A Thundering Ha!
I discharged a thundering “Ha” not rarely seen or heard in the waiting room of the doctor’s office. A news item had flashed and vibrated on my wristwatch taking me by surprise. It’s not very often I get an arty news item on my wrist in my doctor’s waiting room and as luck would have it another person, a patient no doubt, sat directly on the other side of the small office looking up almost immediately. The receptionist too leaned over the counter to see what was going on. I felt slightly embarrassed as if being shushed in a library or sneezing in a crowded elevator, the sudden outburst wasn’t something I could really explain to the other person. Why? Because they have more immediate concerns like their impending physical, out-patient procedure or test results rather than hearing my awkward explanation to something so trivial as an art auction. I touched the face of my watch to get a little more of the story. I shook my head and rolled my eyes, no, I shook my head and looked up at the recessed lighting fixture and then the door opened, “Mr. Colson, would you like to come in?”
I sat in my car and reread the story on a slightly bigger screen. It seems the artist “Tendril,” had sold a three second nano-card for seventy million dollars at auction, that’s seventy with six more zeros, for a little nothing of an keepsake, the size of a trading card encased in plastic resin. It reminded me of something you would find in a worn out cardboard display at the end of an aisle as a point of purchase item in a midwestern five and dime, looked over by all the prairie home companions and then picked up by the little baby dumplings as her mother or father was headed for the check-out. Bitter? I don’t think so. Old? Definitely-ish. And maybe that was getting in the way of truly appreciating this new art world sensation, a story to behold, beheld, beholdened? Anyway, here I am sitting in my hybrid wondering if I was going to call somebody or just let it ruminate for a while and maybe I would forget about it.
Tendril, really?! Tendril scans little plastic toys and makes 3D animations with them. Toys I would gather and toss in a box each night after my toddlers had gone to bed. In no time you’d give the little plastic forget-me-nots away or sell them at a garage sale, donate the baubles to Goodwill or more probable, throw them away. But there must be an inner beauty that the neo-gen-x,y and z youthful millionaires love, similar to a Madeline experience I’m guessing. Look at me, sometimes and I wonder if too much art history or artist biographies have impeded my imagination. Maybe everything I’ve done is too precious, well documented and organized. It was still a mystery at sixty, but not to play by the rules at my age could be a real tactical mistake. I might come off as a desperate implacable old fogey, frightening. Not that I am one but that I may be thought of as one would be like death warmed over.
My art, my interests are such an obsession and to see Tendril “get it” so effortlessly and at such a young age it does make one stop and ruminate about where one is really going or doing. Sometimes I hate being alone with my thoughts, extended what ifs and theoretical if onlys, wormholes that last for hours and lead nowhere. Other times I am quite at peace at what I have done creatively and only wish to have given my life’s work a better opportunity to being seen, it’s not about the money or the fleeting fame, I can guess what that is all about and would hate to spend a chunk of my time being interviewed and forced to show-up at parties and fund-raising functions. But to have people, crowds of people seeing my pictures, sculptures and installations together in some kind of retrospective, now that is a dream worth having …and getting. But how? At sixty I feel like I have tried everything at least once. These dreams are not something you stumble on later in life but have followed me and my byzantine psyche forever. This non-stop self-castigation has hindered my growth, upset the applecart of well-intended visual pronouncements. I had already gone through the phase of blaming everyone around me for extraneous obligations like helping with the dishes or taking out the trash, deviating my artistic course by suggesting I teach or volunteer at a homeless center, the last straw was my art dealer disapproval and disparaging candor toward my attention gripping nouvelle nuances in the form of psychedelic paper-mâché reproductions of milieu floral arrangements from sixteenth century portrait paintings. These works at the time were exquisite and a feast for the eye, placating the most irritable of discriminating taste. I was quite proud and had spent several years researching and perfecting my process and concerns, but to no avail, they didn’t sell and travails soon appeared as I went loco in a lackadaisical state of passive resentments and incorrigible bad behavior best described as blatant licentiousness carried out with a devil may care attitude shocking to all who loved me or ever tried to engage me in the simple arithmetic of life. There was a time I stopped answering my phone, wouldn’t leave the house and binged watched all the CSI’s. My wife would try and understand but finally gave up after I started spending savings for second and third tier talent agents, copyright lawyers and regressive primal scream therapy. It wasn’t until I reached the end of my rope by touching rock bottom that this addiction of mine was surely going to get the best of me. I felt like a Moby Dick parable, I was the old harpoon that Captain Ahab would throw out into the vast ocean when necessity beckoned, all wet and rusted with remnants of blood and whale blubber stuck to the end of the dull point of the spear. “Wake up man,” I heard myself say, more than once, and was determined to reconnect with colleagues, some friends and maybe my wife.
So here I am ready to get back on track again, ready to face the music and participate in the game of life without the need to win or feel victimized by my own internal combustible ego, imagine to be so self-consumed with your work that everything else is and obstacle or a bad deal, a waste of time and in some cases a miscarriage of legitimacy. Vitamins anyone? I got my first check-up in years and besides a titch of high blood pressure and a deficiency in vitamin D I was good to go and more or less start a whole health regime backed by science and scheduled to keep my calorie intake down below 2000 and run two to three miles a day for starters. “Ha,” that’s my phone, looks like the doctor’s office, and we were just mentioning them, excuse me, “Hello, Yes, Really, OK, Thank you, I will.” That was the doctor he said I had a suspicious growth on my liver and needed to come in for more tests and a MRI. “Ha.”