Aug. 4 2012
The religious conservatives have it wrong ... again. Gay marriage will not destroy the institute of marriage. How can people who want to get married end marriage? In fact, gay men and women who crave marriage are the distraction, the front, the “beard” if you will for the real secret, pervasive threat to the Institute of Marriage ... childless, single, joyous, happy and free women who just can’t get worked up about getting married and who do not want children. And our numbers are growing.
Aug 20, 2012
I love what I do, I get to use the skills I've accumulated over the years and it feels great being of service to my community (we are about to celebrate our 5th Anniversary). All in all I'm feeling pretty chipper about things and more comfortable in my skin than ever before, regardless of its visible signs of, well, you know. My "older is better" plan seems to be working out.
So I didn't feel any "oh ohs" about getting older...until my 60th birthday. That's when it began to dawn on me that I had passed the halfway mark awhile ago. Add this slow awakening to the experience of time speeding up and without a doubt my senior years have not only arrived -- they are gaining momentum. That light at the end of the tunnel of life is a train coming right at me.
JULY 12, 2000
I haven’t passed an exit in the last half-hour, but one miraculously appears. It’s an exit with a gas station north of the Grapevine. A beautiful oasis, surrounded by flat, golden fields, with coffee and a telephone. My crippled wagon pulls in and clanks to a halt, and I step out into sun and dry desert wind in my hair and the deep quiet of all that uninterrupted space. The unexpected has caught me.
JOHN BALDESSARI INTERVIEW
DVL: Do you have any art world jokes?
JB: God…I haven’t gotten any jokes lately.
DVL: That’s funny. Why isn’t anyone making jokes about the art world? So what are some of the differences in the way gallery business was conducted in the 60’s and the 90’s?
JB: The way business was conducted in the 60’s is that there was no business. Looking back at it I don’t know how galleries stayed on. I think probably the way it worked was that they would have maybe one person or two that sold and those profits would support the rest of the gallery. There was more commitment back then as well. Now dealers want everyone to sell and they weed out the people that don’t. It’s more like business now. I’m not saying that committed galleries don’t exist, that’s too harsh but in the ‘80’s everyone got used to everybody selling. This goes for artists as well. If they’re with a gallery and do a show and nothing sells they think there’s something wrong with the gallery and not with them and they’ll say, “I’m going to this other gallery. So there’s a lot of shopping around and one-night stands by artists and galleries.
DVL: What aspect of the business do you find most difficult?
JB: The business part.
DVL: What stands out as the most annoying ongoing problem?
JB: Money. It’s always money.
DVL: You mean they’re not selling or not giving you what they owe?
JB: Any and all of these reasons. Money is the lubrication that makes the wheels turn. There has to be money there but somehow we always want it to be pure money. Like in the MOCA show of conceptual art lots of artists got upset that the money came from Phillip Morris. Well what money isn’t tainted in some fashion?
DVL: Big money at least…
JB: But also there is just less money in the art world. It’s pretty much done on a shoestring. People aren’t printing catalogues like they used to or they aren’t using four colors in posters anymore, just on. It’s cheaper white wine at the openings. Cost cutting everywhere. But that’s okay because I came into it when there was no money anyway. I guess what’s most difficult for me is the business of business. I just don’t have a head for it. No expertise. I forget that it is a business. I kinda think that it’s a wonderful playground and it’s not. It’s a business. If there is any money involved it’s not there because they think you’re good looking. It’s because they expect money back. A friend of mine said that you should call gallery dealers merchants and then the relationship becomes clear. There are artists who are also very astute business people, it can happen, but a lot of the time I am so much into what I’m doing I forget about the business end. I’m giving the gallery 50% of what I make but then I have to hire someone to look after the people that are looking after the 50% I make.
What's the difference between a good painting and a great painting?
You've been having these love affairs with some of the great artists of the century. Have you discovered similar qualities among them?
MB: Actually it's less about what’s similar and more about their differences. Those differences become like guidelines, stepping stones to the next level in my search and aesthetic development. I also noticed the enormous amount of time that these artists spend on the work. It's like a religious activity. Morandi was almost religious in his approach. Repeating the same bottles on the table but in different permutations. It was as if they were on an altar. The act of painting becomes like a long prayer. With the history of modernism that long prayer shortened. And now with the computer it's really fast. Instead of a long-term focus it’s become quick collaging and editing. It used to be like a fetish object that took a lot of stroking and attention in order to absorb the magic.
Maybe that's the difference between a good idea and a great idea. A good idea is clever, quick, spontaneous. It doesn't necessarily demand an intense focus. Whereas a great idea is the evidence of a long focused attention and I think more of the substance of the artist, the psychology or dare I say soul.
MB: Or Spirit. Not just in the visual arts but also with music and singers. It's the genius in the interpretation or the spirit in the interpretation.
Sue Coe is one of the clearest and most convincing political artists around. Her masterful drawing skills are married to a searing intelligence unafraid to gaze long and hard at issues most people, art world citizens included, would prefer to give a cursory nod to before pressing on to less disturbing activities.
She is not interested in the post-modern strategies of cute, clever, witty, ironic, ambiguous or any of the other methods that allow everyone to stay one or two or three steps outside of what is being considered. Her techniques instead wrap the issues around us so we can't help but feel the warm, frightened, outraged, cruel or compassionate heart at the center of everyone involved. Our interview took place over the phone in early March as she prepared for her next installment of illustrations for the New Yorker magazine.
Dianne V. Lawrence: What is your definition of politics?
Sue Coe: The muscle that cloaks the skeleton of economics.
What is your definition of morality?
SC: The skin that covers the muscles. I'm not sure there is a universal definition of morality. The dominant culture defines the mores. Do we have, as humans, an internal moral compass?
I think so...but true north...the big pull of power and money, has a tendency to mute other directions.
I was reading Porkopolis. [Sue's expose on the slaughterhouse industry] there are horrendous stories. Baby pigs being castrated while conscious and without any protection against the pain. Pigs strung upside down while conscious and then stung by an electrical prod before their throats were slit. Some accidentally dropped from their shackles to crash-land on their head. There's the story about a slaughter man who in order to deal with a cow who refuses to go into the slaughter pen will stab the cows eyes to blind it and then its anus to get it to move forward. Another man refers to pigs a stupid because they don't want to go into the slaughter pens. These are a few of the horrors and cruel indignities the animals are subjected to and what you kept going back to witness in order to create your images. I would imagine it would take Herculean strength and commitment. How do you keep from being overwhelmed with despair pain and anger?
SC: Although these emotions are very real it's not useful to be drowned in them. Emotion is not the entire truth. We live in a death and life stream and it's how we balance our contributions to the struggles. At some point in my life if I saw an animal with a broken leg, or an eye gouged out at a stockyard, I would be obsessed with the suffering of that animal…like a tooth that has broken, my tongue straying to the jagged edge, a reminder over and over of the suffering. How did that help the animal? I learned that the attachment to the emotion of suffering had a similar route to the attachment to the concept of happiness. Real compassion is where our actions lessen than the suffering and cruelty. If we are going to be long distance runners we pass ourselves.
What response did you get from the slaughter industry?
SC: It varied…from the workers themselves, many responses. Surprisingly dominant was agreement with the conditions I portrayed. In fact I could do Dead Meat the sequel, based on information I have subsequently been given. One young man gave me a series of photos from a slaughterhouse where he worked that were terrible, just terrible. I find that people in this type of work want to talk about what they do. They want to debate it. They are mostly alienated from it, they become automatons. The slaughter industry is not different from any other. It steals the workers labor, for little pay and in the end there is blood money. From owners of meat packing plants I got justification “we feed the world” “create jobs” etc..
You've gazed long and unflinchingly at humanities seemingly infinite capacity to not only ignore the suffering of others but to even exercise a great amount of creativity in creating it. Money greed and fear are some of the motivators. Do you suspect any other factors?
SC: We are a social species and need the approval support of the tribe. Our behavior is learned. We collude with ideologies that are not in the best interest of our species survival. Our culture also stresses resolving conflict with force not imagination I spent last summer with macaque monkeys. We could learn a lot from their conflict resolution.