I motored into Santa Monica yesterday morning while listening to the radio broadcast of the presidential inauguration, and the actual swearing-in took place as I wound through the Sepulveda pass. At the precise moment Rehnquist offered his congratulations some more actual swearing took place, but my windows were up and no one was the wiser. As I passed the Federal Building in Westwood I wondered what changes were occurring inside, what signals were being sent from the domes and dishes that sit upon the roof. Spooks and satellites and subs. I love that stuff.
I was on my way to photo l.a. 2001, a photographic print exposition, they called it. A clusterfuck is what it was, but they can't really put that in the brochure. What I wanted from the event was to have a seriously good gander at some of my favorite images superbly printed and exhibited and, as we say here in the sedatin' land, gosh o'mighty, did I get what I was lookin' for.
Cartier-Bresson, Brassai, Winogrand, all my fab faves were hangin' on the walls at the civic auditorium. I have a feeling my mouth was wide open as I wandered around. A gaping pie hole is a sure sign of a hick in a room full of arty types, and as I moved amid the throng I was probably coming off as a big ol' Gomer. But then, if I were a member of the cognoscenti I'd know that the true artistes venture into such places only in disguise, as hicks perhaps, and so, after some mental gymnastics, I was able to feel quite comfortable in the place. Actually, the civic auditorium isn't a place. As I learned yesterday -- it's a space.
I arrived in time to get a seat at the presentation by Graciela Iturbide, a Mexican photographer of some renown. One of her major works is a series she shot in Oaxaca on the Zapotec culture, a matriarchy. Not what one might expect. Mexican chicks, man oh man.
What struck me most about the event was how much eye contact there was among those in attendance. I mean, I've been to conventions and trade shows and air shows and cat shows, and they are as one might expect when groups of people with a common interest go meandering around a place, er, space dedicated to their passion. But this was different. Photographers, art dealers, and connoisseurs are in the business of looking, and the looking, the just plain raw looking, was a distinct and palpable element here. And while it did make me feel more looked at, I also felt freer to take the time to see, to use my eyes to savor images and people's faces and bodies and movement. It was fun; a sort of implied acceptability when it comes to visual scrutiny can be very liberating.
Art students. In a sense, we were all art students there. But there seemed to be two distinct groups in attendance: those who have spent enough time in that milieu to get over themselves and into the money, and those who still strive and climb to satisfy needs not met by the time they are done with art school. I am, of course, being severe in my generalization of art folk, but that is part of the joy of observing people who try very hard to make an impression. I suppose any endeavor will have participants who are more sanguine and businesslike while others remain more passionate, and even at my advanced age I can still get goofy over aesthetics and big ideas. I guess I'm just glad to be beyond my own adolescence, an adolescence I see adhering to some people's character even as they approach middle age.
One bit of wisdom I'd like to pass on to those of you out there who want to do well in the art world -- do your best and work your hardest to acquire meaningful eyeglasses. Even if your vision is 20/20, you would do well to wear frames that indicate a high level of sophistication. Be bold. Severe style implies you are a visionary. Take those big black frames that match your big black coat and run with them. If you can shave your head too, well, your future is shatterproof.
Even more effective is an eye patch. Preferably black. Worn on the right eye, I think it means you're straight, on the left, I believe it means you're gay, and one on each eye means, of course, you're a critic.
After a few hours of intense looking, what better remedy could there be for overload except actually going out and shooting photographs? I walked a couple of blocks west over to the pier to get a bite of lunch and take some pictures out in the sunny land of the normal gaze averters. That was fun too.
Amy is coming out of her viral funk, but she was lucky enough to pass it on to Viv first. The plague that ran through this house last week was strong enough to keep Amy out of school and even Viv, yes, even Viv stayed home on Friday. An illness that bad hasn't come our way in years, and I've been avoiding contact with my loved ones with a powerful dedication, washing my hands a dozen times a day. So far the efforts have been successful, allowing me the opportunity to wander through big rooms in other towns, and breathe on and stare at people who do the same right back at me, but I'm still keeping my fingers clean and crossed.
"Artistry Jumps" -- Stan Kenton -- KENTON IN HI-FI
"A man is a critic when he cannot be an artist, in the same way that a man becomes an informer when he cannot be a soldier."
- Gustave Flaubert