Death

Generally, I don’t answer a phone number that I don’t know. I look at it on the screen and I press a button that allows it to go to voicemail. If it’s someone I want to talk to they will leave a message and I will call them back. However, yesterday I answered the unknown number. I did this because I had spoken earlier in the day to my friend Stephen, who told me he was going to refer someone to me about having an exhibition, and I thought this phone number might be the exhibition contact.

When I answered the phone, I heard a deep male voice with a slight accent. “Dana?” The male voice said strongly. Normally I would be afraid of an unknown male voice from an unknown number, saying my name but somehow I wasn’t. “Yes, this is Dana“

“Dana, it’s Mark“

“ Mark!? How nice to hear your voice. It’s nice to hear from you.”

“Yes, it’s nice to hear your voice too”. Mark was someone I dated 30 something years ago. We are both still in the same area but haven’t seen each other for a good 20 something years.

“How are you?”

“I’m fine I’m fine… But I have some bad news….Susan died”

“What!!?? I just saw her at the museum last month. She looked great. We’d plan to get together to go to her and Tom’s next music event. I’d hope to see you there.”

“Yes, yes I know she told me you might come. She died this morning.”

“Of what?!”

“An infection that went septic”. I Think that’s what he said, and I don’t really know what that means but I know it happens and I know it’s inexplicably horrible. Even though Sue is very seldom in my life. I feel a pit deep in my stomach. I keep thinking how could such a thing happen? She was so bright and so positive, and so talented and so engaged helping in her community.

She is the reason I had the wonderful studio warehouse space at 16th and Valencia which changed my life. She interviewed me and accepted me as the fourth partner. Soon after that, she hired a moving company which joisted her letterhead press out of the second floor window onto a truck and drove it and her with all her possessions to Vallejo, where she moved in and married Tom.

She came to my recent open studio and gave me her newest book of poetry. She bought my newest book of paintings. It was a generally an all-around good feeling to see her after so many years. I was looking forward to reconnecting. When we had the chance meeting at SFMOMA, she looked the same. Her body posture was the same, her bright smile was the same. Older but the same.

Talking to Mark, I mentioned that she had a child.

“Yes” Mark said “She’s 20 now”

‘“Oh, how terrible… That’s the age you were when you lost your mother, right?”

“Right.”

Museum exhibit

Walking through the exhibit at the museum, I have what I often have. An uneasy feeling.

I notice that the child gurgling is attracting more attention than the paintings, just for a second. Then the patrons go back to viewing the paintings. After the brief bleep of real life passes, art appreciation or faux appreciation, of art or faux art, resumes.

Two other children are with their parents in the exhibition. The goal of these kids is to move as quickly as possible. They are playing a game. Upon entering the new room, they look for the “EXIT” sign. As soon as parents allow, they follow it.

An older woman in a seventies medium brown pant suit severely limps. She steps with one leg and then drags the other one after her. She moves awkwardly along trying to catch up with her husband which she eventually does when he stops in front of a painting.

I am drawn to the work that is the early work. This work shows some artistic ability. The later work, before which people dutifully stand, seems to me not to deserve the stop of attention. It all seems like a case of the emperor’s new clothes.

I find myself at the end of the exhibit and I go backwards to the beginning. I see the exhibit a second time, to be sure of my judgement. I am giving the artist a second chance and I want to remember the few works that I do like. Having done that, I find I can not exit through the gift shop, therefore I go through the exhibit a third time. I stop a third time at the charcoal drawing of a seated woman in a striped dress which is my favorite work.

Upon this last viewing I realize this drawing reminds me of expensive clothing store ads from my childhood. Those days artists drew the objects for sale. They were good drawings.
The artists were not trying to prove anything. They were just making a living. They weren’t even called artists.

In the museum signage, the famous painter’s statement claims not to stop at the beautiful but to go deeper. To me deeper wasn’t deeper, it was just messier. No one else seems to feel this way. They stand reverently at what is presented to them by the esteemed institution.

In the museum rest room, while washing my hands, I peripherally watch a woman in front of the mirror. She keeps looking in the mirror like she is trying to fix something that can’t be fixed. She is looking at time in the mirror but can not see it. This is what she is doing.

Leaving San Francisco going over to Oakland in heavy traffic, I anticipate the change that happens after Treasure Island. The white wideness of the new half of the Bay Bridge is wonderful and uplifting to drive on. People on the side are walking and riding their bikes. It is a good feeling to like the new version more than the old. To be driving on a man made object that makes sense.

20130914-212625.jpg