It happens in the course of events—it is a terrible thing that happens!—it happens that...well, it is a return to no-happening, that is what happens. It happens that things happen, and then it happens that they stop happening, it is a slow stalling, a sputtering kind of jerking series of interruptions of happening until the engine of happening dies and then there is no-happening. That is what happens. Then we are in the graveyard of happening, it is a place, really, of memory, but no thing. Or not. Perhaps no-happening is as valid a happening as any other, and as eventful, it only seems as if we have been felled by Morpheus, or, rather, Zeus at his trickiest worst (Morpheus only sends us to sleep, he does not cut us down at the knees, he does not violate our very reason for being). This word worst—wow, that is an old word! It is so old, I think it is on its way to obsolescence. We say it, but do we write it anymore? I am painting with great difficulty right now, it might even be said by some that I am painting badly. I am that "some." I am also of course its opposing voice that says I am painting several steps ahead of myself, so I am not really smart enough to judge. But "some's" opposing voice must surely be "none," and so, unfortunately, I am pretty silent on the argument that I am not painting badly, that is the no-happening—not, of course the silence, that would be too neat and well thought out, which would not be like me at all, but the no-happening of painting badly. And it is only that because it was not very long ago that I was at the center of the great happening of painting well, that is the greatest of happenings, trumpets are its instrument! It is because I admitted outside voices into my head, that was the beginning of the end of the great happening of painting well, when I admitted the critics' voices into my head and let them defeat me. It is always how it happens, it is uroboric, do not think it is the only time this has happened, it happens every time, the cycle of triumph and self-defeat, of happening leading to no-happening. Indeed, to keep self-defeat out of painting, well, that would be an achievement worthy of the Nobel Prize in Artist Management! Now, of course it is just a screaming rabble, a polyglot of mockery in my head, and I do not really know, to be honest with you, I do not really know if these critics are telling the truth or not, they are not very nice, and they are making my work at the easel very unpleasant, but perhaps they are only mean-spirited and it is not, after all, true that I am painting badly, perhaps I am painting quite well, perhaps I am painting better than well, and I will now tell you what I did not know I would be telling you when I began this non-neat paragraph, I will tell you that that is the One True Agony of painting, its Once and Future Agony, that it's impossible sometimes to know, but the brush must do its work regardless, even as mockery swings back to break one's kneecaps. 


I say I am exactly there again because I am exactly there again, and yet, I think not. I think I am somewhere other than exactly there, I am here, exactly here, not there. So do not take my word for it, for I am not exactly there again, it is not possible to ever be exactly there again—thank god! Though new fresh miseries are always blooming, do not think otherwise! It is spring, after all.


I will tell you now, I do not always know what I am after in painting. Sometimes I know, and in those times that I know, it is like floating happily on a lively lake, and I am tossed here and there but always on a buoyant body of one thing, that one thing is knowing. But I do not always know, and when I cease to know—and that is how it is, it is a cessation of knowing—then it is like sinking. I do not think it is like sinking, I think it is sinking. Now I am sinking, I am having the feeling of sinking, of breathlessness and fear and darkness. I believe I have come to the end of my squares, and I do not know why I paint, and I do not know that I should paint, I do not know that I have any business painting. How is it that I call myself a painter when I do not know what I am after in painting, there is no raison beyond flinging out my hand in order to transfer the paint from the pot to the canvas? It is even in question how to do that!

Sometimes I go on this kind of vacation where I just work, where I work with the simple mind of no questioning. I do not ask why, I do not tug at my hair asking why and what for. I work, simply, peacefully, purposefully. But a vacation is nothing more than a temporary break from the everyday. Most of the time, I am asking why, and what for? Most of the time, I am pulling at my hair, asking myself, asking the great Without Myself, why do I do this, why do I paint, what is it for, what meaning does it have, and, if meaning is to be found, where is it to be found? I think the hardest part, sometimes the hardest part of what I do is not knowing whether it matters or not. A doctor does not go through her day wondering whether what she does matters—she knows it does. But a painter does—this painter does. I think probably the answer is a simple one, and the path lies in learning not to distrust simplicity, maybe that is where the answer lies. Why do I do this, why do I paint? What does it matter why? I paint. That is what I do. Right. No matter. None.

There are so many ways in which being an artist is lonely, here is one of those ways: In the past, I made paintings, I know I have said this before, but in the past, I made paintings that people liked and responded to. I was very happy with these paintings, and I was also very happy that people liked them! It was rewarding! Because before I made paintings, I wrote poems and plays, and there are not many people in this world who are keen to read either poems or plays, and so I did not have a giant sense that people found the work I did meaningful or likeable. I think people would sooner pour syrup in their hair than read a poem. And people simply do not read plays, they will say they do not know how to read plays, they will not read plays. But then I began painting, and people liked my paintings, they enjoyed looking at them, I got lots of people to look at them, they were easy and enjoyable to look at, these were representational paintings, mostly of people and animals, the animals I liked to paint were rabbits and dogs and deer and coyotes and foxes, those sorts. But now I have turned away from representational painting, it is a strong swerve I couldn't halt, I think, even if I wanted to, I do not know why I was compelled to turn away from doing what I did well, although I do know I had gotten bored, and I do know also that I have been breaking down the way I paint for almost a year now, I have been working very hard to destroy it, it has been crazy-making and extremely difficult, but I do not think it is sabotage that caused me to do this, I think, at least I am hoping, it is growth and vision. But most people are sorry I have done it, and there are those who have urged me to go back to painting how (and what) I painted before. But I will not go back, and now I am making paintings that are something like poems, people do not seem to be terribly interested in reading them, for there is more effort involved than the effort it takes to look at a pink deer. I say I think it is growth and the urge to grow rather than sabotage that has brought me to this place, but what if I am wrong? What if it is only sabotage, and I am a contrarian of gargantuan proportions? (I am.) What if I have set myself on the wrong path and I have thrown away the shoes that would return me to my former path? Well, I ask myself the questions, but I'm unconcerned about the answers, because I don't want to go back, I do not need to find those shoes, I believe there is unity in my work and a strong connection between what I did formerly and what I am doing now. But now it is lonely again, now I am alone with my work again. People really like pink deer.

I am trying to take a picture of my studio wall—rather, I was trying to. Now I am writing this. But earlier, earlier, before it was even light out, I was trying to take a picture of my studio wall. Many of the paintings I am currently making require light to complete them. Not in the sense that we all need light to see, but in the sense that the paintings change, and the way we read them, changes according to the way the light plays on them. They are very much made with this in mind. They are like screens on which a film is projected. Sort of, but not exactly, for they are paintings, not screens. I am making paintings right now that are not good food for the voracious monster that is social media. They are subtle and quiet and depthful paintings that want time, I think, to understand and appreciate, and people are no longer accustomed to looking at things for longer than a second, if even that—however long it takes to move a finger to get to the next image, they do not spend time with anything other than the flow of imagery, the flow, you understand, and not the images themselves (most of which are scarcely worth consideration). The work I did before, with its bright colors and characterfulness, this work was perfectly suited to the glance lasting only a second. But the work I am doing now really ought to be lived with and watched, watched over a period of time, watched as the globe moves around the sun, as natural light dies and artificial light comes on, they are paintings to get lost in, but it will not be possible to convey this through photographs of the individual paintings themselves, and so I thought perhaps a picture of my studio wall in the morning light, first artificial, now natural, might convey something of their power, but I do not think even that will work. I think what would work is for us to go back in time, when paintings were viewed in the flesh rather than the fast-moving picture strips we are now so used to that we probably don't even really see anymore. After all, when your eye is given image after image after image, when it swims in a continuous and all-pervasive river of imagery, how can we see with any discernment, any connection at all to what our eyes are taking in, how can they not be clouded as with a cataracts, coated in a film of river muck? 

I think I have said, or not said, that the paintings are changing, they are deepening. (I have not said that; I am saying it now. They are deepening.) I am no longer the painter I was. It was an arduous struggle, it was like pushing against the desert wind, it was like shouldering the burden of a thousand books while running a race, it was like anticipating the shape of what did not yet exist though its shape required anticipation in order to come into existence—no! It was not like that, it was that! But perhaps it is too early for me to crow. Perhaps if I crow now, what I am crowing about will vanish, too embarrassed in its thin young skin to survive my crowing, it will die of embarrassment! My superstitions do not permit crowing, and yet—and yet. (So said the poet.) Almost everybody would have had me stand in place. Those who would not have, he—especially—who would not have had me stand in place, to him I owe a loyalty that is larger than just my commonplace dog's loyalty. He knows who he is, who encouraged me to push forward, to push through with my dim vision, what I could only vaguely sense and couldn't see, he did not ever say to me, "But stay in place, stay put, do what you do, everybody likes it!" He did not say this; it was the chorus he didn't join, but he does not join choruses, so his is a voice worth listening to. I did not stay in place, though the chorus sang for me to. I did not keep making paintings everybody liked, though the chorus sang for me to. I began making paintings nobody liked (except him), though the chorus sang for me not to. I continued, and explored, and chased my vision, though it was very dim and often dissolved under my touch. I couldn't grasp it, yet I chased it. I was persistent (I am persistent!), I persisted through doubt and failure and a chorus of No's, and I persisted and I persisted and I would not deny what I believed (on zero evidence) might come into being if only I persisted—what else do I have to do? What, if not that, is my job on this earth, what if not to chase a vision I believe in though I am not given evidence of it? After all, my job is one of faith, it is discipline and faith, and that is my job. Those who do not see the value in what I do—and I assume they are many—it is because they do not see what underlies it, that I am upholding the tradition of true discipleship in devoting my life to art. It is not just the paintings I make, but the faith I hold that one's inchoate vision can be coaxed into wholeness and life with enough persistence and passion and self-belief. It is what art represents—not only the artist's vision, but her quest and struggle and faith. You see, I wasn't wrong: in persisting, I broke through. And so I must assume that I am doing the right job, whether I am paid for it or not, and mostly, I am not. I did not know that this was where this paragraph was headed, but here we are, it is as if I am holding a torch high overhead, and now I do not know what to do with this torch, I do not wish to extinguish it, and yet I cannot carry it into the day with me because that would be impractical.

When I was eight years old—eight years old was my first watershed year!—but when I was eight years old, I conscripted two of my friends to perform in plays of my devising almost every day in our classroom. Here is how it went: At lunchtime, I would conscript my two friends, they were both girls, and we would rehearse a play I was either making up on the spot or had made up that morning, and then in the afternoon, we would perform my play for our class. I believe we did this, as I say, almost every day. My two friends whom I conscripted varied in their enthusiasm, the one was very shy and the other less so, she would have been the more eager participant, and the shy one would have allowed herself to be conscripted, I think, simply because she might have been a little cowed by me, I was a strong-willed girl. I'm sure I gave her the quieter parts. I do not know whether she liked being in my plays, my guess is, she did not, that she was a born spectator. Before I go on to tell you why I am telling you this story, I would like us all to take our hats off to Mrs. Dill, my teacher that year. I believe she deserves this honor for giving up a little of her classroom teaching time to me and my theatrical whims, I believe children ought to be encouraged to fully and flamboyantly express their imagination, and Mrs. Dill never told me no when I asked, again, whether I could put on a play that afternoon. She never said no! I am sure my plays were not that long, they did not take up too much time, I am sure, but I believe it was a generous spirit that gave Mrs. Dill the "yes" to say instead of a "no." Thank you, Mrs. Dill. Now, as to why I am telling you this. It is what I wanted to tell you the last time I wrote, but I did not because I chose the other thing to only, as it turned out, partially tell you instead. It is the first critique in my long career of being critiqued for the work I do, I still remember my first critique! Well, let's be accurate. It was probably not my first critique, only the first one I remember. At any rate, it was a play, I had just performed it with my two friends, the one with less enthusiasm than the other, the rest of my classmates were sitting on the floor Indian-style (I am fairly sure that is no longer an acceptable term, but that is the term we used then), and they were now an audience of little critics, perhaps Mrs. Dill opened up the floor to them, perhaps this was an integral part of the daily-play ritual, I no longer remember, I only remember one boy saying to me, in effect, for I do not remember his exact words, that the courtier bowed too much as he was leaving the presence of the king, he overdid it. It was probably a fair criticism, as I indeed remember bowing repeatedly, it was meant to be comedy, I am sure, but when you overdo it, you essentially beat the the comedy to death, and that is what the boy was telling me when he gave his critique of my repeated bowing. I then went on to a lifetime of amassing more critiques with varying degrees of aplomb, ranging from none to some. This paragraph is a good example of why titles are misleading, for not a single letter of it was on painting. 

Now I would like to tell you about the squares because I am up to my shoulders in them again. The first thing I want to tell you about is that I feel very much as though I could go on painting them for the rest of my remaining painting time. They are infinitely compelling to me. But there is so much to tell you about, there is so much feeling I have about them, I find there is too much to tell, and I cannot decide what of that too much I should choose from, after having chosen the first thing. I will say this: They are squares, but they are not squares, for there is never a right angle, but they are squares that appear on the surface to be abstract—not that they are abstract squares, but that they are paintings of squares (that are never squares) which give the appearance of abstraction. (I think.) But they are not abstractions! These are in no sense nonobjective paintings! Perhaps they live in the world as such, but they were not born as such. They are as representational as anything I have painted. I am not saying they are squares (what a very strange word, really, this word, square, I cannot tell if it is Latin in origin or middle English or what) I am representing, I am not painting representational squares, I am painting, I will just tell you now, they began as windows, I am talking here about the Red Eye paintings, but they are becoming REDACT REDACT REDACT REDACT. I really don't want to be talking about this anymore. I should have taken as my subject today the first criticism I ever received as an "artist." It was between that topic and this one when I sat down to write my paragraph a little while ago. The one was vivid and full of story, and I longed to tell it, for it was a true story, while the other, the one I chose, was amorphous and not story-ful at all, but I chose it because I felt I wanted to tell you something that I then discovered in the act of telling you I didn't want to tell you! It is not that I don't wish you to know it, it is only that I don't want to tell my secrets yet, for I am still cupping them in my hand and animating them with my living warmth and encouraging breath, I am still hoping to turn tadpoles into dragons, I am still so deep in the midst of this work, I should not be talking about it. In other words, I am still using my secrets, I cannot give them away yet! I am very unhappy with this paragraph. It is way overcooked.

Today I would like to kill two birds with one stone, but first I'd like you to consider how really very difficult it would be to kill two birds with one stone. First of all, we do not kill birds with stones anymore, not most of us anyway, we do not need to aim our slingshots at birds, we only need to direct ourselves to the bird section of the grocery store. I do not know why we would kill birds other than to eat them, although catbirds, magpies and scrub jays are all birds I've disliked enough to want to throw stones at, although not necessarily to kill them, only to make them fly away. Catbirds because they whine interminably; magpies because they, well, talk too much; scrub jays because they're too (interminably) screechy. It would have to be a very large stone that took out two birds side by side, or one with such force behind it, it took out one, who was flung so violently, she took her companion with her. I don't know. I really can't see how a person could kill two birds with one stone. But I am going to do so now, at least metaphorically, because I am going to tell you about my Red Eye paintings, what I am calling my Red Eye paintings, and that will be the stone (flinty) of today's paragraph, and it will also serve as my artist statement, which I need to provide with the Red Eye paintings I am sending east. So. You are on a plane. It is nighttime. Imagine you are on a plane and it is nighttime. You are alone, there is no companion beside you, only a stranger who is beyond reach. You are leaving something. You are going toward something. What are you thinking as you gaze unsleepingly out the window, what thoughts are you projecting into that black nowhereness of an unpeopled and unknowable universe? What are you running from? What are you running for? It is so—for me, it is so poetic, the idea of movement, of running, of travel, of darkness, of voidness, of night.  Lately, I have been making paintings that take as their subject no object, or, rather (perhaps), that take as their subject space. I am a storyteller. But so are you. We are all with story. What I am doing in these paintings is providing, if you will, the space—the window, the stage (for there are stage paintings as well)—into which, it is my hope, you will project your own stories, the poetry of your own stories. Of course, the paintings must be paintings too, and that is my job, to make them right with the eye, it is not your job to make the paintings, but I would like it very much if you completed them by telling your story into them, even if where you are telling it is inside your heart and even if the way you are telling it is not with words but with feelings, with the soul's grammerless response. Now I will tell you something that is not for the artist statement, but is for this paragraph: I will have to change the voice slightly for the artist statement, I will not be including the bit about making the paintings right with the eye, that was only for you, but that will be easy work, and now my work (on this) is finished, I have my two dead birds at my feet—do you know, I've never even touched a dead bird, though I've seen plenty? I have not touched death much. The other day, on the hiking trail, there was a dead snake. It was dead. Its deadness, the way it lay inert and slack with deadness, was something I found utterly grotesque. I would say it was the quality of slackness I found grotesque. But now I am hunting another bird, and that is completely unnecessary, when I already have my two dead ones.

The business of art is so disheartening. Painting is its own struggle, it is sometimes a bloody war, it is sometimes, happily, not as fierce as that, it is usually a struggle of one kind or another, but it is deeply rewarding, and I do not consider that it would be worth doing were it not a struggle. I distrust things that come too easily, these things are called "facile." I have made facile paintings, and they are the paintings I destroy, they are not worth keeping, they signify nothing, not even failure. But the business of art, this is a struggle I don't much like engaging in. That is because it is a game whose rules are unclear to me. There is nothing straightforward about it; it is all twisty and turny and full of rabbitholes and snakeholes and mirrors you can sometimes walk through, and sometimes not, sometimes they will be closed to you and if you try to walk through them, as you did last week, they will only show you back to yourself, stunned, confused, dumb. I do not understand this game! It is interesting, the word "submit," is it not? As artists, we submit our work for consideration. We submit. It is an act of submission. In performing it, we become submissive. We make our pleas for entry. It is usually not given. It is not because of the quality of the work. There is not that logical correlation. I have seen more bad art on the walls of the galleries of this city than seems statistically even possible. This is another thing I do not understand. You could throw a rock, I have said before, and hit a hundred good artists—how did this one get a show? There are rules, you see, there must be complex rules I am too obtuse to understand. Really, though, I think it is like being a butterfly who is told she must do the heavy carrying of a mule as well. It doesn't matter that the wings won't hold. Find a way to turn them into burden carriers. But be beautiful in flight, be weightless on the earth as we could never be. Show us what it is to be ephemeral; but what have you brought us besides?

Being an artist has no intrinsic value, it is valuable only to the canvas that loves paint or the paint that dreams of the violation of brushes. It is memory, I believe that art is memory, and so I suppose then that artists are memory keepers, but so are many others, so are writers and recorders of all sorts. But I will say this about the memories that art keeps, I am talking about painting. They are memories of ourselves! It is not the memory of paint, or surface, it is not the memory of museum-going. It is the memory of light. It is the memory of time, of land and the gamboling wind, it is the memory of hats!, the memory of dust, of circumstance and being. I do not think I am making myself clear! That is because it is very difficult to put words to this, for I am speaking of something so ethereal, no words can stick to it. It is memory. It is the memory of ourselves as we have existed through time. It is the memory of blood and breath. Painting gives us that. It lets us remember. But I still cannot say that being an artist has intrinsic value, even though it is illogical to then speak of art's great value as a memory keeper, or a feeling keeper—feeling that is memory, or memory that is experienced as feeling. It is illogical, because without artists, there would be no art, and therefore no memory. We would not remember ourselves! Yes, yes, I know, we could read the Illiad or Beowulf, and that is memory as well, and it is powerful. (I have heard the beating of a thousand hooves in pursuit of Grendel, and I have tasted what those armies tasted, and I have felt their drunken fatigue!) But standing before a painting—let me be specific, it will be easier: Standing before a painting by, say, Rembrandt, do you not slightly bow your head in memory of the low roof? Do you not watch the dust that filters through the window, remembering the movements that unsettled it, the creak of the chair as the sitter sat? Can you not smell the dusty corner full of shadow and a shaft of light? So far, machines cannot create that experience, and neither can people who are not artists, and animals can't do it either, only artists can. But I do not think any of that matters, for I do not find a world that values artists. It is a world that romanticizes them, particularly their unhappiness and struggle, it is a world that enjoys stories of their misery in life and wild success in death, it is a world that delights in hearing of their self-destruction and their tragedy. But it is not a world that values their well-being. If there is celebrity attached to the artist, then I believe there is also value, then the artist has value because, as we all know, celebrity has enormous value in our culture, it is the value of forgetting ourselves. Now I will make a logical statement based on the foregoing, and then we will be finished with today's paragraph, which I spent more time untangling and (more or less unsuccessfully) sorting out than you will ever know—consider that I began with a statement that I then completely refuted and how that contradiction was unresolvable but necessary nevertheless to resolve—that statement is this: Forgetting ourselves is clearly more valuable than remembering ourselves. 

Oh, well, I guess there is nothing. On this morning, as the light is coming up, there is nothing. It is a wan, nothing-color light that is low in the east. There are telephone poles against this light, and wires. I see these things through a loading-dock door/window that is my only window. There are other things I can see, but they are not worth mentioning. It is not an edifying view. It is Saturday morning. Of all the mornings, I find Saturdays the most difficult mornings to be a painter. It will pass, as Saturday mornings do—in fact, as all mornings do—but while it is here, this difficulty, it is a difficulty not unlike the inability to breathe. There is so much to do, it is not as if I do not have a thousand things to do—on this morning, I plan to prepare paper, for instance, and this will involve stretching it, cutting it, and then brushing onto it first an acrylic medium and then clear gesso, which gives it tooth and grain. I will also stretch two canvases, on which I will be painting two "Red Eye" paintings to send east (I am being uncharacteristically specific!), and I will also begin the very early work on a large new "window" or "stage" painting, which I am also sending east. This will be the work I do in the morning, which precedes the actual work of painting. Also, I am doing this, I am telling you things, which is a thing I love. It does not matter, however, that I have all these things to do, and that I more or less love every task. It is an unease that fills me, a loneliness, the loneliness of the insistence on solitude my particular form of being an artist takes. I wish it were otherwise, but it is not. Most days, I do not feel this unease. I am happy to report that on most days, I do not feel this unease. But Saturdays wheel around to themselves again and again and again, and then I feel the unease, the unsettling unsettlement of never settling, never settling, never settling. Already, in the very early hours before the light came up, already I have felt envy and desire and regret. After all, there was not nothing; there was this.

It is not always, you know, going to be about painting, or on painting. In fact, now that I have called it something, something serious and upright, I will probably make every effort to defy it, to defy the label, defy the title, I will tell you, I do not like titles! I do not like them because they are constraints and because they are liars, we are never what we say we are, not because we are deliberate liars, but because we are incapable of describing great complexities with simple descriptions and few words, in the case of this blog, two: On Painting. Well, I do not want it to be about painting today, or on painting, I want it to be about helicopters. Specifically, the ones that are making mincemeat of the morning quiet. That is enough, it is enough to say that. If you happen to live in Los Angeles, you who are reading this (is someone reading this?), then I do not need to say more. If you do not live in Los Angeles (you who are not reading this?), then I cannot say more, for you do not know what it is like to live in a low-lying spill of a city that polices by air. But here is a nice thing I will say about helicopters: When they leave suddenly, they leave behind a deeper, more extraordinary quiet than the ordinary quiet they came into. That is a nice thing about helicopters. 

This morning, I have it in my head to discuss my absence of heads. Someone said to me, "But what does it mean?" and I replied, lazily, I didn't know. Look, I've been making things up my entire life, and these things I make up, they are poems and plays and now paintings, I do not just make them up for myself, they are not merely solipsistic manifestations of the esoterica of my imagination, although certainly they spring from it, although I do not think that is their primary source, I cannot give a name to that source, I believe it is outside of me, and I am just sensitive enough to not only intuit it, but to listen to it and to openly respond to it as well, that is to say, to stay in correspondence with it despite its demands and punishments, which far outweigh, I believe, the rewards of being possessed by and in possession of such sensitivity. There are few rewards. But I cannot remove my sensitivities, I am one with them. To be sensitive, to be hypersensitive, that is no doubt the primary condition of being an artist. It is not an easy thing to be. It is neither pleasant nor comfortable. We are responsive instruments. What I am wanting to tell you, and would be telling you if words didn’t keep getting in my way, is this: I have been doing this for a very long time. There is nothing arbitrary about what I do. It requires enormous amounts of solitude and thought and not-thought. I do not create things with the wild randomness of a ranging animal. (Although instinct does play its role, and it is sometimes a starring role.) If you were to look at the entire body of my work, I am certain you would find it coherent, making its own (internally) logical progression to a terminus that hasn't arrived yet. If I am making paintings right now of bodies without heads—let's be precise, of female bodies without heads, there must be a reason, even though I cannot necessarily be relied on to tell you what that reason is. My unreliance is my laziness or circumspection, it does not signify a lack of insight. It is only me taking a small holiday from the rigors of what I do, because, in fact, it means so much, it is a meaning that is a suitcase that holds the accumulation of all that I have done over the long course of my life as an artist. If I am making bodies without heads, I am telling you, I have earned that right, and it is not without meaning. I am happy to discuss it; in fact, I welcome the opportunity to discuss it, but I cannot give an offhand, quick answer: It means this. There is no one answer to give. Perhaps in the future I will make a catalog of the many answers I could potentially give.

When I was a young woman, after I graduated from university, I worked in publishing in Manhattan. The first house I worked for was Oxford University Press. This was a very nice place to work! The people who worked there were eccentric, they were old-timey kind of publishing people. One of the editors wore bedroom slippers! They had book sales in the library once a month, and you could order books from their list for free sometimes. For instance, I got the Complete Works for zero dollars and zero cents! We had half days on Fridays in the summertime, presumably so we could get to the Hamptons in time for cocktails. It was all very not for profit. Then I decided I wanted to move to Oregon and write, so I quit the job. When I told my boss, who was English, that this was what I was doing, he said to me, "Go West, young woman," and I have always saved a little fond spot for him in my heart because he said to me, "Go West, young woman." But I did not go West, not then anyway, so after a spell of not working, in which I would buy the New York Post every morning, along with a bagel and coffee, then spend the day writing, I took another publishing job, and in this job, I had an office that overlooked the Chrysler Building, eye to eye with the secular-church-spire-y top. I would watch the way the sun lit the silver hubcaps throughout the day, or the spire, as I say, it was like a magnificent sundial and I was some Druidic worshipper, though I had stupid office things to do to justify my paycheck. One of these stupid office things I had to do was to file papers—not that I was a file clerk, but that I was some sort of person who had to create files for the papers she produced, letters, memos, spreadsheets, what have you. But I found this task tremendously difficult, for I was unable to categorize the papers in such a way that some would belong to one file while others would belong another file, linked to their file mates by some criteria that eluded me. To me, each paper was sui generis, belonging only to itself. At the same time, each was related to the others in ways that precluded separating them into separate files. What criteria, after all, was I to use? I could not decide—I was not a good categorizer! So I used a lot of file folders, and many of those folders only contained one file. As I say, I could just as easily have had only one file folder and placed all the papers in that one folder, because they were all as related to each other as they were unrelated. In the aftermath of having made some sort of go at this filing business, I imagine it was then rather difficult to find various memos or whatever it was I filed if ever I needed to refer to them. I imagine that would have been very difficult, but I do not remember. I am now having a similar difficulty with my website. I do not know how to categorize my work because I have so much of it! So far, I have made categories based on either when the work was made or series I have done. That was sensible of me! But I do not wish to show so much of my work anymore, and now I must figure out a new way of showing—and categorizing—an edited version of a large oeuvre, and I do not know that I can do it!  In addition to that, I have so much new work to add, but because I do not want to create the same kind of categories as I did in the past, I do not know how to add this new work! And yet, it must be added! I wish someone would come and do this job for me, but they will not, I know they will not, and so I must do it myself. I have enjoyed telling you this story. I have enjoyed it because telling stories does not confuse me. Even though my writing can be very circular and brambly, I am rarely confused when I am working with sentences. Sometimes, it is true, I have to treat my words like breadcrumbs to make my way back to my original point, it is true that sometimes I have to do that because I am so digressive. But there are words, they can be used like breadcrumbs, and I can do it! Besides which, circularity is very logical to me. In fact, it is probably the shape of God. Unfortunately, now I must return to my website to be flummoxed by its reorganization. It is really very much like filing.

I will begin this with an understatement: Nonobjective painting is hard. In fact, it is so hard, I can't even find a way to describe to you how hard it is, so I will back up a minute and give you a quote from Robert Motherwell, which I had the good fortune to read just this morning, it is this: "One has no idea what it is like to spend forty years of one's adult life alone in a room with blank canvas or blank paper and think, 'Now what am I going to do with it?'" I say good fortune, because it's really very hard to spend one's life alone in a room making things out of nothing, and I am so close to that difficulty as to be conjoined with it. But it is even harder to make paintings out of nothing, that is to say, to make a painting that has no object, that takes no thing as its subject, to begin a painting without the clear objective of making an object come to life, in whatever ways one is gifted at doing, that is even harder, I have made it even harder for myself than it already was! I will not elaborate on why it's become necessary for me to get my head (and hands) around nonobjective painting, only that it has, it has become necessary, it is something I must do, I must understand it. But I do not understand it! But it is not just the confrontation with the canvas I am experiencing, I am used to that, it has always been a confrontation of varying degrees of difficulty, it is more existential in nature, it is an ontological confrontation with nothingness itself. There is, literally, nothing to go by. I am telling you now in a way that will neither understate nor overstate it, I am telling you that nonobjective painting is hard in the way that nihilism is hard, it is Sartre's nausea, it is an existential crisis of the kind I have never experienced before. I am groping for the slimmest edge, but there is nothing, it is the unanswering void. It a dreadful mirror, it is the dreadfulest mirror.

It's strange with painting, the deeper I get into it, the more mysterious it becomes. I half wonder if at the very heart of it isn't some sort of Pythagorean mysticism, some quasi-Eleusinian mystery cult—I mean, it is mysterious! Not the how or the why part of it, although both questions, how to paint and why to paint upend me daily, I can never answer either of those questions satisfactorily or with even the slightest portion of confidence, I do not know how to paint (except to paint), and I do not why I paint (except I paint), and they are both I believe questions that want answering, I do not think they should go unanswered, but I cannot find answers other than temporary ones to those questions. Sometimes I become certain, for instance, that what I paint is more important than how I paint, and in that time in which I am certain, I feel I have reached a certain summit, and I can therefore plant my flag of permanent knowing. But it is only a sandhill summit, and then the wind comes and blows it away, and eventually I decide the opposite, that how I paint is of course! more important than what I paint, and there I am with my flag again, I have conquered all doubt! But that is not the mystery I am talking about, although it is probably an aspect of it—after all, why do we paint? Are we making pictures, is the paint only a means to an end, or is painting, the way we apply paint, the end in itself, and pictures are only a byproduct of that? That is a giant question to me, I am always grappling with it! I do not even know if it has an answer! It is probably an answer that is like light that slides along a spider's thread, it is probably like that, mobile and unfixable. To answer it, or to attempt to answer it, may be a kind of initiation into a deeper level of the mysteries. The posing of a riddle: It stands at the threshold of so many stories of the voyaging seeker. All along, I've been meaning to make an address to you about the greater mystery, the one that is more than just the how or the why to paint, and here is the place where I would do that. The trouble is, I am only at the threshold, I am still with the riddle! I have not been admitted to the deeper mysteries yet! But even if I had been, initiates never speak—even if I knew, I couldn't tell you! But I can tell you this, because it is nothing I have been told myself, I am not passing on any secrets here, because no one has ever revealed this to me, I have had no guides in this perilous (fucking) journey, it is only something I intuit: I think it is a mystery that goes very very deep indeed, so deep, it is where God and the devil once convened, and all the darkness around them was infused with light, and the light was steeped in darkness, and upon this darkness that is light and light that is darkness is where it is written, the true language of painting. But I am up here at a threshold, and people are rolling carts, or wagons, by my window, I do not know what kind of merchants they are, and of course a dog is barking, for always, somewhere, a dog is barking.

I am afraid I have inferred something that simply isn't true, I have inferred (I am afraid) that I am no longer teaching myself how to paint. I am still teaching myself how to paint. Every day, you'll pardon my language, is a fucking lesson in learning how to paint. Something as rudimentary as how to apply the paint, it is something I am still learning! I do not always know how to apply paint! Even today, even today after so many years of painting that I have made some very good paintings and many more bad paintings, even today after so many of those years, I am wondering how the fuck (pardon me) I am going to apply the paint because I did not do it well yesterday, and yesterday has now become today, and I do not wish to spend the day applying paint like a fucking (sorry) seizuring Bedlamite. So I am still learning how to apply paint, and it has been several years now that I have been painting in earnest, every day. Painting is a trick, an illusion, that is for sure, but it is not the trick or the illusion you are probably thinking of; it is, rather, a trick or an illusion wherein the painting appears to have been easily made, where it seems easy to do. Yes, yes, I know—some paintings are easily made. And, yes, I also know that some painters are more deft than others, I am sure almost all painters are more deft than I, I am not very deft, though sometimes I am in a happy haze of deftness, and perhaps in those times, I am under some foolish impression that I have taught myself how to paint and that I am no longer a student. But I am not in that happy haze very often. Mostly painting is like wrestling a bear, I have said that before, and throughout the process of painting, the bear is usually winning, although oftentimes I am able to pin it down long enough to make a painting I am happy with, but the struggle always takes its toll, and, pinned or not, the bear still roars with its stewy breath and bloodied teeth, and I am still afraid of it, I am still as in awe of this terrible beast that is painting as some are of the storm-beset ocean and others the unclimbable sky—whatever one calls one's awful god. I am still afraid of it.

When I taught myself how to paint—I taught myself how to paint—I taught myself by painting on paper, it was only much later, after switching to canvas, that I realized how difficult, on top of the already colossal difficulty of teaching myself how to paint, how much more difficult (I mean to say) I had made it for myself by painting on paper rather than canvas. I did not know it at the time that I began to teach myself, I did not know how much less forgiving paper is than canvas—I didn't know! Paper is the glowing white austere northerner, whereas canvas is a Mediterranean bon vivant—I do not wish to carry that metaphor any further. I am not terribly happy I introduced it. I will not delete it, although I have not made that rule for myself here, though I have made it for myself elsewhere, that I am not permitted to delete—well, in point of fact, I've never made the rule for myself that I am not permitted to edit, so I am sorry I introduced this digression as well. Back to the matter at hand. Paper. It was very hard! Paper can't take a lot of paint before it simply gives up and says it can't, it can't do it anymore! Too much paint, and it is overburdened. Although in my opinion paper is the most beautiful substrate, it is not terribly strong, and it is even less, as I say, forgiving. When I made the switch from paper to canvas, after about two years of painting on paper, it was a revelation, and at first it was not a good one. I had trained on paper, and I did not like how canvas behaved, it was like a slut! I could not get refined results the way I had learned to on paper—I simply could not, and every mark therefore had to be broad, I could not paint little things. Eventually, of course, I grew to love canvas, and I began to work with it exclusively. But I do not have a lifelong love affair with canvas the way I do with paper. I am grateful to canvas for existing, and I am grateful to it for letting me be a bad painter making terrible choices during the course of any given painting before I am able to right myself and make better choices that lead to a better painting, I am grateful to its patience, sufferance and endurance. (I think that becoming a better painter is merely the evolution of making fewer mistakes for a shorter duration...paintings are always made out of mistakes, are they not, we should not wish to eliminate them, only perhaps to make fewer than I am even at present known to make?) I am very grateful also to canvas that I can buy yards upon yards of it for not very much money (gesso is another matter, and I am not grateful to gesso for much, except of course for existing, I do not wish to work on unprimed canvas), which is lucky because I am so prolific. I am grateful to canvas, and I love it. But I do not love it like I love paper. With the exception of the blood of my family, I do not think I have loved anything as long or as fully as I have loved paper. Full stop. Did you know, sometimes you can write and write and write, and the point just doesn't arrive? There comes a moment when you, as the writer, realize: there isn't a point, there are many points, but no center, nothing I am orbiting around, I am just millions of stars in the vast unstructured darkness. I did not know that would happen, but here it has happened. Oftentimes writing contains the very force that causes coalescence—that is how I write, generating that force with my words. But sometimes, and it has happened today, it does not contain this force. I am very sorry about this! I owe you many apologies for leading you to not much of anything at all, to an entirely underwhelming conclusion. Writing unlike painting is not built on mistakes.