Somewhere in the midst of Mrs. Dalloway, Herzog and Motherwell

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Gently Rocking in the Chair this Morning

My allergies for the second day in a row have me knocked off center. I stumble over this, because I have taken health for granted my entire life; I just have never been “sickly.” I have a good motor, and have been very fortunate in my ability to keep moving through life. But I am now on my second day of sinus infection and unusual wobbliness. The medication is beginning to work, I can tell. I slept till after 8:00 which is unusual, showered, am now having my “thoughtful cup of coffee” (Herzog) and am experiencing a Mrs. Dalloway stream of consciousness. It is not my custom to begin a blog this way, but I feel an impulse to pour out my current feelings and mood. I may choose to delete this rather than post it. We’ll see.

Mrs. Dalloway is the first work I ever read by Virginia Woolf. As I was reading one of Larry McMurtry’s essays, he continually came back to Woolf, talking about how beautifully she wrote. Opening Mrs. Dalloway, I was not only rocked by the beauty of her prose, but totally submerged in her stream of consciousness style that I had always loved so much in James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. When I encounter stream of consciousness prose, I experience that “shock of recognition” pointed out by artist Robert Motherwell; I recognize that my own mind similarly flows from subject to subject, stimulus to stimulus, as I move about my life, most especially that first hour after rising in the morning. This is another matter of my life that I have simply taken for granted.

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Gentle Saturday Morning with Robert Motherwell

“Socrates says something and it’s translated, What you say is true Socrates.” But as Motherwell pointed out, the Greek word was aletheia, which meant revealed or unhidden. “And so a literal translation,” he noted, “would be you’ve unhidden that point, Socrates.”

   “And I love that concept,” Motherwell continued. “In that sense, I wish the word truth didn’t exist. Because one of the reasons I’ve been able to move all over the place is I take that for granted. Everybody has his own revelations, but the mass of the totality has never been revealed to anybody.” It was this hidden element of reality–buried within the unconscious, concealed beneath the flow of time and events, embedded in certain forms and symbols, inherent in certain colors and combinations of colors–that Motherwell pursued throughout his life as an artist. And because he chose to seek and encompass the variety of existence rather than embrace a single ideological stance, his artistic practice was remarkably complex.

Jack Flam, “Introduction: Robert Motherwell at Work” in Robert Motherwell: A Catalogue Raisonné, 1941-1991, vol. 1.

When I retired in June, 2017, I knew I wanted to purchase for myself a single, memorable (and expensive!) retirement gift that would encapsulate my years in education as well as my future in the arts. When the elegant three-volume catalogue raisonné arrived on my doorstep, compliments of Amazon, I was elated, and two years later, have nearly completed my reading of the first volume. The quote above merely points out Motherwell’s vast range of explorations in painting styles and subject matter. What is easily overlooked is his erudition. Motherwell had pursued graduate studies in art history and philosophy and was a lover of literature. His collected writings reveal a mind that was continually swimming in oceans of art, philosophy and literature.

This is what I love most about Motherwell, because throughout my life I also have grazed from many pastures. And every time I think I am supposed to settle in to one pursuit, I stop and ask Why? Anytime a friend has gently criticized me for my “lack of focus”, I simply ask why I am expected to have only one hobby horse to ride. I have always loved my life as an educator, and am overwhelmingly grateful to Texas Wesleyan University that they continue to offer me contracts. I also love making art and cannot thank The Gallery at Redlands enough for giving me an artistic home. And I love reading and journaling, and love my library of over 2,000 volumes, my four shelves of journals, and sufficient time now in retirement to relax in a comfortable chair and read for pure pleasure.

For over three decades, I have told my students that one element of human nature I never understood was boredom. Throughout my life, I have never been bored (except when sitting through a compulsory meeting; anytime someone refers to a “good meeting” I regard that as a lie). From my childhood, I have been immersed in a world filled with wonder, a world I will never fathom. At this age, I am still a wanderer, still grazing from many pastures, and thankful for every opportunity. Today is Saturday, but as a friend recently told me–when you’re retired, every day is Saturday!

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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2 Responses to “Somewhere in the midst of Mrs. Dalloway, Herzog and Motherwell”

  1. Jay Haeske Says:

    Thanks for sharing this with us, you are an inspiration for me.

    Like

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