Poem to a Careless Lover

The world moves first, biting off a hunk of your side; you wobble and bleed, changed into a monster balancing itself against the wound. The past will not erase; could you ever get true revenge against it? Somebody pushes you, you catch the momentum of the push and push someone else, abuse working itself as a wave across people.

Revenge doesn’t just damage the damager; it balances, it cancels out cruel energies, it meets spice with milk. Revenge is a master builder, a home of the muse. Generations of the marginal put reins over their need for vengeance, translate pain into craft and form, and in making truthful art assay to change both the world and themselves. Here goes the catharsis of violent music and confrontational art. A limited sort of revenge, hissing and hysterical, pocked with the callowness to smash a guitar as though into the world’s forehead.The lustful moon

Poetry can fight like this: as not shield but sword. It can be a person’s weapon against inhumanity of the spirits, of Death, of fickle tricky Love. I wrote this poem to careless lover like whispering it to myself through a crack in the floor. It consoled me, and maybe it will make you feel a bit better, too.


You look at me and see a tree
To wipe the velvet from your horn
To you I am a gallery
A league of lovers that you will scorn
You make me into fantasy, a Lady of the Lake
Believed in as a fable to be dismissed as fake

You learned young that you should run
— Pursued by giving chase —
And secretly believed you won
Love-like lie at end of race
You’d have me play this hackneyed game
Which rubs the letters off my name
But flirty winks appease no Sphinx
My dusty wings want flame.

You were possessed by faces, by moons that fall and rise
You walked together as a crowd, mystic with your eyes
You who sweared she never cared
A feathered mask, teeth bared.

(How did I learn to like this taste? —
The pucker of a grapefruit’s pink
The final swig of coffee paste
That is difficult to drink.
I curse my mouth for going wet
Ordering the meal I get)

— D. Lineal

Fresh Art On a Hot Day On the Old Trail

Do you know unassuming Elston Avenue, which lopes through the northwest of Chicago along the river? People have been going on it since before our civilization, as a high ridge trail through the onion-y swamp, then a plank road. Today it is called after an 1830s businessman and houses a menagerie of mysterious old bulky spaces. Life has been walked into this path, and it feels like an apt locale for the type of magic seeing needed to produce art. Indeed on the 3400 block we find (looking to each other across the street) a gallery and an art school/gallery.
J. Faun Manne
What happened at that gallery last Saturday only?

For the length of last Saturday only, Arts on Elston gallery (3446 N. Albany Ave) hosted a double exhibition sponsored by The Art House and curated by Rebecca George: the first solo show of J. Faun Manne, and also a group show of artists from the Art House advanced studio course: “WORKS ON WALLS III”. A selection of art to observe the length of this afternoon only, fringed in July sunlight slanting through the windows.

Works of J. Faun Manne numbered dozens, all of fresh 2014/5 vintage, images she netted in the dark of recent nights. In a massed crowd of Manne’s visions, we witness her mind’s eye seeing similar types of images, her heart speaking in the same palette. (A tan tea-stain color into ocher – this earthiness, this sickliness – the heart goes somewhere out in this dense band of feeling, hashed over with the distant smokiness of memory — and how this color wears blue around it!)

 J. Faun Manne at her solo exhibit, graduating from The Art House with a Certificate in Fine Arts. July 25, 2015
J. Faun Manne at her solo exhibit, graduating from The Art House with a Certificate in Fine Arts. July 25, 2015

Images of what? Ladies, bodies, mouths, hair. Often a solitary figure, but sometimes many more. Animated in acrylic, with playful grit of texture and fabrics. Sensuality hangs heavily to the figures — their curves shoot beams. But clearly the figures are totems and not people; they do not quite live in our world.

This show commemorates J. Faun Manne’s reception of a Certificate of Fine Arts from The Art House, the art school and gallery space at 3452 N Albany Ave.

WORKS ON WALLS III, the other half of the exhibition, showcased the diverse artists of the Art House. These adult students of art study with Rebecca George, who supports the fruitful flow of their images. Their 2-D works, though of many dissimilar hands, had a coherent spirit of the passion and wholesomeness of emerging artists.

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Artist Charles Echols at his group show: Works on Walls III, June 25, 2015

At age 80 Barbara Hopkins takes up the brush to paint realistic portraits of her grandchildren (an image of yourself from the past rendered in the hand of your grandmother and given to you by her as a gift: here is a magic object). Timothy Curtin brings wry humor, as a vision of the city in gray stripes of cloud; Bev Borum scratches in the paint, digging feelings into it with words. And Charles Echols goes between large-scale colorful abstraction, and gray-scale pop art, vectorized enough to look screen printed but in fact painted free hand. The joy and vividness of life sounded through the whole show, for this one afternoon only in the dog days of Chicago summer.

The Traveler is the Journey

20150704_211720aaaaaa“The traveler is the journey. What we see is not what we see but who we are.”
Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

I see a deck of magic fortune-telling cards that have blots of ink instead of classic tarot pictograms. The king of pentacles, the Magician card, the queen of cups — this deck represents them as accidental abstract mish-mashes of black ink. This is a Rorschach test tarot deck, which you shuffle, deal, and read to yourself. You engage with the formations in each ink blot and sagely blend the spread of cards into a true static painting of your future.

Where does this information come from, the forbidden knowledge of your certain fate? Is it encoded in the holy chosen random-not-randomness of the cards? Was it written in lightning by a sympathetic demon?

The Rorschach Test tarot deck accurately predicts the future by causing you to perceive your own submerged secret knowledge of your future. The vagueness of the inky form embraces your vision: you transcribe the smokey shadow-figure who waits there, leaning against a wall in your mind. The seeming passivity of “reading” the ink blots belies the pro-activity of you “writing” occult information, the ink of your pen scraped from deep inside. This tarot deck tricks you to “remember” your own future, which resides inarticulately in your vast unconscious webbing.

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I am no authority on who other people are or what they are like, but I would guess that many people would tell you that they have had convincing intuitions of their own fate. The people, I tell you, have seen and believed absolutely in visions of their future that proved to be true.

It might seem that these visions, coming before the future in time, cause the future: the dreamer dreams, and then perhaps a little bit or some day the dream gets realized. But I have come to feel that the opposite is true. The hazy dreams of the present are caused by clear knowledge of the future. The dream of the past becomes the reality of the future, sure; but the reality of the future bends back over the past and blows visions into the dreamer’s eye.

So sometimes you sense and tell yourself things you already know about your future, and depending on who you are may heed yourself or not.

Do you remember?
If you do not have a strong sense of what your own fate is (I’ll confess to being uncertain about my own), you should first consult your dreams about the future. What did you see yourself doing? There you will be. You will get just what you saw.

But there is pain when you look into dreams about the future. How much fantasy can represent literal future reality? At least some of it, but not most of it.

But if you dredge your mind for dreams and drag up none? I’ll confess solidarity on this score as well: my dreams have been chased off. So do we have elsewhere to look to find out what we already know about the future? Or are we auguring in our dreamlessness our future past the edge of life, out in the land of the dead? Here on the northwest side of Chicago I am scanning imagery for clues, for leaks. A tell, or a shadow of its tail. I can’t believe what is going to happen to me.


“I’ve always been an ironic dreamer, unfaithful to my inner promises.
Like a complete outsider, a casual observer of whom I thought I was,
I’ve always enjoyed watching my daydreams go down in defeat.
I was never convinced of what I believed in.
I filled my hands with sand, called it gold, and opened them up to let it slide through.
Words were my only truth.
When the right words were said, all was done; the rest was the sand that had always been.”

Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

Delightful Folk Art Classics

Don’t try to find outsider art inside the Art Institute of Chicago. You might eventually locate the folk art gallery (secreted in a passage off a staircase) but will be certainly disappointed by the scanty and un-entertaining art it holds. You must meet the folk on Milwaukee Avenue, at Intuit Gallery.

William Hawkins

Outsider art never felt outside of where I was. “Brut” has been the natural clacking tongue of images — of teenagers making saucy jokes in magazine collage, of loose doodle maps penciled out by introverts, of all the secret impulsive art drawn aboard all the buses of Chicago each day (only some of which could ever be Wesley Willis’). It must be almost all art made and consumed.
Wesley WillisI recognize it instantaneously and with joy. From here, with the Volk, the insider art is the anomaly (with its combed lines and arcane bloviations). Outsider art shepherds in all the folk, not just the crazy or those with other ways certifiable authentic naivete. In this weird world, who can be familiar enough to get all the way “inside”?

Simon SparrowThe images are magical: they are supposed to do something. The images have a destiny. It is not always clear why the images have appeared or what they want. They have forced themselves out through a person, and it would seem they’re not done traveling somewhere, back and forth across worlds.
Jon Serl
The artist may imagine they have saddled their works as “therapy,” but then, panting, they will recognize they are the ones running, blindered and whipped. And we may smirk at the artist’s contortions to catch the message (their advanced finger-painting technique), at the clarity of their subjection to their images (how charming the enslavement of Henry Darger to his world), and how we can see through the screen of their cute common media to the place where gods live. The images burn out from their hearts, lingering on the world a few human lifetimes like grey coals.

All art is up now at Intuit Gallery, 756 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL

Old King Content & The Weird Art Out There

“Content is King” they had said — so Content becomes a man, the enlightened warlock despot casting spells of letters at the world, the Vector with the logic of a field of dandelions. The “they” that says this are the enlightened graphic designers and  tech types who, despite their lack of taste, engineer the Internet and spray down the world with Trapper Keeper aesthetics to trick people into buying awful products.

What if Google reworked its algorithm after the cliche “Silence is golden”, by which people encourage other people to not take up as much social space? Which is more “relevant,” the soggy blather of corporate blogs, written by unpaid intern drone adult children to feed their King the words he likes, or a irrelevant blog entry that was not even written at all? Perhaps ideally search queries should show empty pages, representing the content that was mercifully, justly, appropriately NOT imposed on the entire world via the Internet. Can’t the market reward what is not? I don’t have the answers but I’d guess the most correct response to many questions is silence.

So you can sense I am in a sour mood. Things get weird here in Chicago and I dipped into silence. I’ve seen art I loved and didn’t photograph, and I’ve missed out on some real good times. Can’t it be OK there in the void? No — the high moral logic of the Internet pleads it to be vanquished with as much tact as you can make. The evil of absence will justify the crass imposition of my perspective on otherwise ideal empty space somewhere in the Internet. Please forgive me but I must choose Good.

I’ll leave you now with the threat of my lips flapping like two wet towels in the wind, fighting this jihad against absence, and some fresh weird Chicago gallery art (uh, yes that is a complete copy of Bertolt Brecht’s FBI file on display at an apartment art show).
Jovencio de la Paz

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Meet My New Favorite Chicago Painter

I found a Chicago painter I rather like. His works showed at an open studio night in Roscoe Village (neighborhood famous for infants, I always figured) at the Cornelia Arts Building, which, like a magic door that brooks only for the right moon, has just four public openings each year. When I left the painter, named Eric Weinstein, said “Maybe I will see you in the fall.”

A number of subjects lock together in a moment: there is feeling in the colors (horrific gobs of white paint) but also in how a cat’s head is cut from the frame. We witness a witness’s silent despair, and we see it set in a richly peopled world. The figures are crafted with rubbery whimsy, and good laughs go with the joy of reading our own lives inside the strange dynamic relationships implied by the images.

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Eric Weinstein 20150529_210200 20150529_210012a 20150529_210012 20150529_205845

Forever Music 2015: A Mix

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You know this year I’ve been sticking near the tree: climbing it for a clever view, or matching to its shade, or (especially lately) shaking the shit out of it, that some eggs and fruit might fall out for lunch. So I have been missing some things. But at least I have enjoyed setting these occluded times to very good music.

Here’s a music mix playlist of forever jams of this last half year (notably lacking in Franco Battiato and Albert Roussel) —