Getting married on Sunday!
Why in Taos?
I’ve heard that one New Year’s here you did the The Nines . . .
Like at the Pueblo at Christmas Eve. (More laughter)
I’ve always liked nine because it has that additive function. Four times nine is . . . ?
What does that signify to you?
You’re not a numbers freak?
When you light off nines on New Year’s Eve and it starts to snow, the coincidence and mystery of that . . .
They are nines and not sixes.
They’re from Arabic?
That’s kind of like your own travels through art.
Back to the Nines for a minute.
What do you mean by “signature?“ Identity?
Indefinite and definite at the same time. Before we started I was looking at these things (the Mu Series) and I felt very much as if I were looking at a real religious painting. Not an icon, but almost from a blessed place, looking through to an even more blessed place. The gold frame has a very religious connotation, and then looking through that into something heavenly.
So it was a code of conduct rather than a religious dogma.
And you’ve searched this out?
Let’s go back to your mention of liking the indefinite. I equated that with infinite and you didn’t object and yet, in reference to these paintings, you said you didn’t believe in the soul or the possibility of that indefinite state afterwards . . .
And we ourselves are definitely finite.
And the idea of the soul is unhelpful, in terms of a person’s . . .
|"Crazy Wisdom, lead with human skull fragments, radio,|
blood, and gold,. 14 x 11 inches.
I read a quote of yours that said death is your best friend. Do you still believe that?
A bride price?
What is the statement about death in these paintings?
Using the object itself . . .
Whose blood is it? I just noticed the band-aid on the inside of your elbow . . .
But do you go to the doctor occasionally and have a pint of blood drawn?
The brain and then the gut. When you look at a painting and then realize there’s blood in it, you go, “Where, why, how?” It’s unsettling in the stomach, to me . . . emotionally.
Do you have some shamanistic intent with these? Are you trying to affect people in that same . . .
You’re not calling yourself a shaman.
But is there the intent that these are, in some way, going to affect the viewer on an unconscious or…
Are they recognizable by the tribe?
And your radio can be a very personal object, to me, even though it’s not my radio. (Laughter) It’s a common, communal object with an intellectual or conscious reference.
So you’ve come around in your thinking about what’s relevant?
There was a comment in the Artforum article (Summer, 1982), in which you said it’s time to stop making art about art.
It’s like the Indians in their ceremonies using eagle feathers rather than a pictures of eagles.
To change the subject for a second, I want to pose a question to you that you posed to yourself in your statement.
“Does transient afternoon light look better than art?”
It is futile, then, for a painter to try and paint a landscape, make it better than it is? Is that possible?
Even more abstract than what you’re doing?
I’m trying to deal with mental sets, places that just relax your mind, so that if I’m able to come up with a thought and translate that thought into an object and it does what I want to do, I feel better about it. Really, all my pieces are pictorial organization things to me. It’s a matter of learning how to integrate these curious materials so that they do key in responses to me and others, that I know when I go at it. And that takes time. I don’t say, “This is it.” This is beginning stuff.
What was your major in college?
You grew up in Kentucky?
Did you see the things in Philadelphia by Duchamp?
Where do you think you got your capacity for breaking traditional mind sets?
And nobody ever drummed it into you that you had to know better?
Early on you mentioned you were cynical. What are you cynical about?
Does your work surprise you much?
I guess that spark comes from somebody else’s response to it, and that’s another process in itself.
You’re very interested in that . . . That first piece you did of the gun in Cincinnati (Colt 45, see intro.), the use of blood and bones in these pieces elicit a very guilty response. There seems to be in how one idea terrorizes another, an intent, almost aggressive position.
Yes. I was just wondering how that objectifies itself in your work.
Rather than just having eye baths, or extraordinary visual experiences. You ‘ve got a good question in your written statement, referring again to Buddhism, having no soul, no after life, no transmigration. You end up by saying, “Who makes art for the soulless?” That’s a good question.
Are you political at all?
Are you pessimistic about the future of mankind?
What would make that not inevitable?
When will that happen?
And you don’t put much hope in science, either.
So it’s like Walter Cronkite, “That’s the way it is”?
Or sink into paralytic despair.