We all have things we’ve tried to understand but just don’t get. We listen to lectures or explanations, we’ve read books and pamphlets, but somehow, these things still don’t make sense. A lot of modern art is that way for me. I don’t mean this in a Seinfeldian “What is the deal with those splatter paintings,” kind of way. I can look at a painting and appreciate it for aesthetic reasons. I’ve done some painting myself and studied 19th-century art and I like color and design. I like pop art for the way a lot of it is colorful and subversive. If you consider Impressionism and what came immediately after the beginning of modern art, I can make sense of that, too; the impressionists were painting the world as they saw it, and sometimes seeing is subjective. But there’s a whole lot of art that happened in the 20th century that I can look at and appreciate the talent that went into making it, but can’t really fathom.
So. I was listening to an episode of Fresh Air from last week in which Terry Gross pays tribute to Dennis Hopper. She played a clip from an interview in 1996 in which they get to talking about art. Turns out Hopper was a painter. In the interview, he comes across as incredibly knowledgeable about the art movements of the 50s, 60s, and 70s. And he said something along the lines of Abstract Expressionism being the first truly American visual art form. Before that, American artists mostly copied what the Europeans were doing. But with Abstract Expressionism, artists weren’t using paint to represent something, they were using paint as paint.
Using paint as paint.
It was like an epiphany. I don’t think I’ve ever heard such a succinct explanation of an art movement. (Quoth Wikipedia: “Technically, an important predecessor is surrealism, with its emphasis on spontaneous, automatic or subconscious creation.” What does that even mean?) And that makes a lot of sense to me. It’s kind of experimental, like using paint to see what it can do, what colors you can make, what effects you can create with a brush, or, further, deliberately creating colors and effects just to do it, not with anything in particular in mind. I don’t know if this is accurate, but I listened to Dennis Hopper talk about art, and I felt like suddenly, I got it. I understood what some of those artists were up to.
It’s hot, but you knew that. Yesterday, I went to the book fair at Housing Works. I don’t need any more books, but I bought five of them anyway: one by an author I like, two by authors I’ve been meaning to check out, one by a NYC NaNoWriMo participant, and the last just a random one I bought because I liked the cover. While browsing, I had the thought, “If my book ever winds up in one of these bins, that’s how I will know I’ve made it.”
After that, I walked up Lafayette to Union Square to meet up with a friend. Normally I like walking, but yikes, it was hot.
Today, I have not done much at all. I lost several hours to an SVU marathon on TV. I talked to my dad on the phone, and had this thoroughly unhelpful conversation:
Me: Now that my work schedule is calming down, I think I have to take on some freelance work. I’ve got some leads.
Dad: You want to take on more work even though you’re really busy? On top of everything else you’re already doing? Are you crazy?
Me: Well, I’ll need more money for rent in the fall. I mean, I can afford the increase even if I don’t take on any more work, but it’ll be tight.
Dad: Oh. You should take on some freelance then.
I think my cat Molly is jealous of all the attention Grumpy Harry is getting. But Tumblr is for cat pictures, right? I will try to rectify that soon.
While I was trying to puzzle out the mysteries of tumblr, somebody pointed out that it’s not much more than long-form Twitter, and if Twitter is kind of a brain dump—which, let’s face it—then here is what’s going on right now: I am sitting in my (very hot!) kitchen waiting for a locksmith, who was here earlier to fix the lock on my apartment door but had to go out to buy a part. He said he’d be back in fifteen minutes… twenty minutes ago.
Here are some things I thought about today: 1. I read an article about how the Duggars, while not being outwardly homophobic, have endorsed a lot of anti-gay organizations on their website, and I thought, “But, statistically, at least one of those 19 kids has to be gay.” And then I thought, “Hmm, there’s an idea for a novel.” 2. I’ve had this long essay on feminism and romance novels percolating in my brain for a while. I’m not sure of the best forum for it. But I feel I have some authority on the topic because a) I am a feminist, b) I have read many romance novels, and c) I wrote and (pseudonymously) had published a romance novel. 3. Corollary: I was remembering earlier today that time I met Erica Jong and managed to hold it together enough to have a conversation about women writers, and how so often their books get slapped with pink covers full of shoes and relegated to their own part of the bookstore, because this is “women’s fiction” and not literature, regardless of the quality of the writing. (My book has a pink-ish cover, but has some naked male torso instead of shoes, for the record.) So, maybe this post is my way of owning that a wrote a romance novel, because here’s what’s been happening at parties a lot lately: some friend or acquaintance I haven’t seen in a while will walk up to me and say, “I heard you got published! What’s your book about?” And then I get all embarrassed, and mumble, “Oh, it’s just a romance novel.” But, no, I should should not feel shame, because I wrote a book and somebody decided to publish it, dammit.
Oh, hey, the locksmith showed up!
I made a tumblr.