timothy ware

2019.20

            Most colleges have held their graduation ceremonies within the past week so I guess that I will say, as of now, I have been a professional artist for 20 years. I graduated in 1999. Getting an MFA is probably not like getting a lot of other advanced degrees. Or maybe it is and all college, aside from medical school, is a sham. To be honest, I was given a degree that I do not think I deserved at the time. I was an artist in name only. I didn’t know much and didn’t even know what I didn’t know. I worked really hard in school and got a nice participation award. My philosophy in art school (and for about 10 years after that) was that most people are lazy, and I can work more than they can. Granted what I meant by “lazy” was really that people had a balance in their lives, and I didn’t. The majority of the nights of graduate school I painted until 2:00-3:00AM. My wife (fiancé at the time) would call me long distance almost every morning and wake me up. I had a TV in my studio to keep me company. If you didn’t know, in the late ‘90s, the Tonight Show was rebroadcast at 2:00AM. I know this because I just turned on NBC and left it there in the background and heard the Tonight Show twice a night. I had movies on audio cassette. I taped them from my VCR onto a tape deck. Rear Window has been my favorite movie since I was 10 years old. It is a jewel of sound even without the picture. I only remember taking one night off during those two years. I sat down on my couch, I think to watch the final episode of Seinfeld, and for some reason, the plaster ceiling in the dining area of my apartment spontaneously crashed to the ground. No warning whatsoever. It didn’t seem like a good idea to take nights off after that.

            Art school was too focused on talking about the process of making art, which is a nice way of saying that it was about being an art student, not learning how to be an artist. It was camp, divorced from reality that one day you were going to graduate and leave and have to make your way in the world. I had to sit through endless hours of critiques debating what the word “painting” meant. If you’re reading this, thinking, “I know what a painting is”, let me tell you, you do. That it’s debated and never settled at the tune of $60k in debt is pathetic. You’d have a better chance finding 10 theologians that agree on what “selah” means than finding 10 MFA candidates agreeing on what a “painting” is. When you graduate, poof, it’s gone. All of the sudden, no one needs to have that conversation anymore. You’re an artist, making work. Making terrible work. And who cares what a “painting” is? You’re more concerned with the fact you are absolutely terrible at this thing of which you are presumably a “master”.  

            Despite the bitter taste I have in my mouth of art school, I am still very grateful to have received the scholarships that I got so I didn’t carry any debt out the door with me. My advice to all students with a fresh BFA is the same advice I have offered for 15 years: go get a job and make art. If you want a masters, wait. Get a full ride somewhere after you’ve spent some time teaching yourself how to be an artist or go low-residency. This is not worth a lifetime of debt. Your favorite artists probably do not have a masters. I wish I could remember who said something like, “It pains me to think of Herman Melville sitting in an MFA class.” I guess Flannery O’Connor sat in a master class. But did she need it? Not really. She needed a gang. She needed feedback from other writers. Do you need to take a class for that? No. You need a bar.

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            I finished a legitimate drawing this week. If I were in school and said that I finished a “legitimate” drawing, there would have been a 30-minute discussion about that. I put the pencils down for a long time to not have to be that guy anymore. I was going to die sitting at a drawing table. Now, maybe I’ll get to die sitting in front of an easel. It’s a coin toss. The drawing was, dare I say, an enjoyable experience to make. I’m going to keep going for a few more drawings before trying to build a painting language out of it. Making graphite drawings is holding my attention more than it used to. Not having a deadline removes the arbitrary pressure from the situation.

            Thanks to an email exchange with another artist, I got Mark Doty’s Still Life with Oysters and Lemon from the library. It’s a memoir built on the idea of objects and their importance to memory and sense of self, etc. It’s about still life paintings and nostalgia. That’s me in a sentence right now. That and listening to almost nothing but 80s pop.

            Game of Thrones ends this week? I have never seen it before and have no plans to see it once it’s finished. I feel like that guy that everyone knows that hates sports and says “Happy Sportball Day!” to everyone on Super Bowl Sunday. I don’t want to be that guy. If you watch GoT, enjoy the finale. It has to be better than the last Seinfeld. But I guess not every show can end as well as Newhart or Justified.

Currently reading:

The Book of John

Revelation

Psalms

St. Augustine: City of God

The Orthodox Church: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity by Timothy Ware



2019.19

            School’s out for summer. School is definitely not out forever. Grades are submitted. Contract is expired. See you in August. I’m currently slated to teach 2D Design in the fall. I haven’t taught that class in at least 12 years, maybe more. I wasn’t particularly good at it when I taught it, but I plan on prepping steadily throughout the summer, so I’ll be ready to go. My own art-making methodology has changed a lot over the years, so my brain is better prepared for talking about this stuff on a regular basis. I’m limiting the amount of collage I use in the studio these days after a few years of focusing on it, so it’ll be nice to keep active with that somehow. Something as simple as a piece like this Ellsworth Kelly always makes for rewarding experiments with spontaneity.

Ellsworth Kelly- Brushstrokes Cut into Forty-Nine Squares and Arranged by Chance, 1951, MoMA

Ellsworth Kelly- Brushstrokes Cut into Forty-Nine Squares and Arranged by Chance, 1951, MoMA

Other than continuing to make a series of still life pieces, I plan on using the summer light to work on cyanotypes. I’ve never done them before, but it looks ridiculously easy. Sometimes a person just needs a hobby.

            I’m rounding toward home on another skull painting. After that I need to be more intentional about a legitimate composition and use of color. It’s nice to be deliberate and mechanical and straightforward sometimes but it can’t last forever.

            My family and I moved back to Nashville six years ago as of this month. I’ve had six solo shows since then. I wish I had realized that a few months ago when I was jaded. I’d have been more grateful or at least more aware of why I was tired of the idea of exhibiting. I did not know what to expect in regards to my art when we moved here. I knew the “scene” was growing but there were no guarantees that there would be a place for me here. I’m grateful for the way the art world has invited me in here. I should get out more, be more proactive, mingle, whatever. Maybe I’ll be recharged by the fall and ready to go. Right now, I rarely leave the house. I went to a coffee shop last week and ran into four people that I know. I forgot that was possible. 

            Right now, I really need to paint more than sitting here, writing. I was reading Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly but I found the audiobook of it read by Paul Giamatti. His reading of it is a lot better than the voice in my head so I’m going to roll with that for 8 hours instead of doing it myself.

            Quite possibly the most glorious comeback in the history of Liverpool happened yesterday. They overcame a 3-0 aggregate deficit and beat Barcelona 4-0. On to the Champions League final. You’ll never walk alone. Something like that.

 

Currently reading:

The Book of Luke

Revelation

Psalms

St. Augustine: City of God

The Orthodox Church: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity by Timothy Ware

A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick

2019.18

            If you are reading this from somewhere other than Nashville, take comfort in knowing that we have survived. The NFL Draft landed on us last weekend, as did the marathon…as did a viral marketing campaign for a new Taylor Swift song. There was also a mosaic tile convention at a hotel near the airport that I found out about by way of two attendees eating tacos in my neighborhood, kind of stunned that the town had been overrun by grown men in football jerseys. Bachelorette parties that didn’t do their research either had to embrace the chaos or spend the entire weekend upset that they weren’t going to be the ones making the most annoying dent in the city’s nightlife.

            The Swift song is called “Me!” which might be the most perfectly calculated name and concept for a song for this time in which we find ourselves. That’s not a compliment. It’s like boy bands singing songs about how girls don’t know that they’re pretty, but darn it, they are, and that boy band sees it. The boys you go to school with don’t see it, but they do. That is some low hanging fruit. Strangely, it is the first Swift song that I have heard in its entirety. I watched the video out of curiosity. It looks like Baz Luhrmann and the ad agency that handles Target hosed down Paris with unicorn pastels. Like I said, it’s “perfect”. I’d say more but I don’t want a bunch of Swifties emailing me death threats.

            The overwhelming weekend invasion is probably best summed up by a segment of an article from the Nashville Scene:

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            What is it that we are really doing in this town right now? And why can’t any of you drunkards buy some art? For a town that floats on an ocean of beer and whiskey, you’d think someone might accidentally buy some art. They accidentally do everything else. I saw a crew of 10 people today with matching “I’m Just Here To Party” t-shirts. That’s fine. Just don’t pee in the fountain at the symphony hall. I feel like we’re turning into an old Mardi Gras episode of COPS where the officers would say stuff like, “Can you have sex on a sidewalk in your town? Well, why do you think you can do it here?” Am I the only one that thinks a downtown casino is an inevitability? Might be 5 years. Might be 20 but it’s coming, right? Am I too cynical?

            I was at the bank this week and a woman walked in the door about 20 feet from me, looked at me and loudly said, “Oh! *giggles* Oh!” She walked over and said, “Who do people tell you that you look like?” I said, “Well when I was younger and didn’t have a beard, people said I looked like Egon from Ghosbusters.” I also had a Rob Morrow phase but that didn’t last long, and I think it was because of a Yankees hat that I wore. She said, “Do people tell you that you look like Mo Rocca?” Yes. Once or twice. Yes. She then didn’t let it drop. It went on for so long that she really might have thought I was Rocca and she was going to ride the conversation a bit further to see if I would eventually cop to it. It was uncomfortable.

            I lifted my Instagram account suspension. That’s a not-so-clever way of saying that I am back on there in some limited fashion. I don’t have anything to post though. I finished a painting of skull. It’s on there if you want to see it. As with most things that I start, I tried to give myself some rules about the whole thing to keep from being swallowed by it. The 5 months I was away from it were great for clear thinking and powering through some studio/life issues.  

There is a base level that I have been trying to get back to with art. After 20 years, it’s taken so many turns and has been growing larger one little layer at a time. It’s like when I moved into a rental house in college and my roommate and I ripped out 6 layers of linoleum flooring from the bathroom. Every layer had water trapped in it. Each layer had the best of intentions but piled on top of one another had caused an increasingly messy situation. I’ve spent the past 5-6 months stripping my art down to the studs to see what I valued most and what would adhere to new career goals less interested in “me” or individualism, period. Things are clicking. I am re-reading an essay about still life and its denial of the body, etc and I spend the entire time nodding my head and highlighting passages. The rest of the year will be spent making work and establishing limitations. I allowed “everything” into my studio and now it is time to kick most of it out. I work best with established restrictions. For the first time in months, I feel like I have a specific goal. I tend to feel passionately about revelations like this and then crash and burn 48 hours later but this seems to be sticking. Fingers crossed.

 

Lyric for the week:

“So I'm back, to the velvet underground. Back to the floor, that I love.”

            “Gypsy”- Fleetwood Mac

 

Quote for the week:

“Still life pitches itself at a level of material existence where nothing exceptional occurs: there is a wholesale eviction of the Event”- Rhopography, by Norman Bryson

Currently reading:

The Book of Luke

Revelation

Psalms

St. Augustine: City of God

The Orthodox Church: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity by Timothy Ware

A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick

temporarily suspended:

The Discarded Image by C.S. Lewis

2019.17

Some weeks you just have to punt. This is one of those weeks.

I have a ruled composition book to jot down bullet points for a weekly post. There is a page that has “April 24:” written and underscored on it. There is nothing written underneath it. I have a folder in my notes on my phone for “Writing”. There’s not much in there either.

            Easter was a mixed bag of emotions for every Christian around the world. The holiest day, celebrating the greatest sacrifice and victory, tempered with news of over 350 people being killed, some of whom were targeted for the very thing we all were celebrating. I woke up to news of the Sri Lankan bombing. Others experienced it in real time. Even more probably had their morning services out of the way before it happened. This is the part of our calling that on most days Western Christians have the luxury to push to the margins. That comfort is a double-edge sword that simultaneously allows us to sleep but also threatens our faith. Our security makes our faith soft, like a person that needs medication for mental health that stops taking it because they feel good, all the while forgetting that it’s the medication that makes them feel that way. I rarely think someone might shoot up my church. There was a church shooting in Nashville less than 2 years ago and I know a family that was in it and had to provide medical aid to the wounded but even that doesn’t make me fear for much. That said, we have to live with the knowledge that the profession of our faith puts a target on us. It’s not unique to Christianity. Anyone that declares themselves anything risks attack.

            Currently I am reading St. Augustine’s City of God and a history of the Orthodox Church. Couple that with a daily reading of anything in the New Testament and that fear of not being loved by the world around you turns to vapor. None of this is new. It is a faith born into one of the most decadent, hedonistic empires the world has known. It spreads underground where it is made illegal by dictatorial atheistic governments. It was overrun by competing ideologies and survived. Whether threatened by violence or the recent Western weaponization of public shaming, we can take comfort in knowing that we are not alone. That contemporaneity that allows Easter of the year 50 to feel closer to us than Groundhog Day of 2015 not only allows us to share in a message of eternal love but also strengthens us to share our anxiety related to exterior forces across time as well. Long story short, it’ll be ok:

The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time—death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Quote for the week:

“You deserve less”- Trenton Doyle Hancock

Lyric for the week:

“These prayers are a constant road across the wilderness” - Paul Simon “Cool Cool River”

Currently reading:

The Book of Luke

1 John

Psalms

St. Augustine: City of God

The Orthodox Church: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity by Timothy Ware

The Discarded Image by C.S. Lewis

2019.16

            I watched a documentary on 8-year-old golfers called The Short Game. I can relate to the French kid:

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             It’s Holy Week. I listened to nothing but Arvo Pärt for 3 days. I’ll get back to him today and ride out the rest of the week that way. There was a temporary detour yesterday afternoon to listen to Todd Rundgren’s “Wolfman Jack” about 5 times in a row during my afternoon exercise.

            I walked to Pärt’s “Litany” one day, which is a musical composition he made for the 24, hourly prayers of St. John Chrysostom. It is a head trip of walking music to wind through your neighborhood while a choir either barely breathes or powerfully pounds out prayers like “O Lord, free me from all ignorance and forgetfulness, from despondency and stony insensibility.” That ain’t “Wolfman Jack”.

            I read a quote by him recently: “Music is my friend. Understanding, empathic. Forgiving, comforter. A towel to dry tears of sadness. A source of tears for happiness. Liberation and flight. But also, a painful thorn. In flesh and soul.” That is the artist’s paradox. It’s felt more like the thorn than the towel for me lately but lately I have begun to feel confident that I am carving out a simplified version of what I want to do and that simplicity should bring liberation and flight back into the studio.

            This time of year reminds me of an excerpt from a book I read a couple of years ago: How (Not) to be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor by James K. A. Smith. It’s a summary of Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age, which I will read one day. It’s a big, dense book. There is a section in the Smith book that examines secular time versus “higher” time. I keep a photo of this quote in the book on my phone as a reminder of where my head should be: 

In the premodern understanding, because “mundane” or secular time is transcended by “higher: time, there is an accounting of time that is not merely linear or chronological. Higher time “introduce ‘warps’ and seeming inconsistencies in profane time-ordering. Events that were far apart in profane time could nevertheless be closely linked”. This is somewhat akin to Kierkegaard’s account of “contemporaneity” in Philosophical Fragments: “Good Friday 1998 is closer in a way to the original day of the Crucifixion that mid-summer’s day 1997.”

            There’s a disconnect between the way the Notre Dame fire has been framed and the faithful have responded. We want to talk about a building because it’s 850 years old and it’s the heart of a city and a country. That’s the secular response. A BBC reporter I listened to said something like, “It’s not like that many of us are really religious anymore but…” and then continued to explain why people should care that a church caught on fire in very secular terms, almost feeling like he had to explain to the 21st c. West why you’re supposed to care about the past? It was so discouraging. A significant landmark has been significantly damaged. But for those Parisian Catholics, kneeling and singing “Ave Maria” while the church burned, sure it was a threatened landmark but, for some of them, it’s as much the approach of Passover in 1st century Palestine as much as it is Holy Week in 2019. We’re not supposed to be completely present right now. Some people just want to focus on the age as an abstract number. Others watch it burn and simultaneously see the cornerstone be placed into position.

            Hopefully there is a Maundy Thursday service in my near future. Hopefully there is a joyous Easter service on Sunday where I get to hear the phrase “He is risen” repeatedly spoken by people that believe it fully. Hopefully anyone reading this gets to go and do the same. 

            Happy Easter.

 

Quote for the week:

“In this world/we walk on the roof of Hell/gazing at flames” – Kobayashi Issa

 

I haven’t been reading a lot lately. Get used to seeing this list. I’m reading too many things right now and need to scale back down once I finish the Ware and Lewis books.

 

Currently reading:

The Book of Luke

2 Peter

Psalms

St. Augustine: City of God

The Orthodox Church: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity by Timothy Ware

The Discarded Image by C.S. Lewis