Sunday, August 14, 2005

Author's Note to DRIVE: The First Quartet

I am influenced by painters. Irving Norman, in particular, whom I once met when I was about 18 when I wrote a poem about one of the major images in his show, face-masks, that was exhibiting in the San Jose State Student Union gallery where I was giving a poetry reading and read the poem. He was there, when I looked up and said his name, and I gave him a copy of the poem & he invited me to a party closing the show. There, a young woman had questioned him before a tryptic (think Bosch): three individual paintings which create another composition, another solid image, when hung together—of a futuristic warscape, mostly blood and ash colored dominated by armies of armored behemuths that must have inspired Star Wars. She asked him: "Do you really see the world this way? Just brutality & greed? Do you really believe that people can be so awful?" And he just cried. Silent tears streaming down his face for an uncomfortable 20 minutes. What a number on an arm can tell about a paint smear on cloth. An artist only paints what he sees. An artist only paints what she was meant to see. Intent. The after-image of grey felt by Beuys blooms into a colored mural in someone else's life a continent away, a heart away. That close.

I am not driven, so much, by intentions, as I am stunned into being by intent.

One starlit night in October I was sitting with my dear friend, Dylan Morgan. Dylan of the wide Texas mind. Dylan who first introduced me to Eduardo Galeano's Memoria de fuego. Dylan who read books and painted everyday. A friend of his had copied all of his paintings for the year, some 400 of them, and they were placing them in small binders. I looked through all of them, some I knew from the painting of them, some from their description or the set they belonged to: Kathe Kollwitz, Tamayo, contemporary photo-docs, . . . I stopped at a small painting of a man playing the violin seated among the espinas of a cactus in a field of Van Gogh yellow. Something about his face, some challenge: to do! I set it in front of me. I wanted to buy that painting. Next was a blurry vision of boys & drunk men in a cantina. Next, a faceless war scene; a man holding the lifeless body of a child. The last was one of the last in the pile: "DRIVE!" I thought—a woman wearing my grandmother's scarf on her head holding her hands in front of her on the steering wheel of the go-nowhere car. I stared into that pic, those starfish hands, deciding. Somewhere inside, the printer in me, the craftperson, my grandmother said: "This would make a great cover!" (Something about the immediacy of the "arrow" on the right that drives one to act, to open.) And I laid it out on the floor in front of me with the others—in the form of a Tarot cross. I was moving to Boulder. It was always my intention to purchase some of Dylan's paintings. Soon I would have a salary. Dylan interrupted my ruminating by handing me a book by Argentinian poet in exile, Juan Gelman. I opened it at random to a poem that would change my life forever, that's how much it spoke to me: "You Are." I sat there, stunned, gonging, my thoughts in a stammer. I picked up the four and gazed at them, in the order they appear in this book. Not deciding. At the last, I said again, thinking of my favorite lived line of poetry by Robert Creeley: "DRIVE!"

And knew I had a book. I had four. And, a face.

The books are intended to be read in any order the reader desires. They are bound together in this edition for affordability and for carrying them with you, perhaps, like me, under some tree. Bound so that you don't have to worry about getting them dirty, books intended to be consumed with wine & cheese, pita & hummus, Soyrizo & tortillas organicas. A book that could serve as a table, a plate, a platform.

They are all, like us, distinctly different from the others but linked to some common phenomenology, some base language of Spirit where we thrive, an inheritance of disparate images, the over-abundance of flowering & decay under history & chance; this United State.
posted by Lorna Dee Cervantes, 8/14/05, at 4:38 PM to

For Dad, Visionary Artist, Luis Cervantes (11/1/23 - 4/27/05) ~ "5"


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