Ms. Mann had made a landscape I simply could not decipher. I had a picture like that. Charcoal and paint and wax on a large canvas made by a woman I assuredly knew but no matter how, I never knew well. Modotti’s stairwell, but this was doors, steps leading upwards or down, thresholds to or away. The openings were thick in their darkness, but whether that black was within or without, I could not say. A kind of vertigo. An incapacity to gain my bearings. An experience that art and women have always supplied me with in large measure.
I approached a room at the St. Louis Art Museum that completely gave credence to its acronym. On one giant wall hung three enormous panels by Gerhard Richter, the three months most Winter. Opposite to it across the spacious room – a gargantuan assemblage by Anselm Kiefer was hanging. Between the two I foundered, awestruck and thoroughly a-mazed (assuming that means “to be jettisoned into an unsolvable maze or labyrinth”). Lost. Immersed. Afloat. A parallel to loving my wife.
Like cattle in a feedlot among females, I graze, stare dumbly and bellow, then stunned, flayed and strung up all of a sudden. Before I know what’s happened. Art is like that. You wander in, something strikes you in your senses, you move in – kazowy! – you’re rearranged, undone, overloaded.
I must say I don’t really mind the dystopia, aporia, conundrum’d state of being this implies, but to sense a ground for being in it (to secure one’s being at all!) is tricky. Usually it emerges after the stupor – you become cognizant of pain. Your throat is slit, your blood is gone, you’re an artifact, a meal.
Humans are not that helpless.
This was intended to be a consideration (astute, reasonable, hopefully enjoyable) of ambiguity and liminality – their presence in our apprehension of the world – of art and persons and things. Persons, places and things, how about, the designations “art” and “spouse,” “painter,” “friend,” “S.L.A.M” or “self” are afterbirths of our relations.
So the stairs, the leaky lake-y landscape, the architectures of doorways, the ladies and the painted times…
where I enter, where I leave, seems entirely up for grabs. Depends on the day, my mood or company, my body’s presence with my mind (and vice-versa), the music or chatter or silence in my head, and so on.
There’s a thrill to it, an ecstasis – as if sometimes I become phantom, fleeing and spreading into the surface of things; at others a long contemplation, as if merging with jelly at the bottom of the sea. Usually, amid much stammering, I end up stuttering: “I don’t know. I can’t describe it,” whether to partner or journal,
and begin again.
And sometimes I just breathe (think about breathing) and gaze. Something like a ubiquity of assimilation occurs, a vanishing and presence – to dis-appear. Not to cease, but, apparently, to occur “in,” diffuse, non-identically and undifferentiatedly.
Where am I?
Or might I be aptly participant? As if the similarities of cells and atoms (the family resemblance of objects) and the woven unity of wind have been accepted, acknowledged, awared in the confusion (“fusion-with”).
I don’t know. I can’t describe it.
But I like it and fear it at once – secure and unsettling – like “home,” as it were, or my “self.”
A sort of cognition of the ever-unknown lexeme “I” in its ever-unknowing surround…of people, places and things…that primal chaos and truth. Ambiguous, liminal, present.