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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

Kindred Spirit? Dunno

It’s an interesting picture.

I’ve never had a job that I can recall that was pure art. Most of my handwork has been based off architecture, and that inhabits a shadow world between art and utility. The furniture business is like that, too. Am I trying to make functional things in an visually interesting way, or visually interesting things that are functional? I don’t know.

I take things that I just made and I beat them with chains, among other abominations. It’s an odd sensation, especially the first time you do it. The purpose is to mimic a real kind of use. It’s not real, exactly, but it’s the representation of a kind of reality. It’s as if you’re trying to capture a point in time, and an artist can never really be in a moment in time. It’s gone by and he tries to recreate it, or it’s in the future and he’s trying to predict it. And he’s editing that moment in time, to include what is necessary to express the feeling about the subject that is desired. Even a photographer does this, because what he leaves out is as important as what is left in, and how things are composed is still subject to the subjective.

People need a hook to hang me on in their intellectual cupboard, and search for one from time to time. I’ve had people box the compass of comparison from Norm to Richard Brautigan. None of them ever seem to fit, at least to me.

The picture at the top is a painting called Safeway Interior, by an artist named Ralph Goings, from 1974.

Why do I make a brand new table and try to make it look old? I don’t know. To capture something. Writing fiction is like that, too, but I’d have a deuce of a time explaining how an end table and Huckleberry Finn are blood brothers to anyone not living in my cobwebbed mind.

Why does Ralph Goings paint a picture you mistook for a photograph of a mundane thing? I don’t know, but I suspect it’s somehow similar. He’s just better at his job than I am at mine.

8 Responses

  1. That is a very interesting painting. It has a tremendous amount of depth; for anyone who was in a grocery store in the 70s (and even early 80s), it brings back a whole host of sensory memories: the heat of the summer sun beating through the window mixed with the cool air-conditioned shadows; the subtle smells of styrofoam, charcoal and potting soil warmed by those same windows; the anticipation of a bank of gumball machines by the doors (and the plea for a nickel or dime to put in the machine); a box of animal crackers, clutched in a chubby toddler’s hand by the little string across the top; the baking asphalt outside; and oddly enough, the cars – oven hot, smelling of a particular combination of vinyl, glass, metal and plastic, the heavy creaking and thunking sounds of solid metal doors opening and closing, the bouncing suspension as groceries and siblings get loaded in, burning hot seats that make the skin sweat and stick, and cracks in the vinyl that pinch unwary legs, an 8-track cassette sticking out of the car stereo…

    I could go on, but you get the picture.

    As to distressing the furniture, well, it evokes memories, too, no more nor less real than the ones I listed above.

  2. Julie- Thanks for reading and commenting.

    It’s vaguely rude to write better than the host, but you’re forgiven.

  3. I suppose a correlation could be made between distressing furniture and Huck Finn, in that the random dents and dings in a piece of furniture are fictional memories, kind of like Huck Finn would be to anybody who has ever read it.

    We have some old tables that bear the scars of the years; The chew marks from the first puppy; the dents from the hard iron of various Christmas presents, meant for outdoors, but abusing the living room on Christmas Day and various marks and scuffs from each of the children as they grew up.

    Each mark has a history, some stark in the mind, others completely forgotten, but a part of the history of the piece.

    Your pieces come with a history built in and ready made; kind of like reading Huck Finn, and making his memories yours.

  4. Just as an aside, Goings was my first serious art teacher at Encina High School in Sacramento.

  5. Funny. Timing. As you know, I have been wondering what your personal take on the false oldificationing of your furniture is. Seems, at least at the outset, a bit incongruous with your philosophy, or maybe just the tone you tend to carry.

    I don’t know if I believe in “built-in history,” but I like the Redneck’s take, just the same.

    And Julie’s got it right, for sure. You certainly can’t fake memories, but you can tease the real ones out with the right tricks.

  6. I don’t know whether Gerard’s comment proves that it’s a small world, or that Gerard should replace Kevin Bacon.

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