Saturday, February 17, 2007


Maintenance Day in The Land of Me

Between customers (and it's a nice day out and people have come in and I've actually sold books, imagine!) I'm rooting out my studio, an all-day project, in search of paintings in need of labelling. After I finish working on something, I gently add it to the giant pile in the back room to let it dry. Then it sits there for months. I add more, and more. Until something absolutely must be done. So today, I'm matching up pages in my journals (I make little thumbnail sketches as I paint) with the actual paintings, and writing dates and titles on the backs of the stretchers. It's a trip back in time, sort of, through The Land of Me. Going through my old journals is always - what - funny, at least. I see in September I was reading The Diary of James Schuyler, and I copied this out:

"Three lists - the books I brought to Maine - the books I got in Maine - the books I wish I had brought to Maine." (p.52)

I was also reading the new little volume of James Schuyler's letters to Frank O'Hara, because I noted down this, which I love:

"I never like to write letters after 6 in the evening (it's just 6) - I'm so afraid I may describe the sunset, or mention my aspirations - ..." (p.17)

Next, I find that I read Ron Padgett's terrific book Joe: A Memoir of Joe Brainard, and copied out, among other things, this - one of Joe's word portraits of his friends:

"Jimmy Schuyler Trees. Baby blue. Plaid. Pajamas. Leather. Wrist watch. Pocket knife. Books. Silver. Autumn. Coffee. Scissors. Yellow. Lima Beans. Belt." (p.199)

Reading the quotes means I'm discovering the books all over again. Which makes me want to go home and re-read them. Tonight. The paintings - well, some are better than I remembered, some not so. But honest efforts, at least. The journals - I've always kept them, but a few years ago I got hooked on those ubiquitous moleskines (they were Bruce Chatwin's notebooks! that's what did it for me, finally). Back to it - I've got an hour to finish up.

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