Wednesday, November 11, 2009


"these are pictures
of crude force.
Once at night
waiting at a station
with a friend
a fast freight
thundered through
kicking up dust.
My friend,
a distinguished artist,
turned to me
to protect his eyes:
that's what we'd all like to be, bill,
he said. i smiled
knowing how deeply
he meant it.
" from "To Asphodel, That Greeny Flower" WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS

it was demuth's b'day this week. i wanted to commemorate it w/this quote from bill williams that i couldn't completely remember. so while i searched it out, i had a couple of days to reflect on demuth's generation of gay artists, the ones prior to stonewall. if the post-stonewall generation blazed w/celebratory triumph that sputtered out in the face of aids, demuth's generation simmered w/repressed anxiety that sputtered out w/each sad unfulfilled death. it's true that they left us w/their art but what a painful thing that creation must have been. while the experience of the lafayette baths must have been exhilarating on a personal level, putting it down on canvas must have been excruciating. back then, who knew what might be considered "obscene" & fictionalizing a clearly gay moment by claiming its location to be "turkish baths" wouldn't necessarily keep the cops away from the studio. powerful male erections weren't usually depicted in the art of the time. even the hetero-master, picasso, had to put his erections on minotaur figures.

of course, "crude force" may well result in these dichotomies, impulsive desire surging forth but subdued by beauty. yes, charlie, that IS what we all want to be.

"Search the history of American art," wrote Ken Johnson in the New York Times, "and you will discover few watercolors more beautiful than those of Charles Demuth. Combining exacting botanical observation and loosely Cubist abstraction, his watercolors of flowers, fruit and vegetables have a magical liveliness and an almost shocking sensuousness."

No comments: