Monday, August 7, 2017

Looking Back.

My friend J, J who was the first, true lasting friend I made in New York, who was in my class at Parsons and at the end of the first semester asked me to share her apartment on East 10th St. and we lived there together for 2 years until I fell in an ill-fated love and she went to Berlin (but kept the apartment even as the neighborhood around it more or less left; she still has that apartment) but who I fell out of touch with when I left New York in 1998 — we’d seen less and less of each other for several years before that because, well, I could list all the practical excuses I’ve cataloged in my head to make sense of the painful process of shifting alliances that happens over and over in a life, but why?

Now we are in touch again, and she’s commissioned me to write some text, an essay?, for a chapbook that she will print and publish to accompany an exhibit of her prints in Chicago where she lives and teaches now this fall. The text is to resonate with, respond to though not necessarily explicitly with the work she is showing. (She still makes visual art. I, you know, do not.) The prints span her career. One set is a series of drawings she made in 1984 in the process of working out a large installation. One set is a series of drawings in response to a large installation she made in the mid-90s.(I call them drawings -- they are monoprints.) A third set is current work.

This thing I’m writing, which I hesitate to call an essay because it is impressionistic, episodic, takes the shape of a review of our friendship (so of course it is meandering and disjointed). I’ve pulled out her letters to me spanning the mid-80s through the early 90s, half a lifelong conversation about what’s important, what we yearn for our lives to be, what we want our work to be about, the shape we want our lives to take, and I compare those hopes with how our lives actually look now. We are both still artists. That in itself is remarkable to me and something to be proud of regardless of whatever other dreams I’ve fallen short of. It was certainly never the most likely outcome, statistically speaking, but I never had any doubt and I doubt J did either.


Between this project and my high school diary musical, which are the two big things on my desk right now, my writing life is thick with memory. Late 70s in Indiana, 80s in New York. It feels like judgement day up in here. When I dive into the past — I shouldn’t say dive because I more or less live there — my favorite game seems to be finding things I feel uneasy or guilty about or ashamed of and to pick them apart, to confess, and try to, if not absolve myself, understand. But, yes, absolve myself of.

It all, all of it, has the slightly queasy-making quality of a retrospective, which I supposed I should embrace. I am not done, but I am on the cusp of a new phase, I really believe. The work I am doing now is stronger, more vivid, more truthful, more true, than ever. I am 56 years old and have, as they say, zero fucks to give. A look back is appropriate. And then forward.

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