In continuing with drDOCTOR’s interest in art and the artists who make said art, we asked artists to make art about another artist’s art. Two artists enter, one artwork leaves. As with the rest of this dD mess, which Amy Kurzweil of GutterFACE COMIC fame so accurately termed “a literary party,” this’ll be as much about inclusion as it is about challenge, something that speaks to the paradox of the profound and profundity of the paradoxical, and avoids pretense at most costs.
“Cranial Process” is an essay about wrapping one’s head around a skull. It is an essay about death in that it’s about the “death” in about death as much as it’s about the “about” in about death — and the images we create to stretch the finite into the infinite and stitch the infinite into the finite. From “a small print of a Georgia O’Keeffe painting” to “the end of Puccini’s La Boheme” to the end of time, finding one’s voice to voice upon all the living and the dead, “Cranial Process” is the cranial process of “Cranial Process” itself: “For example, at the end of Puccini’s La Boheme — I’m sorry to ruin the ending, if you didn’t already know — Mimi dies. It’s the last moment of the opera, and as soon as her body goes limp, the curtain falls. Fine for theatre, but as an image of experience, this performance of death is as different from death as cinnamon from cinnabar. The real concept of death, perhaps impossible to conceive, is the duration of eternity, without absolution.”
“I Want to Write About Her Hands” is an essay by Laura Jayne Martin on props artisan Lillian ‘Clem’ Clements, her hands and what she holds in her hands, and what we hold in our hands. It is an essay about “holding onto” as much as it is about “letting go,” to see what we hold when we let go of our process to see another artist’s process, to see how we hold onto art and how we hold ourselves: “There are a lot of buzzwords people throw around in sarcastic games of verbal catch, like “buzzword”—and other words too heavy and slippery to hold very long. Words permanently air-quoted because sincerity is so dangerous these days.”
“Life is Good” is an essay by Sara Lippmann on her great-aunt, painter Jessica Zemsky, and her art and life, and how the two are as relative as they are relatives: “In New York she illustrated children’s books. She did ads. Copy. She did many things. Married, had a family. There were private heartbreaks and struggles. All the while she painted.” It is an essay that tells the fairytale of family, wondering what an artist owes to their art and what art owes to the artist and to the loved ones in their life, all the while asking, and in the asking, answering: what is the good life?
“Haunted by the Queen of Wands: A Photo Essay in Which Caitlin Rose Gives Me a Tarot Reading” is a photo essay in which singer-songwriter Caitlin Rose gives Rita Bullwinkel a tarot reading, but it is also an essay on reading and “reading,” and how every act of reading is as much an interpretation of another artist’s art as much as it is a reading of one’s own art and oneself: “Sometimes, downtown, I feel I am swimming in them, surrounded on all sides by men dressed up as men making man music, which is one of the reasons why I was so immediately drawn to the music of Caitlin Rose, which exudes such powerful feminine energy and heart breakability that it threatens to cleave open your chest.”
“Michael Seymour Blake Loves Westerns” is an essay on Michael Seymour Blake and his love of westerns and Richard Brautigan, and on the intersection of artist and art: how artists define and find themselves and more of their selves and more than themselves in their art, how we work in our bodies and work our bodies into our body of work. It is also an essay on the intersection of Bud Smith’s writing and Michael Seymour Blake’s drawings, and how every act of portrayal speaks to some sense of self: “He seems to be animating the struggle of having a body on this troubling planet, how to cope with eyes searching your every move if you happen to have the misfortune of leaving your bedroom.” As Bud Smith says as Michael Seymour Blake says.
“The best way to make work is to do nothing.” Jac Jemc’s “Shadows of Boltanski” is an essay on the artist Christian Boltanski, how the artist Christian Boltanski is the writer Jac Jemc, and how the writer Jac Jemc is the reader of the essay. It’s an essay on art in black and white, light and dark, stills and motion: art in the presence of art and in its absence, what we see when we look at art and what we see in ourselves when we see it, the critical point where the art ends and the artist begins.
#7 “Picture Bones: An Object Theatre in Several Fragments” by Daniel Parsons (February 7 2016)
“Picture Bones” is an essay on object theatre and bones, and life and death. In examining, excavating and re-excavating Megan Murtha’s Bone Play, Daniel Parsons arrives at the skeletal structure of making art and making believe, at how we believe in what we make and how we make ourselves from the skeletons inside us: “The magic of all forms of puppetry is that it is playing with death. It’s the most godlike positioning of the artist – to take the inanimate and bring it back to life…”
“For some reason, whenever I find myself at a loss for words, I find myself the most.” Brett Rawson’s “I Who Arrived In” is an essay about working as the interpreter during the production of artist Yayoi Kusama’s I Who Have Arrived In Heaven, but it is also an essay about everything and nothing, and everything in between: about the space between art and artist, artist and artist, and artist and artgoer; about the place where words and meaning meet, diverge and meet again; about interpreting from Japanese to English and back, and finding oneself when lost in translation.
“So maybe what a song does to words is reapply the primordial ooze of emotion and synapse from where those words first shivered out.” Howard Parsons’ “Dog Man” is an essay about West Virginia musician John R. Miller, and the words in his songs, and the place between words and songs, that place that, as Howard applies it, reapplies that primordial ooze.
“If one of our greatest fears, as people, as artists, is being misunderstood, then it is no wonder we are fascinated with colors, and with the logistics of sight.” Meredith Russo’s “In The Silence” is an essay on the artist Spencer Finch and his solar-powered, sunset-colored ice cream truck, which handed out sunset-hued ice cream this past summer in Central Park — but it is also an essay about seeing and believing, and believing what we see even when what we see isn’t really what we see.
“Skin-soft black leather and cropped at the waist, with sleeves longer than normal and a diagonal zipper. It feels like it was owned by a prior me. When I put it on I understand the whole thing. How a thing someone makes can make you feel real. I turn around and let her look.” Mila Jaroniec with an essay on fashion designer Lindsay Hearts and on making good things and on making good: how we see our art and ourselves in others and through others and by others (among other things) and how we see.
“I felt old and okay and okay about feeling old in this new bar in East Nashville.” An essay about feeling old and awkward at the record release show for the Nashville band MYYRA.
#1 “The Good Doctor; or, The Doctored Good” by Sam Farahmand (June 21 2015)
“In the end there was the word and the word was with the wolf and the word was Good.” A music and life review, a story about songs and people and punk rock, all in all the telling of an evening with the band Goodwolf.