Artists Continue to Make Art

This is a different world, my friends. Last week, as I grudgingly made the First Thursday gallery slog, my ear was unnervingly tuned to how many sentences either started with or contained the disclaimer, "But since September 11...." These thoughts usually contained a suspension of our usual healthy frivolity, a change in perception of meaning, or a new declaration of spirituality (the latter I generally distrust). And there is an interesting disconnect, a gap in the usual flow of understanding, when such conversations happen in proximity to art, which itself uncomfortably straddles the rhetorical divide between frivolity and necessity. (What I mean is our interpretation of it, not its intent.) What do artists think about this? What are they doing about it?

One unarticulated question was answered when I found Leslie Clague selling drawings in Occidental Square (where it is extremely rare for me to find anything I like). Each of the little drawings showed a vast expanse of sky--sometimes blue, sometimes violet, sometimes clear, sometimes with faint clouds--with a teeny tiny airplane flying across it. They were like wee, dear puzzles and should have been selling crazy-like, but weren't, and I asked Clague if she thought the subject matter was off-putting. "I don't think so," she said. "I think of them as optimistic. Instead of making a thousand cranes, I'm going to make a thousand of these." I would love to see a thousand of Leslie's drawings hanging from a ceiling somewhere.

The next day I had coffee with Sean Vale, who posed me this problem: "I sit in my studio and I think, 'The world is falling apart and I'm making these white paintings and I can't figure out why.'" But what was growing out of this stalemate between artist and work was--I thought--a more honed understanding of why he made the work he did. We talked about white being both blank and repressed, about things that are covered, erased, fought down instead of being looked at head-on--about, in short, what it means to make art in a world where you're geopolitically impotent. I don't know about Sean, but our conversation certainly made me feel better.

Gone, but Not Forgotten

The incomparable writer W(infried) G(eorg) Sebald was killed last Friday in a car accident in England at age 57. I can't tell you how this makes me feel, or how it felt to get the briefest e-mail ever written ("Awful") from a friend of mine who was possibly Sebald's most devoted fan. The German-born writer's elegant work fused truth and fiction with history and, at times, photography, to reinvent writing altogether. His most recent book, Austerlitz, had finally seemed to have caught the eye of the wider public, and now, well, there it is.

Gone from Forgotten

In more bad arts news, six pieces of art were stolen from the Forgotten Works Gallery and an adjacent studio downtown. The works were exhibited in a show by the artist group Restart. For Christ's sake, people! If you're going to steal, don't steal from artists. Most of them have nothing but their brains and their work. How many times do I have to say it?

Various Other Tidbits

Younger artists may get the spotlight, but older artists get the money: The Flintridge Foundation recently announced 12 West Coast artists whose work demonstrates "a distinctive voice dating back 20 years or more" who will each receive grants of $25,000. Two of them--Mary Henry and Gaylen Hansen--are fine Washington painters whose work is well known around Pioneer Square.... The Egyptian Theater on Capitol Hill set a new record when Amélie opened in mid-November, grossing close to $60,000 in one week. Take that, Harry Potter.... Confidential to the ass-groping Santa Claus at Vital 5: My boyfriend is going to kill you.

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