Thursday, January 10, 2013

"When I was 16, I took a hundred foot free-fall off a cliff"

We met Doug LaMarche on the Venice Boardwalk where he was painting his old paint brushes.  It was like a bouquet (you can see another one in the video) with his own concoction of old paint that was thick and waxy looking.

I liked the concept, but these weren't pieces I'd want in my house and so I asked questions about what he thinks makes art 'good' or not.  Soon I asked if I video what he was saying.

He's thought about these issues a lot.  Art is about self-expression.  It's about healing.  And as I looked around, it was clear that the paintbrushes were not, perhaps, the true indication of his art.

This one shows the artist - I didn't write what he said, but something like - doing battle with traditional art standards as he attacks Gainsborough's Blue Boy which was the most expensive painting ever sold, when Californian railroad magnate Henry Edwards Huntington purchased it in 1922. Or so says Wikipedia.   An interesting tidbit I found there related to the great American artist Robert Rauschenberg:

Born on Oct. 22, 1925 in Port Arthur, a small refinery town in Texas near the Louisiana border, Milton Ernest Rauschenberg lived an American dream.  His parents were poor fundamentalists who didn’t dance, drink, or play cards. At the University of Texas in Austin, the teenager was studying pharmacology when World War II began.  Drafted during spring 1944, he ended up, as a pacifist, working in the Navy Hospital Corps in San Diego.
On a visit to the Huntington Art Gallery, outside Los Angeles, Rauschenberg found a new direction, and American art history gained one of its most indomitable practitioners. Here the young neuropsychiatric technician saw his first oil paintings. One of them, Gainsborough’s Blue Boy, was familiar. Back home, it had been reproduced on a calendar. Painting pictures, he realized, was something a person could do.

Doug seemed to have a dim view of marriage too.  There were two pieces that questioned the institution.

I think this one was called reflections on weddings or marriage.  

 He pointed out these were all recycled materials.

The next one represents the important role of alcohol to marriage - it either destroys a marriage or keeps it together.

So, at some point I asked if I could turn on the video camera which led to this video below.  There's a lot of truth in what he says.

One thing I didn't do consciously was to film this so it's not obvious he's in a wheel chair.  Maybe it was subconsciously done, because I think it's important to take people as people and not jump to conclusions based on the category we pushed them into.  And I didn't even think about asking how he ended up in a wheel chair.  But another blogger did and it does add to our understanding of Doug's words and to their power.  And the power of art.

Robert Zuckerman writes on a blog post he did on Doug:
"What Happened to you?" I ask.

"When I was 16, I took a hundred foot free-fall off a cliff.  I couldn't do or face anything for seventeen years, then I discovered art.  Now I do and teach Art as Healing."
So, it's might seem sort of hypocritical to use the title I used for this post.  But I suspect a few more people will look at this title than would look at something like, "Art and Healing."  Those are the kinds of conflicting tensions a blogger deals with.  Having titles that are relevant to the post but not so boring as to drive away readers.  

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