Thursday, October 22, 2009

"God has put a secret art into the forces of nature so as to enable it to fashion itself out of chaos into a perfect world system"
-Immanuel Kant, Universal Natural and the Theory of the Heavens
This is a painful one. Ever feel extreme gratitude and pain at the same time? While creating a link for my first posting of this blog, I learned Charles Seliger had died at the beginning of the month. He was 83. Self taught and the last living abstract expressionist from the original group that created the term. Just 17 when Peggy Guggenheim saw his talent and decided to show him. And as often happens to me, he was a person who came across my path at just the right time in my life to answer questions and confirm some things I was wrestling with. I found a book on his work about 6 years ago in NY, thought it was interesting, then put it back on the shelf for a future read. 4 years later, on a cold winter Sunday, on the couch with a fire and Paul, I opened it thinking I'd just take a look. But instead I got a little weak in the knees and even weepy discovering his life, his process and seeing his art. Small paintings that were packed with so much life, I quickly realized that's what he was actually painting. The stuff the makes life, life. Paintings that drew you in and said "Come close, no really close". I felt tiny and in awe. His work and story haunted me so much, I some how found the ovaries to track him down and call. His wife Lenore answered the phone. ME-"I'm a huge fan, blahblah, trying to make paintings, blahblah, self taught blahblah" Long silence. LENORE- "Well I think you're very brave. No one does this anymore. Just call people they admire. I used to when I was younger" Then we had a great chat about how they met and she passed my info along to Charles. He called me the next day and it was like having 70 compacted years of the study of art, poetry, history, music and the NY Public Library on the other end of the phone. Tempered with kindness and compassion. In the last year and a half we've exchanged some letters (his written in the tiniest cursive on very cottony paper) he's sent me a beautiful collection of catalogues from his past shows, and Paul and I got to meet he and Lenore at his last show at the Michael Rosenfeld gallery. He's taught me so much and will continue to be my teacher. I've learned I'm autodidactic, I'd been naturally using automatism when I paint, he got me feeling less guilty about my massive book collection, tiny is fierce and beautiful, and that the constant change or chaos in nature within us and outside of us, is what makes life deserve the name life. Like I said, sad and grateful.

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