Thursday, November 10, 2005

It was the best of times. It was the...

What follows is an actual experience that took place a couple of days after I cited the quote from Suarah Hall's "The Electric Michelangelo," a novel structured on the theme of tattooing, in my post "The silent muse." It is the quote that I now use in my title bar. My interest in continuing to pursue this is directly related to my recent postings on karma and coincidence in my life as regards my muse.

So...I sashay into the steam room after my workout. Still on my mind is the passage from "The Electric Michelangelo" that I cited on Monday in my post entitled, The silent muse?".

I sit down at a convenient spot so that I can see the clock. It is extremely hot and I have come to learn that time and timing is important.

Out of the corner of my right eye I see (sense?) the outlines of numerous shapes. A dizzying array of blue's,red's, and yellow's awash in...I don't know...Sweat? Steam? All I know for certain is that he, the fellow to my right say's" Hey, never saw one like that before."

I quickly spin my head to my right and refocus through the steam. I say, " Yeah. Needs a little work though. The redness has dissipated over the years." Then I say, " Wow! Man. Not so bad yourself!

The last time I saw that many tattoo's on one person was in "Ray Bradbury's, "The Illustrated Man."

"That's a lot of ink you have there! How many years did it take you to accumulate all those tattoo's?"

To which he replied, "I don't count years, I count hours. The time spent drawing the images is more important to art than..."

What this little snippet above refers to in detail, as I try this round about way to come to understand how my muse works, is a tattoo on my right shoulder of a young lady wearing a sombrero that I got when I was 14 years old. I have also written a poem about her which at some point during these exploratory snippets I hope to post along with a pic of the tattoo. What is starting to unfold for me here is the beginning of a possible short story. I am starting to have some fun with this and am very curious as to where it will lead. My muse has taken me to so many different places that this feels like one more push of inspiration.

This is now becoming quite an unexpected and interesting direction for me. What I would like to do is have any of you who care to comment to add a line or two after the last line in the snippet..."more important to art than..." Kind of push me a little. It's a little bit like an "Exquisite Corpse", that wonderful play that artists and non-artists from time to time employ by connecting images in progression to complete an artistic and creative collaboration. The difference here is that I may not retain your idea in it's original form or perhaps use it at all. But I'm curious as to what happens! My muse seems to be getting a voice! Anyone want to join the chorus?


Blogger Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

I hate "Exquisitie Corpse"! Our dear friend Ex-Mrs. Lhombre was always trying to make us play it, and I can't draw a thing!

Leaving that to one side, though...

I would say the sentence ends, "...than the time spent thinking about them."

But I don't know if I agree with that or not. I think it's true in proportion to how simple and straightforward the activity is. If it's a relatively mechanical activity like tattooing from a pattern, or practicing a physical exercise, then the hours spent actually doing it are the important thing. But if it's a creation that requires long germination underground before it sprouts, then the whole time span becomes part of the creative process. To paraphrase something Toni Morrison once said, "I type at my desk, but I write wherever I am."

5:55 AM  
Blogger Lhombre said...

Richard: Well I'm glad to see you have overcome the insistence of Ex-Mrs. L Hombre! I'm getting there!

I totally relate to the Toni Morrison quote you cite. However, Sarah Halls novel, "The Electric Michelangelo," puts an interesting spin on it. She structures the life of her protagonist, Cy Parks, very much along the lines you cite. But while she unfolds his life as a tattoo artist, the "mechanical" side of the "art form" while taking place exclusively on a chair in the tattoo parlor, ultimately springs from, as you put it, "time spent thinking about it"; a variation, perhaps even the opposite of Morrison's statement. Yet even that aside, the major difference, and this really intrigues me, is the various "mechanical" methods brought to light in the novel that are used to transfer an image to the skin as well as a process that takes place simultaneously between object and idea; ( Typewriter and place ?) and very intertwined with a "thinking" process. Do I dare suggest here that there seems to be a direct correlation in this example between form and function?

During the course of the novel's unfolding Cy consistently refers back to the history of his craft (art?); part of which consists of the entire notion of what art is as his mentor, a character named Riley, pushes him to contend with the entire scope of the trade. ( I realize that so far I have used the terms craft,art,and trade) For me, it is precisely how my creative side unfolds. And I think it essentially fits Morrison's thoughts on it as well, with some variaitons of course; the most extreme variation/interpretation being Performance Art, where artist Chris Burden shot himself as part of the "process" for his art. ( Here I am tempted to say "art statement" only I'm not sure there's a difference!)

Here is one small excerpt from the novel of that might help clarify my thoughts:

"In February of that year, Riley had Cy begin his practice on his own cold, goose-pimpled shin, surrendering a leg, as he'd been informed he'd have to. And he'd also have to make a little visit to pay his respects to the primary creators of the trade. So it was tap-tap-tap on his shin with a bamboo block and a hammer, Riley slapping Cy's face when the pain got him teary and his concentration lapsed and he dropped the equipment, saying no more. He would learn the traditions, from beginning to end, and respect them, bellowed Riley.

-Now pick up that ( I had to eliminate the "F" word here so I could post this) mallet, boy. Or get out.

"It may have been the electric age of needles but tattooing was as ancient as the mummies being pried from their sarcophaguses in the Egyptian desert, and if chiseled ink was good enough for the Pharaohs, it was certainly good enough for Cyril bloody Parks. Then, milliner's needles lashed to a stick, leaving thick rivers of colour, destroying a white leg with black practice."

pg.99 "The Electric Michelangelo."

I'm probably shooting bee's with a howitzer here but you raised an interesting and important point for me for which I am grateful. I posted a comment on Brenda Clews blog yesterday that references my idea about art and life and your comment is helping me understand what for me has always been a driving force in the form my work as an "artist" takes. Thanks again hermano!

8:53 AM  
Blogger Brenda said...

"How to fathom the poetic metaphors of our lives? Where does art come from? What layers of our being do images arise out of? And how do they reveal our lives in their unfolding, and in what ways are they prophetic? It seems as if we already know the truths of our interactions with each other, and she is not sure how that is.

Her life was an artwork where a collection of images had clung to her."

... from my current project-in-progress. Not that this is, exactly, an answer to the exact phrase, but it is a response.

Tatoos, body art, images, what clings to one, what is inked into our depths, the notations we wear on our skin.

7:37 PM  
Blogger Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

Thankfully I just write words and it makes no difference to me what technical medium I use. Computer, typewriter, pen, it's all the same words.

That passage you quote sounds cute but I don't believe it shows what tattooing is like in the real world. A symbol has to work on the literal level first or it's worthless.

10:57 AM  
Blogger Lhombre said...

Ah! There's that word "real" again! I don't necessarily think of a tattoo as having to symbolize anything. I take the same approach when writing poetry or doing a painting. They are the response to a moment in life. They are moments qua moments.

11:12 AM  
Blogger Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

I was referring to Hall's use of tattooing for thematic purposes in her novel, not to a specific tattoo such as yours. Her novel isn't just a series of moments qua moments.

3:45 PM  
Blogger Lhombre said...

Richard, I think I could agree with you that a symbol has to work on a literal level or it's worthless. I guess where we might disagree(?) is that tattoos are "necessarily" symbols in some strict sense. Perhaps over time a tattoo can come to symbolize something specific and then it could be referred to as literal. I would be willing to say that mine could be interpreted that way now. The only difference being that when I look at it today it has a much different meaning than it did when I got it. I think that accounts for the final lines of the poem that I wrote about it.

As to Sarah Hall's novel, I could find many, many examples in her novel that would refer to her thematic use of tattoo's as having their "birth" in a moment qua moment, whereafter, time becomes significant as to it's interpretation as to what we are discussing in terms of literal symbolic worth.

Maybe I'm having trouble with the word "literal."

Anyway, those are my thoughts presently. I really appreciate the way you push my thinking. I have great respect for your insights and this dialogue is helping me greatly. Thanks again.

6:29 PM  

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