Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Lemlem Taotao

Since I've been on Guam people continually ask me if I'm still painting. I should expect it after all, people here constantly know me as either the "guy with painted clothes" or the "guy whose car was full of paintings, paint cans and books."

This identification even follows me into the diaspora. A few months ago at a Chamorro party in San Diego, someone was there selling his brand t-shirts and stickers and he saw me and asked me if I went to UOG. Ilek-hu "Hunggan." Ya ineppe-na, "yeah, hu hasso hao, todu i tiempo gaipintura i magagu-mu."

Since I've been in the states I've forgotten how much of an artist I use to be. How I used to paint constantly and even go around the island to fairs to sell my work. There are hundreds of people in this world (mostly on this island, but I did sell some to tourists and military) who purchased one of my paintings and hopefully have it hung up somewhere in their house with my name and signature on it. Then again, it is possible that my grandfather is right and that many of them bought paintings from me because I looked like patgon mayute', or an abandoned child.

When people used to ask me "what was the last thing you painted?" since I was primarily an abstract artist, the descriptions would always get a bit loopy or trippy. Like a really really boring high. How can one describe abstract art without the art being in front of you? Its really difficult (unless your pyschotic and don't care) because sooner or later in your attempt to get across an image with barely a helpful referrent, you will end up sounding like Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller's Day Off,

"....uh....so there's red...and uh....beside the red there's yellow....a big splash of yellow...and then there's a piece of green....that touches the yellow..."

But now! Those days of posession by Ben Stein's best work ever are over. Given the advances in technology that have slowly invaded my life, when people ask me "what was the last thing you painted?" I can now email them an image of it that I took with someone else's digital camera.

I'd like to therefore share with everyone the most recent painting that I did. Before I left the states for Guam, my department (Ethnic Studies) had a Christmas party, where the biggest event of the night is a gift exchange. These gift exchanges are always interesting, because it is one of those moments where the whole people of color allaince breaks down for a few hours as people struggle over who gets the internet chat headset, the set of Christmas cups, or the set of bath oils. The only reason that these moments are exciting is because of the stale depression that some people must go through, when the gifts that they chose are never stolen or even looked at (except in disgust or mortification). One girl in my department was unfortunate enough to select a beautifully wrapped VHS tape of a Kathy Lee Gifford Christmas special. She screamed in terror the first practical thing to come from her head, "I don't even own a VCR!"

The year before I had submitted on of my paintings, in a non-descript Trader Joe's brown paper bag, which most people avoided (going for the far more fluffily attended gifts). It was eventually chosen by someone and stolen several times. It ended up in the hands of one of my professor's kids who had told me that night that he was very interested in making art and learning more about it. It was an exciting experience, him talking to me about the painting and how he liked it.

This year I also submitted one of my paintings, which is the most recent painting I have painted as I type this and therefore will post an image of below. Again, I put it in a brown grocery bag, which again most people avoided. After it was finally picked, it was stolen twice before ending up with one of the first years in our department, Angie, a Native American girl who came from Oregon State. She was so excited to get it, which of course made me excited that she got it. What I find disappointing too often amongst Leftists is like a post-aesthetic existence, where art is only appreciated along very specific parameters. This usually comes about because people have artist friends and therefore are familiar with art and don't see much art as being anything special. I get annoyed at these people, because even if I paint something for them and give it to them, they will often refuse it, because they have no intention of hanging it or appreciating it (should I therefore cherish their rude honesty?). For them, the gift of it, the fact of it not being just an object which is exchanged, but a link between us is not even thought of or felt. I was glad that Angie got it and I hope she enjoys it. Like I tell everyone else, it might be worth something someday.

Anyways, here's the painting, what I enjoyed about making it was leaving the heavy brush strokes in and not getting rid of them. Unfortunately loading this up on blogger takes something away from the quality, but you can still get a sense of it. Its obviously a sunset, but the heavy brushstrokes and the flatness of the color almost gives you the sense that there is something beneath it, behind it.

As someone who saw it at the gift exchange said, "it looks like nuclear testing in Micronesia."

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