Monday, June 29, 2009


I'm not a big football fan, but when I was young there was a venerable star of football, name of Walter Payton. He was asked by some breathless sportscaster, on the occasion of his umpteenth SuperBowl game, what he thought about it. His response was unforgettable, being so out of character in a competitive profession, "If the SuperBowl is so super, why is there one every year?"

On my recent birthday, Lady Moments of Clarity gifted me a new copy of Art in America (June/July 09), which I began reading this morning. It's the Venice Biennale preview issue, and it's all Biennale this and Biennale that: The Very Epitome of Contemporary Art in the World will Soon Be on Display in Northern Italy. If you're anybody, you won't be missing it. Book your gondolas now.

What first caught my eye (because it was near the front, and I'm devouring this thing page by ad-laden page) was Dave Hickey's essay, "Revision 9: Idiot". Hickey has the grace to be what he is, an art critic, without assuming the pretension of social commentator, or some kind of mystic arbiter of what is true. The essay is firmly, fixedly and relentlessly tongue in paint-smeared cheek [and left me goggling at the thought that art critics are often asked to curate shows(!) Like, isn't that —to use Hickey's favorite word—"creepy?" Or, to use my preferred phrase — a "conflict of interest?"].

Because Hickey kept calling himself an idiot, he nearly persuades on candidness points alone, but he wanted to make very clear that contemporary art isn't really all that big a deal —"lacking historical authority" as it does— and yet poseurs and powerbrokers try to make the Venice Biennale into the Big Deal of big deals. I mean, really, if you're going to go all pretentious about it, why insist on the Italian for 'biennial' (Bee-en-NAH-lay), but not for 'Venice' (Venezia)?

What do you do when your dream comes true? I read — I'm not sure where— of an artist that always wanted to have a show in a certain museum, struggled for years, and finally achieved it. And then lost all interest in art. That's one of the saddest stories I've read—which, admittedly, had little character development, a thin plot and an endless denouement. But if that person was you: I'm so sorry.

For the rest of you, consider your goals, and your motivations... set milestones for progress rather than wishes for validation, check yourself internally, and make sure you have a next step.

Ms. Moments-of-Clarity has recently walked up to a milestone, patted it in a friendly sort of way on its stubby point, smiled with gratitude, and is resuming her journey. She's in the Tucson Museum of Art's Biennial 2009, and in a town chock full of artists, that's pretty super.

Turtle Rock, near Gila New Mexico,
journal entry, c. 2009. Approx 5"x5"