rendered than the painting itself. And there’s the Internet, and Photoshop, which render meaningless my ownership of my own images, the concept of the work of art and its aura, and what skills I have with the hand.

There are these Internet creeps who strike out at the vulnerability you project.

Nonetheless, I feel I owe this work something, some sort of effort no matter what.

Wow. This is interesting. It’s a photograph of the current state of the head but with color removed. She’s tired, and a storm is brewing. This should make a nice print.

Do I ignore the turmoil whilst striving to paint a Poussinesque serenity? Duh, yeah. “Remember man thou art dust and to dust doth thou return”.

My paintings start in black and white
In the uncertain hour at the end of night,
When a consciousness emerges from voiceless pain.

I mean that. Pain requires and constructs consciousness. What the Buddhists mean by a sentient being emerges from sensation, and the earliest sensation I remember is pain. I was sick a lot, like my eldest son, and when you’re sick you start thinking about the entity that complains. General U. S. Grant when dying of cancer from whisky and seegars said I am the pain.

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