there was the circle. actually it was the perfect red circle painted by giotto in response to a request by the pope to see giotto’s work before hiring him that i read about in david markson’s brilliant “wittgenstein’s mistress” although the story of giotto and the perfect red circle (hand-painted without a compass or other assistance–just his hand, the brush, the paint and a surface; think about it,) may have been a part of my art history library (the one you keep in your mind, the one you draw on unexpectedly–that grain silo on a country highway at the edge of a town that hardly anyone, even you, visits.)
there was the circle. i knew it would be the beginning. i knew that the message would start to reveal itself once the circle was down.
there were vague notions of ideas, but none of them fully formed, just an avid interest in the perfect red circle. my fingertips turned red from the craypas as i rubbed its redness into the canvas (a cherry kool-aid red, a candy-colored & -coated red from over-indulging; the red of lips freshly kissed, slightly bruised — a hush of violet.)
giotto is not a favorite artist of mine. i am not disposed to the early italian renaissance, i mean i get it, but that doesn’t mean i have to like it. i could care that the contrapuntal stance suddenly ‘enlivened’ painting toward a more natural representation. but giotto started this [project.] there was the circle. and there were roses. and there is always marcel duchamp. i cannot go further than the front door without packing up my rrose selavy & quietly tucking her into my _______ (an yet as unnamed carry-all [port-manteau, peut-être] for ideas & my past.) please see this blog post, my heart belongs to dada for further proof. )
i am not a painter. my visual expression is usually relegated to what i can make a digital camera & my computer do. i attempt to compose photographs (you may have figured that out on your own, should you be any little bit familiar with this blog) that have some beauty or some symmetry or for that matter, asymmetry or that they somehow tell a story (sometimes about me, other times about greater & smaller things, at times they say nothing at all.)
some ideas start out strong (“this is not a …”, above,) but quickly are covered over when a better idea came along (you’ve been to that bar, haven’t you? the one where you’re just getting into someone — & they you — & suddenly something better comes along — for either one of you & whatever it was that was working for you, isn’t any longer. i know you know what i mean.) ideas are like that, aren’t they? creativity is like that bar–it’s a fairly busy bar–most times anyway, but there are down times too, when your life might get in the way or there’s some other thing that needs YOUR ATTENTION NOW.
there was the circle. it needed paint. i know that acrylic paint makes a great adhesive, so i was already contemplating mixing up the media by the time i dipped my first brush into the burnt sienna (the undercoat) & then i needed to spend about a half hour (with assistance, no less) looking for a palette knife or putty knife or something to make a little impasto (or a lot) & finally ended up with a cake spatula (see above, left) which worked on this small surface perfectly (at least for me, the inexperienced painter.)
which. there was the problem of not being a painter, truly. i suffered some regret as paint went down, sometimes on its own, other times under my not-quite-as-confident-as-i-thought hand. i told myself, ‘no matter’, work with what you have, follow your instincts, for god’s sake “use some brighter colors!” think about the color, the composition, the forms; it’s not like i don’t write about it often enough & here i am struggling with concepts that i know. because, did i say this before? i am not a painter.
before i got too carried away by the surface texture of the paint, i sidled over to the computer & started selecting different roses from my ‘botanicals’ file (thinking, as i was, that only one  rose would anchor the painting, center, front–giotto’s angel’s wings, his perfect circle its halo); i chose several different favorites, printed them & cut them out in a close approximation of their actual shape, but leaving some ‘edge’ (an angle, a scissor cut) to them, but only because the tiny, tiny, tiny details are best left to someone with more patience than i–of course, that is only partially true, i can maneuver among the shoals of tiny details without incident, but like most people or at least most people like me (which narrows it down quite severely, doesn’t it?) i prefer the grand gesture, the details to follow as best they can, scrambling behind to keep up with the sweeping grandeur that is ‘high concept.’
as sure as i could be, i placed the yellow rose in the center of the circle (poor giotto, clumsily painted over as he is) & pushed it into the wet paint. in true amateur painter manner, i stepped back, with brush in paint-splattered hand (i may have stuck the tip end of the brush between my lips, a cigarette to think more clearly) & contemplated my work: the balance, the subject (was the visual result now before me an expression of what i felt?), & realized, with all of those other roses laying to the side of the canvas that i was not done with them, yet.
& they all found a home, although there may have been one or two that were rejected (their sad little faces, “why not me?”) & so i set those aside with another use in mind (they ended up on the reverse with my signature.) but suddenly i now found a triangle (a golden rose triangle) thrusting up into the center of the picture plane (a rose bowl float sliding into the your peripheral vision, just like on new year’s morning as the floats make their away around the corner from orangethorpe onto colorado blvd. in pasadena–an “ooh, look at that one!” escaping your lips.)
& i thought of the flutter of angel’s wings (a scene from kushner’s “angels in america”, maybe not as angry, but still, retributive.) so. & i thought that there might be just the faintest whiff, the odor, the scent, the suggestion of an erotic moment (do i need to spell it out for you? no? i thought as much.)
those unfurling petals that push the center of the rose up toward your ______, an invitation to smell, taste, indulge, relent, submit, a slave to their power. do you lose yourself in their beauty? it is their strength, that beauty, that scent, that sex. & don’t they make it difficult to love them–the thorns, pin-pricks of anguish, scratches of anticipation; all there to make you want them more, because it is the pain of handling them that makes them that much more desirable. even after you’ve been hurt by reaching out to their beauty, you are incapable of resisting going back in for another opportunity to bring it close to your ______.
you know the probability of hurt is great, but their beauty completely blinds you to that danger as the reward (their domination of your soul) is so utterly irresistible. what could feel better than love & yet could cause such despair?
it kidnaps you, love, that is. you may receive a ransom note, all cut out newspaper letters jumbled together, demanding X for the release of Y (the union that produces zygotes.) & i know that some of you will debate the relative value of one over the other; others may rush in (otherwise known in romantic literature as ‘fools for love’–a description that, unfortunately, applies to the majority — even the most calculating among us.) you may prevaricate, waste time, dither, sweat, say yes! then as quickly say no! all of which are the symptoms of love’s relentless hold on our lives, its foreplay were we in the mood (or in a clearer state of mind) to admit.
(did i know this is where i would end up when i started this project? & please, consider the parenthetical thoughts, phrases & digressions as asides delivered directly to the audience in a knowing & conspiratorial tone of voice–perhaps accompanied by a wink of complicity, we are, after all, actors upon a stage, blah, blah, blah… [what to do about the poor ellipsis, so overused & under-appreciated, but so perspicacious an ending to our blathering.] )