Now that the paintings are out of the studio, I have been taking time to clean and reorganize the space. Over the last ten years I had allowed the windows at the east end of the studio to stay dirty, because I liked being aware of the glass while including it in a number of paintings. But this seemed like a good time to start fresh. Two afternoons and a bucket of muddy water later, I am again admiring a clear view of the world outside. My precarious work on the roof reminded me of a small book of poems by Jerome Mazzaro called Changing the Windows. I picked it up at a used book store in Bloomington, Indiana in 1997 while visiting a few other young artists there with my friend Mark Green. Here is the poem from which the book draws its title:
CHANGING THE WINDOWS
When I am forced by circumstance and heat
to take the winter windows off the house
spotted like bass who will be stripped of lice,
I think of that old woman down the street
who got by the Depression renting rooms
to seven lonely bachelors in a row,
the last of whom fell from an open window
changing the screens one sunny afternoon.
Called Mother Witch by city columnists
who wrote how all the seven perished strangely,
each with an ample paid-up policy
made out to her, she didn’t snare one jurist
in all the headline months her trials ran–
through winter changed to summer as it must.
She sat reading a favorite Evening Post
as if no court could judge her for her sin.
Thinking, too, of her full-grown idiot son
who scavenged in our ashcans after that
feeding himself with cast-off bits of fat
until a court ruled he’d too lost his reason,
somehow I think of husbanded black widows
and savage birds who sometimes eat their young,
and wonder at the web this world becomes,
then scuttle off to unhinge all the windows.
A few of my recent paintings incorporated ideas of memorialization and the inevitable challenges of sentimentality and over-simplification. I include one more of Mazzaro’s poems, below, as a nod to his own efforts:
DEATH WAS A TRICK
Death was a trick I taught him as a pup
like fetching till he mastered both to race
my ordered stick back clamped between his jaws,
ignoring once too soon the whir of trucks
whose chirring crushed whole worlds of growing up
and set him broken in a makeshift box.
Across blind roadways he comes running yet,
small-terriered, black-footed, slow in death.
In the midst of the reorganization of the upstairs studio, I have been keeping busy in the shop. I’m working on another bench made from reclaimed lumber. This one is composed of African Mahogany that had dried with crazy twists and curves. I’ve been sorting through the deformed boards and dreaming up applications for the undulating surfaces.
I was able to match two boards with similar curves to make a seat that shifts from being relatively flat to being sharply cleft along its length. I continue to carve, scrape, and sand out the top face in an effort to create a comfortable hollow. I have started to think of it as a kind of “aqueduct” design, as the form reminds me of terraced troughs used move water for mills, irrigation, etc.