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Monday Quote

Nobody will give you freedom. You have to take it.

~ Meret Oppenheim


She of the fur-covered cup, saucer, & spoon has a big new exhibition at MoMA, which I have yet to see.


Some people know almost by instinct that nothing is given. Some figure it out in time. Some never do. All I ever wanted was not to have a boss. I was like my cat fighting with every muscle against us trying to cut his pawnails. It didn't matter what I was being held down for, I couldn't stand it. I messed up plenty but have always taken responsibility for my life. No blame, ever. It's on me. 

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Someone sent me these, from the early Abstract Expressionist sculptor. While they are clearly aimed at young people & some specifically at visual artists (I omitted a couple of those), a few are worthwhile challenges to anyone—artist, poet, citizen. 


David Smith's questions for students of art


1. Do you make art your life, that which always comes first and occupies every moment, the last problem before sleep and the first awaking vision?

2. Do all the things you like or do amplify and enjoin the progress of art vision and art making?

3. Are you a balanced person with many interests and diversions?

4. Do you seek the culture of many aspects, with the middle-class aspiration of being well-rounded and informed?

5. How do you spend your time? More talking about art than making it? How do you spend your money? On art materials first—or do you start to pinch here?

6. How much of the work day or the work week do you devote to your profession—that which will be your identity for life?

7. Will you be an amateur—a professional—or is it the total life?

8. Do you think the artist has an obligation to anyone but himself?

9. Do you think his contemporary position is unique or traditional?

10. Do you think art can be something it was before? Can you challenge the ancients?

11. Have you examined the echoes of childhood and first learning, which may have once given you the solutions? Are any of these expectancies still operating on your choices?

12. Do you hold with these, or have you recognized them? Have you contradicted them or have you made metaphoric transposition?

13. Do you examine and weigh the art statements of fellow artists, teachers, authorities before they become involved in your own working tenets?

14. Or do the useful ideas place themselves in a working niche of your consciousness and the others go off unheard?

15. Do you think you owe your teachers anything, or Picasso or Matisse or Brancusi or Mondrian or Kandinsky?

16. Do you think you work should be aggressive? Do you think this an attribute? Can it be developed?

17. Do you think your work should hold within tradition?

18. Do you think that your own time and now is the greatest in the history of art, or do you excuse your own lack of full devotion with the half belief that some other time would have been better for you to make art?

19. Do you recognize any points of attainment? Do they change? Is there a final goal?

20. In the secret dreams of attainment have you faced each dream for its value on your own basis, or do you harbor inherited inspirations of the bourgeoisie or those of false history or those of critics?

21. Why do you hesitate–why can you not draw objects as freely as you can write their names and speak words about them?

22. What has caused this mental block? If you can name, dream, recall vision and auras why can't you draw them? In the conscious set of drawing, who is acting in our unconscious as censor?

23. In the conceptual direction, are you aiming for the successful work? (To define success I mean the culminating point of many efforts.)

24. Do you aim for a style with a recognizable visual vocabulary?

25. Do you polish up the work beyond its bare aesthetic elements?

26. Do you add ingratiating elements beyond the raw aesthetic basis?

27. If you add ingratiating elements, where is the line which keeps the work from being your own?

28. Are you afraid of rawness, for rawness and harshness are basic forms of U.S. nature, and origins are both raw and vulgar at their time of creation?

29. Will you understand and accept yourself as the subject for creative work, or will your effort go toward adapting your expression to verbal philosophies by non-artists?

30. If you could, would you throw over the present values of harmony and tradition?

31. Do you trust your first response, or do you go back and equivocate consciously? Do you believe that the freshness of first response can be developed and sustained as a working habit?

32. Are you saddled with nature propaganda?

33. Are you afraid to exercise vision, seek surprise?

34. When you accept the identification of artist do you acknowledge that you are issuing a world challenge in your own time?

35. Are you afraid to work from your own experience without leaning on the crutches of subject and the rational?

36. Or do you think that you are unworthy or that your life has not been dramatic enough or your understanding not classic enough, or do you think that art comes from Mount Parnassus or France or from an elite level beyond you?

37. Do you assert yourself and work in sizes comparable to your physical size or your aesthetic challenge or imagination?

38. Is that size easel-size or table-size or room-size or a challenge to nature?

39. Do you think museums are your friend and do you think they will be interested in your work?

40. Do you think you will ever make a living from museums?

41. Do you think commercial art, architectural art, religious art offer any solution in the maturing of your concepts?

42. How long will you work before you work with the confidence which says, "What I do is art"?

43. Do you ever feel that you don't know where to go in your work, that the challenge is beyond immediate solution?

44. Do you think acclaim can help you? Can you trust it, for you know in your secret self how far short of attainment you always are? Can you trust any acclaim any farther than adverse criticism? Should either have any effect upon you as an artist?

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Joe Brainard

Joe Brainard: A Box of Hearts and other works is the latest show of his work at Tibor de Nagy. It runs from October 22 to December 3 & shows more than 50 works that are various enough to be by half a dozen different artists: paintings, collages, watercolors, cutouts. Fabulous as he always is. 

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OMG Brooklyn

I'm practically a resident. Twice in two days to 3 different parts of the borough (Williamsburg, the Botanical Gardens, East Flatbush). But dang, I didn't document it with a photo. D'yall believe me? Here's the words version: Had a delicious lunch at the Yellow Magnolia Café with the great poet Maureen Owen, who I haven't seen since before the pandemic. Seeing her was terrific (as was the daikon salad) & we made A Plan, which shall be revealed in due time. Then off on the same train (not that I could find it again) to see my friend Debra, who took me to a friend's opening at Brooklyn College, of remarkable small (& 4 large) b&w paintings from a series called "ref-u-gee," a solo exhibition of works on the theme of forced migration by Audrey Frank Anastasi. If you find yourself deep in Brooklyn, very worth your while to check out the show

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Brooklyn (again!)

Not only did I go to Brooklyn (Williamsburgh) this afternoon on a secret mission, I'm going tomorrow to two separate locations: the Botanical Gardens & to Brooklyn College for an art opening. I feel more international & adventurous going to this borough than to Europe. Then I got kosherie (an Egyptian dish of noodles, lentils, rice, fried onions & hot sauce: YUM) on the way back & my international day has almost ended, except for Norwegian class in a little while. 

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A dream about a car

I dreamed last night about my '73 LTD, Ford Madox Ford. I loved that car. I'd painted it with matte house paint, white & light green, & written lines from poems of mine along the body:

Dreams aimless as destinations


It will be easy to drive away from this


I got stopped by the cops all the time when I drove that car anywhere outside of New York City. They usually said: Just wanted to see who would be driving a car like this. 


In my dream I gave the car to a couple from New Jersey who were having a baby. It's too hard to park, I said. And with regret: I've had that car for 20 years.


In reality, I haven't had that car for 20 years, more like 25. I sold it for $1 to Eileen Myles, her first car. 


I woke up satisfied. Restored.


I'm only me as a driver.

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What I'm reading

The Island at the Center of the World suddenly seemed like what I should read & I put my hand right on it (a sign), & not only that, it's a nice clean paperback, perfect for travel. It's about New Netherland, the Dutch colony that predated and established Manhattan as we know it, freewheeling, open-minded, commercial. All the reasons people still come to New York were there from the beginning. If you want to understand New York City, this is the book to read. 

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I ❤️ travel

The wall of our hotel commemorated such famous Pittsburghers (Pittsburghians? Yinzers!) as Billy Conn, Gene Kelly, & Billy Eckstein. One plaque on the wall says: "From our dynamic past, we look towards a radiant future."

I love sleeping in a hotel bed. Niceties (though they forgot to stock our room). Taking taxis heedlessly (more this weekend in Pittsburgh than in 2 years). Seeing new places or the same places anew. Listening to accents & thinking about cultural differences.


I also love coming home, being met by my purring rubbing-up cat. Sitting in my own chair. Having food in the fridge instead of trying to figure out what & where & when to eat.

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More Pittsburgh

One of many impressive churches. Johnny calls the architecture here "flutes and spires."

It really is fun to pick a place & see what's there. Could be any place ~ I could throw a dart at a map & find something amazing & wonderful if I went wherever it hit. Today we saw contemporary & classic art at the Carnegie, rooms sponsored by many nations at the Cathedral of Learning, absolutely the coolest classroom building of all time. We drove through the rich neighborhoods of Shadyside & Squirrel Hill, & I went for a walk & found my way back to the hotel. The information guy at the Cathedral of Learning said that in Pittsburgh, neighborhoods tend to stay intact, so the Polish or Italian areas, for example, are still Polish or Italian. This city is, he said, as diverse as New York. 


Another day, another taxi driver. Do you have a drunk in that bar fight? I asked referring to the Fetterman-Oz senatorial race. He laughed & said they're all drunks & he didn't care. Hmmm. What the heck? 


Tomorrow the Incline up Mount Washington, the Andy Warhol Museum & home early Sunday. 

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The view from our hotel in the East Liberty area, near Shadyside. 

A woman at the airport said, admiringly, you're adventurous, coming here without knowing anyone, just because you've never been. It's only an hour or so away on the plane & it feels, if not adventurous, fun to be in someplace completely new. Very pretty, with changing leaves, & big views & the rivers. 


The cab driver seemed great & told us that the Monongohela is one of the few rivers in North America that flows north. Great until he let slip his racist politics. As soon as I said mildly, "but don't you think that [ethnic group he looked down on] came here for jobs just like anyone else," he totally changed his tune. My fault, I asked what he thought of the senatorial race here. 


I wrote a post yesterday that somehow didn't get saved & now I don't even remember what it was about. I think it was to say we were PA-bound. Someday (maybe tonight?!) I will sleep & then I expect to remember things. It's so strange to be somewhere other than the East Village with Mr. No-Travels Johnny! 

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Why I went to Brooklyn

My friend Dotathy (aka Melissa) had a show at her studio in Gowanus. I left the East Village, yes I did, & went to Brooklyn. Intrepid me! Especially, as my friend Maggie once said, It just seems like it's farther for us to go there than for them to come here. Dot embroiders on photos, & they are textured, beautiful, way more than the sum of their parts. Then I went to hang out with another friend in a different part of Brooklyn, my Norwegian teacher Marie-Therese in fact, but it was too late in a long day for me to manage to say anything much på norsk. I may go to Brooklyn again someday.

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What I'm reading

The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt is strange & wonderful. The plot makes the book seem either silly or heroic. "The world would be quite a pretty place if the only people tormented by atrocities were those who'd committed them." It's a serious book but also one where the author clearly put in everything she felt like & by wanting it made a place for it.

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Adventures in Brooklyn

Yay for a new-to-me stop on the F train: Smith-9th street, with two very long escalators plus stairs. And also this fine view. Then the G train across Brooklyn, & eventually the L train home.


Pro tip: the G is not the J. Turns out the G doesn't go into Manhattan at all, & it's the J that you can catch at Delancey St. Who knew? I'm certainly not one of the dead who know Brooklyn. 

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Fridays are for cats

The open door policy between apartments 9 & 12 usually involves Lefty swaggering over to Wanda's place & terrorizing Jojo & Harry. But Jojo has slowly tiptoed into our apartment & here he is in bed with sleeping Johnny. Usually, as soon as Lefty realizes Jojo is visiting us, he gallops over & chases him away. Our little Napoleon, king of all he surveys. Especially me. 

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Jeg elsker norsk

This semester's Norwegian class is built around watching a Norwegian movie every week & discussing it. I seem to have been one of the few people who enjoyed last night's Fjols til fjells (Fools in the Mountains), a slapstick farce from 1957 set in a ski resort. It was dumb, sure, with a plot about identical guests mistaken for each other over & over, but Leif Juster was terrific & it even (maybe) had its subversive moments, such as a girl everyone took for a boy in her bellboy (piccolo) outfit who whistled at & propositioned attractive women. Lots of great Norwegian words & expressions & I could understand most of what everyone in class was saying, even when they were rattling along pretty fast. 

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Thank goodness for having a name I don't share with a thousand Andersons. It meant that an email got to me from a woman in Sioux Falls who had found a copy of CHIPS (from the Tree of Knowledge), our high school literary magazine, in a storage box. Did I want it?


Oh my goodness yes, although I'm embarrassed in advance/in retrospect about my sophomoric (literally!) drivel. 


How above & beyond to reach out with something she could so easily have tossed. (Thank you, Teresa!)

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Endelig! Finally!

Ever since I started studying Norwegian, I've dreamed of overhearing people speaking it on the streets of New York or, even better, stopping me to ask for directions. This morning I stepped out of my office on 5th Street as a young couple were passing, stopping to let their dog sniff around. THEY WERE SPEAKING NORSK! I stopped & pretended I was waiting for them while I made sure of it, then interrupted: Snakker dere norsk?! (Are you speaking Norwegian?) They were & we had a lovely conversation half in English, half in norsk. Victoria lives on Ave B, while her friend, whose name I didn't catch, was visiting from Trondheim. Made my day week year (dag uke år)!

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Monday Quote

The role of the artist is to not look away.

~ Akira Kurosawa


To look at the hard things with a compassionate eye that stops & a cold eye that passes on. 

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Nobel Prize

I can't help but sense that the men who are critical of Annie Ernaux as a "pedestrian" & "mediocre" choice for the Literature Prize are actually saying, Why would they give it to a woman when there still are men who haven't won it. That writing about personal issues like abortion & dementia isn't serious, & by george, THEY are serious. And some of the writers they think more worthy write in languages I'm quite sure they can't read. But who cares about prizes! Scratch a man & you find a man, as my old pal used to say.


Glad to see women standing up for Ernaux, who's published by my friends at Seven Stories. Good for them. 

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Weather without WillisWeather®

What, everyone doesn't have their personal forecaster? I love that I can text WillisWeather® to ask if I can go outside in 10 minutes without an umbrella & I hear back in plenty of time. I didn't need him this week as we went from too darn hot to winter, with a cold rain barely short of sleet, to summer again (today). Or maybe it's spring? Willis, help! I need you, after all. 

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Vote early, vote often!

Model: Voter Stanton. He'll never get near it again. 

I'm excited to own a voting shirt (naturally it's from Raygun, the greatest store in the universe). I've been waiting for this shirt my whole life. I DO love voting. I believe in voting. I miss the booth, the plastic curtain, the heavy lever that closed the curtain then registered your vote. I miss walking over to Sioux Falls College to be my dad's lever-puller. A month till this fall's democracy in action. Are you ready? 

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Eggshells & atonement

In a little while, the 27 hours of Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement, will begin. It's a time to ruthlessly analyze our own behavior & shortcomings, & get right with the people who matter to us. I've tried harder this year than I sometimes do, deciding to break the eggshells rather than tiptoe on them. Will it work? Maybe not but it means I am less likely to be held back by fear or anger or resentment. It will be an intense day, boring at times, but I hope to come out the other side fresh & enlightened. 

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Monday Quote

There are two ways of getting home; and one of them is to stay there. The other is to walk round the whole world till we come back to the same place.

~ G. K. Chesterton


I suppose I could have combined this quote with yesterday's ramble. I would have except that I wasn't able to edit for several days, & their new setup is quite unwieldy. So read 'em both & think of them as two parts of a thought that I'm not really ready with yet.


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One last SoDak reflection

Sylvan Lake.

My urge to move back wrestles with my urge not to spend 40 minutes in a car going anywhere at all; the ease of living in a walking town. My love for my beautiful home state wrestles with my adoration of my adopted home. When I was out there, I asked myself why I'm always going to Europe & the South when I could be spending time in the West. It's taken me a long time to appreciate where I come from without disclaimers, though they're still there at the same time. I suppose I'll always be a bit bi-geographic, & that's fine. My life is here, my heart is there, except it's here too! 

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