Thursday, March 26, 2010, 1:18 AM
subject: Re: mp
so i was just looking over things i’d written in my sent box … and figured i should tell you that i started painting – or really, attempting to make art – again. so what i thought was really sweet was the way i took you to my parents’ home, how i showed you the tiny room in which i grew up and the paintings i made when i was just a kid, maybe twelve or thirteen years old and i had dreams of becoming the black Bob Ross, afro and all. and how sweet it was of you to want to bring them home with you, with us, and take one of them to your office so that you could constantly be reminded that i was someone’s child, that i belonged to Roberta and James, that i was at one time in a high chair needing to be fed, and struggling on floors attempting to tie shoes and a child who cried a lot. but and still, a child who attempted to paint, to make a world i’d never seen … no, i’d never been to the mountains…these are a combination of bob ross shows and desire is what i told you they were. not a desire to escape where i grew up – i loved it there, still do, problems and love and all – but i also wanted to see what bob had seen, make me feel the wind to my back or something. anyway…you said that the paintings reminded you of the fact that we all come from some place, that we all had dreams and ideas and goals, even when we were kids … even when they don’t necessarily turn out the way we thought.
and shit…my life is hella different than what i thought it’d be. but that’s neither here…nor there. i just wanted to tell you that i started making art again, though it’s not good at all; been recording the entire process, actually, with a rented camera from school; been using the artist studio and some cheap ass paint i bought from Pearl…expensive place and i’m broke [but when am i not? lol]. anyway. i was inspired by this one video dtim sent me of a little girl making art in her home … she was covered in paint and i’m pretty sure her parents had access to all sorts of financial resources that i’d never think possible. and the comments on youtube were full of people saying things like my kid could do that too! or this isn’t really art! she’s a child! which is just sad. i, on the other hand, was moved by her intentionality. sure, she’s a child, but aren’t we all? and sure, she’s young. but does that mean she cannot make aesthetic choices? the vulgarity of our world comes with the idea that only certain people with the mental capacity can think and conceive of the beautiful, that only certain people with the mental capacity can think and conceive of aesthetic choice. but my nephew hates – HATES – peas … and pineapple … and milk. this dude refuses to consume those things; the very sight of them makes him have a fit. and yeah, he’s only five, but dude knows what he likes – broccoli … how he’s my nephew, i don’t know because you know how i feel about that shit … lol – and what he doesn’t. he makes choices all of the time. so why can this little girl not?
anyway. dtim sent the video not hours after i’d been sitting in the office, longing for home, crying a lot because of these “praise breaks” i’d been listening to. something in the music, in the clapping and stomping and in the shouts and orations, something in those sounds made me sit weakened, almost no energy, so the tears just flowed. so i was already vulnerable, already open. and then dtim sends a video of a little girl making art…and it was in the middle of that video when she had all this blue paint on her hands and she was bent over and began to clap her hands, lightly, and blue splattered all over the canvas spread on the floor. and i don’t know if i can convey how much that very simple, nuanced, barely there movement hit me with the force of so many angels singing. i sorta wanted to run around the house but, instead, i hopped in the car and drove as quickly as possible to Pearl but they were, of course, closed as it was a sunday and much too late for them to be open. so i went to the supermarket and bought some paint for kids … i needed to get moving as quickly as possible on what seemed to be an awesome idea. and it’s good to know people, “in the industry,” i suppose you could say and so i called up our friend calvin who has the studio that we’ve visited a couple of times a long time ago, and asked if i could use it for a quick experiment. and also, do you have canvas i could borrow? he was more than willing to help me out since he was in a bind and we let him stay with us for a brief stint a few years ago. i drove to his studio quickly, bottles of blue and red acrylic paint, a pair of church shoes i never wear anymore and my laptop in hand, asked him to lay out canvas on the floor – he did – plugged up the laptop and began to play all these testimony service songs and shouting music. what in the hell was i doing? it didn’t come out nearly as well as i envisioned even though i keep trying…keep going back [but not to calvin’s studio for that, at least, but i’ll explain that soon]. calvin tried, really hard, to take me seriously but i could see the smirk on his face and i couldn’t help but laugh midway through my experiment with paint and song but it turned out to be the laughter that allowed my approach most fully toward the feeling, the mood, i was hoping.
so yeah. anyway. i had on tattered old clothing, so i wasn’t much worried about keeping clean and since the shoes i wore for the experiment were inconsequential, i wasn’t much worried about splattering paint on them. calvin laid the canvas on the floor and it was simply huge – exactly what i wanted, in fact. asked him to record it with his camera so i could later see just how silly i looked [i said silly while hoping it would not appear so at all…a momentary pre-deflection or something, a sarcasmical appeal]. i created a playlist of all these songs that would allow me to clap my hands, stomp my feet and shout – you know, the holy dance – rather quickly, up-tempo songs that would make me break a sweat if i were really into it. i pressed play and turned up the volume as high as possible – it wasaround midnight once i finally got everything set up and started. i slipped on the shoes and stood in the middle of the floor, opened a bottle of the blue paint and poured it all over my hands like the little girl and began to clap to the beat. the paint wasn’t splattering nearly as far as i thought it would, so i took more blue paint and poured it over my hands and began to clap, again, to the rhythm of the beat. ding dong. jokes.
as luck would have it, after the 4’08” rendition of “there’s a storm out on the ocean” – a rather mildly paced “fast” song … nothing too strenuous – some shout music that i’d downloaded from youtube came on [some church in brooklyn where the women let out small yelps and hollers, where the kids would laugh and jump up and down because their mothers were shouting and not paying much attention to them, where the men would say hooooo loudly]. so i poured paint on the canvas-floor and began to dance, began to shout, as if i were in church with them; eyes were closed now, mouth was frowned now, lips were flattened out now; i was moving to the rhythm one-two-three-dip, one-two-three-dip. now, keep in mind that i haven’t seriously done this in a long while so it took a minute to get my decomposure; that is, i was way too serious – instead of playful and jubilant – about it at first…i was too conscious of calvin sitting in the corner looking. but as i saw him smirk a bit, it broke me out of my seriousness just momentarily enough to open out into something else. only after his smirk, and my smile and laughter, did i close my eyes and listen to the people praising, to the drums, to the b-3 creating sonic distance between the bass and the use of the notes in the highest register, all drawbars pulled out, that some thing happened. i made sure that my feet were close to the paint, so i was shouting in a puddle of blue and kept pouring paint and kept shouting … and i danced as i would have had i been in church [even though i was the main organist, i was known for jumping off the bench and getting at least thirty seconds of praise … of course, you’ve seen me in such play … lol].
by this time, calvin saw that i was in but that the paint wasn’t moving any further than my feet, so he opened a bottle of red and poured it wherever my feet danced [i did not, of course, notice this until after the thirteen minutes of music went off…i was definitely into it; so i discovered his collaboration only after i opened my eyes and saw blues, reds and the breakthrough of purples in various intensities, depending upon how hard and where i danced, how much i mixed and, literally, scratched the canvas with old-new colors]. anyway. i opened my eyes once the thirteen minutes had ceased, hella tired, feeling as if i’d touched some otherwise, as if i’d worshipped even while maintaining a disbelief [my theological resistance to why people often say they worship in the first place]. it’s as if i’d discovered something in the movement itself, something that could not be contained by a confessional faith, something that is not merely transcendent but that is, most fundamentally, constitutive. upon opening my eyes, the canvas had a few splotches of color here and there, a few strings of paint every now and then. it was still far too empty; one person simply can’t do the kind of spiritual-material thing [and i use the word thing here intentionally; it’s etymology, meaning the place of gathering to discuss matters of concern – though i’m sure “discuss” could also easily index a desire to work out, a desire to perform, a desire to think – is important to what i’m envisioning for the soon to come] alone. so though i’ve been practicing by myself a lot lately – with all sorts of paint – i’m hoping to invite others to play along, to recreate a church service where the residue of such sociality will be the colors we leave behind.
i’ve said all that to say: the little girl quickened in me the notion that even clapping, even shouting – any movement, or hairsbreadth nuance, of breathing, of dilation – contains within it the potentia for the thing we call art. such movement simply needs the work energy to convert. her clapped hands with blue made me want to see what it would look like, what the sorta pentecostalist praise i love would splatter on the ground and upon walls; i wanted to see what praise looks like after the bodies – the material force of such creation – left the building. would i be able to look at the canvas and see something of such gathering, of such moving of spirit, by spirit, for spirit? i chuckled a bit after i was done with the initial experiment but i’m becoming much more adept with color mixture and i’m getting my good breathing back too … which means i’ve convinced myself that there might be something to this experimentation, in color, in song, after all.
and, so, well…i guess there’s not much harm in telling you that some thing happened with calvin in the studio and we’ve been trying to figure it out. after my brief initial chuckle that initial evening with my hypothesized ecstatics, he walked up to me, face serious as hell and said that was sooooo hot! shit… and took some of red paint in the bottle he did not once put down the entire time – or at least, i don’t think he did … i did peek at him every now and dip, every once and a skip – poured it on his right hand [mind you, we were standing stomach to stomach, just a hairsbreadth away really], threw the bottle to the ground, rubbed his left hand into his right palm, then placed his hands on my face, brought his lips in, a hairsbreadth away from mine and i smelled his breath – marlboro lights, weed and sweet tea … it didn’t stink but smelled alive, i suppose – and then rubbed his hands on my face a bit, moved my head around a bit, turning it, kissing my neck, then saying i’m so…i’m so sorry. too soon. i suppose i tensed up.
i haven’t stopped visiting his studio. but we haven’t directly talked of what happened yet. he’s simply given me tips and pointers for colors and history of performance art. good shit. but i decided that it’d be best not to perform these experiments alone with him in his studio because i don’t know what’s happening with us. not sure what all of this is meaning but i’m glad – are you glad that i can breathe again? – glad that i seem to be at least open to spending time with someone. now i just need to turn him into you…and we’ll be good…lol.
i love you. really. even still. ever still.