Evening(!) Coffee with Dave and Robert Motherwell


One might say that the triumph of modern artists in our society has been the capacity to protect one’s own modes of being. These modes may be well or sick or both, I do not precisely know; but you must recognize that to choose a mode of existence within modern society, and to be able to maintain it, is a considerable accomplishment. It is as though a few gifted children were able to outwit the adult world and protect their own felt necessities.

Robert Motherwell, “Lecture with Charles R. Hulbeck”

The French mathematician Poincare said, “Thought is only a flash between two long nights.” Artists work by these flashes of thought.

Robert Motherwell, “Symbolism”

I had to leave very early this morning to tend a number of university details before my class, and the blog was unfinished. So here it is . . . . I hope this “morning coffee” theme is working O.K.  I thought of it Tuesday morning, August 14, while still away from my home. Since that day, I have been on a routine of reading every morning, early, for inspiration, starting a blog draft of my reading, and launching it the day after, in hopes that letting the ideas “compost” twenty-four hours could lead to something more significant to share. I got out of my routine today, because I was off to school much earlier than usual, then much unscheduled business crashed in on my day, and now I find myself still looking at this Motherwell draft begun yesterday morning right after launching the Cezanne blog.

I do enjoy the quiet of the night, when the rest of the world has seemingly gone to bed and no one is trying any longer to get my attention.  I wish I could paint in my studio, but extensive home maintenance is holding my days hostage lately, and I just wish to get on the other side of it as quickly as possible. And, of course, the first week of college also involves much problem-solving as I settle in with new groups of students and get the subjects rolling down the track. Perhaps next week I’ll find myself in a workable routine again. I have largely missed my life, my “mode of being” today.

The main thing I wish to write tonight is this: Motherwell has held my undying respect since my first year of teaching in 1988. When I recognized the depth of his scholarship in addition to his painterly output, I just wanted to live his kind of dream. He served on twenty-seven college faculties throughout his career, wrote and published heavily, and was in great demand as a public speaker. I have always loved his erudition, and  when I learned that he was perpetually conflicted between his library and his studio, I knew him to be a man after my own heart. I wish I could have sat down and had chats with him as a friend. His quote about the artist’s “modes of being” that I posted above to introduce this blog continues to abide with me; I love living the artist’s contemplative life, love living the dream. Every morning I awake, expecting an Oracle, anticipating inspiration from some divine source, and I am seldom disappointed. This to me is the Life of the Mind.

“Well, to me, James Joyce is the Shakespeare of modernism.”

Robert Motherwell, interview

I was amused to learn that Motherwell had a copy of Ulysses in every room of his house, and he was constantly picking up the book to read at random, having already read the text once in its entirety. To date, I am halfway through the book, and have yet to draw the depths of inspiration from the volume that Motherwell did, but I’m still hoping . . . Motherwell’s devotion to Joyce did lead me to A Porrait of the Artist as a Young Man. That volume I have read twice, and it is that volume that I continue to pick up at random and read with great pleasure; I just don’t have a copy in every room of the house yet.

The hour is drawing late, so I’ll close this one, and thank you for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal, feeling alone.

I blog, knowing I am not alone.



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