Saturday, January 17, 2009

Big Fat Zero

I don't have a problem with nothingness, particularly of the zen "no-mind" variety, or emptiness.  I guess staring at the New Mexico desert for twelve years will do that to you.  I've been painting filled-in zeros, like the one above, for the last ten years – seven in New Mexico, three in New York.  

When Pat Steir visited my studio in 1999, she took one look at a six-foot-six hard-edge painting of a vertical, straight-sided, rust-brown oval on a dusty-pink background (or pink corners on a brown background) and said, "Are you depressed?"  I laughed and said no.  Nothingness is neither happy nor sad.  If anything, it's peace.

This may sound like morbid talk, but, though I was certainly influenced, even inspired, by the nihilism of the punk movement of the late 1970s, I'm not one for suicidal tendencies.  I think life is for living and death is for oblivion.  Read nothingness, nada, zip.  And if you can find a few moments of sweet oblivion, free of discursive thought, during your life, more power to you.

Another painter, Dexter Dalwood referred to my work as "binary."  I guess when you think of binary code being ones and zeros, this makes sense.  After all, where would the ones be without the gaps between them?  The "off" nothingness that separates their "on" somethingness.  

I often relate to the underdog.  More precisely, the outerdog.

But then zero always wins; entropy is a force to be reckoned with; nothingness is no underdog.  We all die.  But, also, an empty mind or no-mind trumps other states of mind, i.e. you can only be open to everything, and therefore allow the mind to flow intuitively, by stopping your thoughts entirely.  All that monkey mind just gets you chasing your tail and tripping over it.  

So, it's good to meditate, or stare into space, or maybe paint one shape over and over again, year after year.  That's what I tell myself.

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