SHE SHOWED HIM.
“I included in the stuff I sent you* a bit of a page from a book I used to have of stereoscopic aerial photographs of canyons. The pictures are taken from directly above. The resultant effect is a completely unreadable and insignificant depiction of canyons. This however only heightens the effect when the photos are viewed stereoscopically. I remember the first time I looked at them through the viewer, I actually experienced vertigo.”
This is part of a note I wrote to woman who I had sent nine pieces of art. She had served as the model for the art and I sent them to her at the same time I sent all such work I had in my archive out to the people who had posed for them. The itemized list I included in the note is quoted below. The 9th item on the list is the work under discussion here.
The flat obscurity of the single eye photos emphasizes the surface pattern and the marvelous black and white textures. I liked them flat too so I tore pages from the book, put them in an opaque projector and cast them on the walls of my room. I looked around at the walls and where I saw something interesting I put up a piece of paper and traced what I saw. The texture of the wall is visible in the pencil marks of the traces.
What I saw, I suppose, was very like what is seen in a Rorschach ink blots though far more vivid than I ever supposed the inkblots could be. It was as much a projection of my wider unconscious self as is a dream. The experience was breathtaking and nerve-racking.
The addition of psychological depth to these ambiguous shapes strikes me now as perfectly complementary to the vertigo- inspiring addition of depth in the stereoscopic view. Much of what I consider my best work was produced by very similar techniques. But even my best work shares a weakness: ultimately I fail to give viewers an experience as compelling as the one I have in seeing these images flower out of my dream mind. My question has always been how I can provide someone with an experience equal in intensity to the experience I have in the initial confrontation with these images?
[My answer for the most part has been to work mostly in promoting creativity, in teaching process to individuals rather than attempting to sell them images that are painfully personal, idiosyncratic, obscure and never as valuable as anyone else as they are to me.]
The drawing “She Shows Him…” was produced in the first batch of these traces.
What is remarkable to me in looking closely at “She Shows Him” is the detail. There is a remarkable accuracy in this drawing, from the anatomy of her back to the texture and volume of her hair. And this was produced merely, truly, by tracing. And what I was tracing were the tones in a photograph of canyons.
I think the first thing I learned about the arts was probably the first thing everybody learns. The arts are somehow special important things, spoken of in terms of Truth and Spirit and Soulfulness. Aiming at these vague targets, every effort is doomed to miss. But here in actually having images emerge before my eyes, images which spoke more honestly than I ever do consciously to myself, in them there was real truth. Certainly they offered a bracing encounter capable of educating my soul.
“She Shows Him…” was the one piece among the images that I sent this woman that had been exhibited. It was also the one piece that is precious to me. It is precious to me because it was one of the first pieces produced by this process. And this process I consider worthy of all the big words always propping up the arts.
The incident to which the title refers was an one with all of the anguish and confusion of adolescence in it. Ahe image was found in the projection and traced at a time when I no longer realized the incident haunted me. It emerged like a long denied sob.
- Seated Nude. 1987. Pencil.
- Standing Nude, profile. 1986. Pencil. Developed into a painting since lost.
- “Leda + Swan.” 1986 (?) Conte’ Crayon.
- Torso. Study for the Painting, “Meg Sleeping” 1986 (?) Pastel.
- Face in Profile. Study for the Painting, “Meg Sleeping” 1986 (?) Pencil. Painting lost.
- Sketchbook page, prep for a painting, “Anxiety” 1984-5. Ballpoint. Painting never executed.
- Sketchbook page, 1984-5. Pen. (A fine example of adolescent immaturity, but a nicely rendered profile of the flying figure.
- Sketch of my impression of the first anxiety attack I ever witnessed. 1984-5. Ball point pen.
- “She shows him…” approx. 1987. Pencil.
2. OF VANITY