We’re in the midst of the large winter storm that has been sweeping the country today. We have several inches of ice pellets on the ground, and snow is expected within the hour. Evidently there are accumulations of up to 22″ to our southwest, but those are the only reliable weather reports in this region– the ones relating events that have already happened. The ice alone was enough for Washington University to cancel classes today, though. I believe it’s the first time that has happened since I came to St. Louis in 1995. I made good use of the time, building the last pieces of the dining room table. Now all that is left is final sanding, assembly of parts, and decisions regarding the stain and finish. You’ll still need to use your imagination to picture things right-side-up, but here are a few images:
I’ve spent the last week or so building stretchers, stretching the canvases, and priming the new surfaces. It is a process that I now enjoy, but that was not the case when I was first learning how to do the work. It seemed like a waste of time when I wanted to get on with the activity of painting. Then one of my professors, Barbara Duval, explained to me that the time spent preparing the surface was valuable time for giving thought to what might happen on that surface. I put that into practice. These days the plot has thickened– my impulse for making the painting comes first, and I determine the dimensions/proportions to suit that vision. As I begin making the stock for the stretcher bars, I am already, in effect, making the painting.
Ten years ago my wife Christine was good enough to buy The Mooring of Starting Out, The First Five Books of Poetry by John Ashbery for me as a Christmas present. As I was scraping the ground across a large canvas this week, I found myself pondering the contradiction built into that title. I often find myself at odds with Ashbery’s work, but it is only because he refuses to do what I want him to do. I enjoy his work for the same reason. Our points of agreement are more often individual lines than complete poems. And so it was with this title, The Mooring of Starting Out. It felt appropriate to the work at hand, that I would stop painting in order to start painting. It is strange, and suitable.