Friday, February 12, 2010

Man, Was I Starving

So, I pulled this shroud off my head -- or more like, I looked up from the dull, hard groove that is sometimes easier than being teased by creative yearning -- and I was starving. I mean, insatiably hungry.

During the last six days, I've slathered myself in contemporary art zines, read some stories from TinHouse and Zoetrope. I pulled out some paints. I watched Fellini's 8 1/2. I started Dharma Bums. I'm out of control. Hmm, I say I'm out of control to protect this side of me, I realize, when really, truthfully, I'm feeling more back to normal.

Allison's visit inspired me, but here's what else: I found this little funky shop across the street from our local cemetery on 14th Street. The shop has a benign, almost lame name, but inside there is a world of funky, fun items from hipster clothing to books to Peruvian tin art to stuffed toys in the shape of uteruses and anatomical hearts. It's the energy in there that feels authentic and warmly edgy, if that's possible. The woman who owns the shop is magnetic. She's in her 50's with a wiry, orange bob and 50's style eyeglass frames. She stands tall and very erect, but she is warm and talkative. It dawned on me that she was the woman who owned a punk shop in the late 70's and early 80's called Nana, on Broadway, in old Santa Monica. It was the coolest shop in town, other than the killer thrift stores we used to have. In middle school, I snuck into Nana weekly, self consciously, and fawned over the shop's items, and her. I idolized her to a degree, because she was unique and warm still; she was interested in being part of the community and catering to our town's uniqueness. 30 years later, she feels forced to keep this spirit alive in what she feels is the only interesting part of Santa Monica left; near the cemetery, on the lower-economic side of town. I said, "Are you Nancy from Nana?" And her red eyebrows shot up. "Yes!" she said. Then I noticed the LA Times article pinned up behind her with a caption like, "The original punk of the westside" or something like that. We reminisced about old SM -- she's more bitter than I about it -- but I do love this part of town a lot so there was no debating her points. She said, "I get so mad when the women above Montana Ave ask me if I'm scared to be over here." She said this loudly, but she didn't really sound angry. She said, "The people across the street don't bother me at all." She meant the dead. I laughed. They're cool with me too, I told her. Especially this cemetery. The energy there is very calm. Anyway, I've been back to the shop a few times -- took Allison there too -- and I feel an urge to stop by every day though I don't want to buy anything, and it dawned on me that when I first started hanging out a little too breathlessly at her first shop, it was when I was a weird kid who didn't mind being weird. I wore funky stuff without being punk or anything else and I thought about odd things for a kid; always unintentionally on the outside track of music and art and writing. I fit into nothing, but liked a lot. And god I've been missing that side of me. I don't let her stray off or get buried too deeply, but I haven't really fed into that side for a while. Last summer at Squaw, for sure, but I miss visual art -- paintings and film -- and I miss the act of painting and I miss music. It's obviously not weird, but I don't mind calling it that. So, Nancy, formerly of Nana, and now back with the cool people over on 14th street reminded me of all that because lord have mercy, she hasn't stopped herself from being weird. She's true to that.

This Fellini movie, 8 1/2, kind of put me in a spin. It took me three fucking days to watch it because of time and Duty Calls and all that, but I have the patience for that right now. Remember, I'm on the upswing of inspiration. I read some of the online reviews of the film and it seems an artistic vice-like pressure resonates with a lot of people, certainly me too, but the film seemed more about rejecting perfection more than anything else. The guy crumbles under the pressure to make perfect decisions then only feels better when he lets it all go. He rejects the perfect woman, and she is perfect in the most non-annoying ways, meaning she is genuinely, purely perfect. She was brilliant. So anyway, the guy is only happy in the ups and downs of his imperfect life, with the imperfect characters around him. There are scenes that floor me in the softest ways. Like: The children in the boarding house who make up a magical word to not necessarily squash their fear of the shadows, but to turn the fear into good luck. The scene with La Saraghina dancing on the beach for the boys. She is a transient prostitute; kinda monstrous until she starts dancing and flashing her eyes. And the guy, as a boy, gets caught by the priests watching her and he's put through this soul-crushing shame and humiliation, and still he goes back to see the beautiful Saraghina dance.

El Conguero used to say, Imperfection makes perfection tolerable. We'd talk about stuff like that, and I've spent years periodically wrapping my mind around this concept. We used to talk about how being off rhythm, naturally, is hard to do (it's when one tries too hard to have rhythm that they are thrown off). Imperfections in rhythm manifest as syncopation, which is often more interesting. And though I love the idea that perfection is barely tolerable, I think more that it's actually perfection that makes imperfection more likable, more interesting. Drives me to it anyway.

The story I read in TinHouse was by David Foster Wallace called The Planet Trillaphon As It Stands In Relation to the Bad Thing, and immediately I thought, oh boy. And when the first paragraph describes, in first person, how the guy is functioning on Planet Trillaphon vs. on Earth, I thought, god, stick with this if you can. And then the story became a very real, impactful and painful story about depression with a goofy veneer. I sank very deeply when this hit me. And then after 17 pages, the story ends, mid-story, mid-sentence (mid-sentence!) -- it just lops off. And I wanted to cry my eyes out. I'm not sure if anyone else could have made that work. I've read the end paragraph a few times since, though the words really don't mean anything. I was just kind of mourning the story, him.

I'll leave you with paintings. I've been checking out this German artist named Heiko Pippig. I think he's pretty famous in Germany and Europe, but I can't tell if he is here. Maybe. Like I said, I've been out of it. But I think this painting is just terrific. It's from 2007 and I think it's called Im Raderwerk.

It's big so here's the left side.
This is the right side. And here's a painting by Mina. In class, they had to create their renditions of a Picasso. Man, I think this is great. Which, p.s., every time I think genuine gushiness over my kids' art, I unfortunately get all filled with my mother's voice of meaty discouragement. She was the artist, y'all. I'm the athlete, 'member? That cog has been a motherfucker to shake loose. Splinter by splinter though. So, here's Mina's greatness because there's room enough for everyone's pure greatness.


Mandi said...

Wow, Mina's creation is freaking amazing. Definitely worth displaying somewhere prominent for a long time. (Hey, my Mom once framed a painting I did in 2nd grade and 25 years later it's still hanging on her wall, and it isn't half as good as Mina's!).

Marigoldie said...

Mina's painting and your painting (in addition to your life's body of work, tangible and intangible) are freaking amazing. Your art week is kicking my ass, too. Oh, what a way to live.

madness rivera said...

Hi Mandi - for sure. I have a whole gallery of the girls' work framed in the bathroom; since Maya was 2 I think. It's all awesome awesome work.

Thanks A. I'm trying to manifest this new series of ideas in paint. Not sure I can pull it off yet, but excited to try. The art week is really kicking my butt in such good ways. I hope I can retain it for awhile.

Marigoldie said...

If you need me to, I'll come back out and stoke the fire a little bit...

Anonymous said...

Love your insights, love the blog. Discovered it on accident, but keep returning, in part, because your observations and sensibility maintains a connection to place for me. I was born at St. John's Hospital and my father is buried in the cemetery on 14th Street (as are other family members including my maternal grandmother... she was actually laid to rest in the spot where she once grew pumpkins prior to the cemetery expansion.) My mother attended Uni High and Santa Monica City College before she and her family were forced to Manzanar in the 1940's. Spent my formative years in/around Papa Bach's on Santa Monica Blvd, a bookstore my best friend's father owned. I've been gone from CA a long time, but grateful to know you're keeping the true spirit of Santa Monica alive. BTW, Mina's portrait is extraordinary. Hope she continues painting, she "speaks" a powerful visual language.
Kind thanks for everything you share. -pon

Rebel Girl said...

Papa Bach's - I was there!

Love the art.

I cry everytime I read David Foster Wallace now.


xo -

(check out the Mark on teh Wall - a tribute to a poet you should know - you probably do...)

madness rivera said...

Hi Pon, your comment touched me a lot. Thank you. I think the spirit of SM is still here, faded. I still love it. I don't have any dead at the 14th Street Cemetery, but I'll shout a hello to your people when I drive by there this week. Mina plays basketball over at the YWCA there. That YWCA does god's work for sure by providing transitional housing for homeless women, mainly mothers and teens. I love the visual of the pumpkin patch, and being buried there. There are three new(er)community gardens in SM, one of which is on Broadway between Cloverfield and 26th and in the fall there was a pumpkin patch. Man, it's a great looking and riveting plant. I'm sorry your mother suffered at Manzanar.

Oh Lisa, I'm sorry about Lucille too. Dios, the timing . . .I'm reading the poems now.

lagata said...

Love Mina's artwork, I too always hung my kid's creations. Something about framing it and putting it on the wall just makes it really pop.

I'm glad you are feeding the artist in you.