How To See

Tiny first tomato from 2018
Tiny first tomato from 2018

Our neighbor, Jared, thinks we might have another ground hog in the garden. Some of his sunflowers and squash were eaten so we will have to set the trap again. We caught a raccoon in the trap the other night. It was open and but not baited and the raccoon wandered in so our neighbor let it go. We’ve been eating kale, jalapeños, spinach, lettuce and cilantro faster than the groundhogs can, Our tomatoes are just starting to come in so we’ll need to guard the fort.

I never cared much for David Salle’s paintings but I picked up a book he wrote and read a few pages in the store. I had a hunch that he was a more interesting writer than painter and “How To See” confirmed that hunch. The book is a series of short pieces on various artists, some young, some his contemporaries, and some as ancient as Pierro della Francesca. Some of the writing was originally done for magazines like Art Forum and Town & Country but it all holds together and he talks a good game. He opened my eyes.

Salle brilliantly lumps two of my favorite painters, Philip Guston and Marsden Hartley, in the same chapter, saying “They took painting head-on, a little brutally. There’s a truculence in their attitude — why try to hide it. Wrestlers of paint. A painting is something to be grappled with, brought to the ground. It’s a promethean effort. The artist prevails, but at a cost.”

On Sigmar Polke he writes, “Polke’s pictorial inventiveness is so generous, so viewer-friendly makes you feel that, on a good day, you too could do it. His painting gets at something elemental about how we live today., and seems to whisper,’You are not locked into your own story. You could be otherwise.’ The strength of that conviction, the sheer vitality of it – I can’t think of anything more that we could ask for from art. Like all great artists, Polke was in pursuit of ravishment, and he wanted to stun, but only on his own terms. His work asks, ‘Can this be enough? What are you afraid of? Immerse yourself in his art and weep for the diminished spirit of our present age.”

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