Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Genesis

The reference here is not biblical. It refers instead to a question I get frequently these days--namely, the genesis of the now-famous Nipple Initiative. That question being, just to clarify, not how I decided to paint the head of a woman having an orgasm (hell, who wouldn't?), but rather, what made me decide to then festoon the thing with baby-bottle nipples.

As mentioned below, it has something to do with the little red dots on "Close, But no Cigar." But it has more to do with "Big Fucking Julian."

It too, you see, has little red dots. Less successful ones, in my opinion. But there they are ...



Can you see them? Anyway, the idea behind BFJ was to get back to the freer style of the Close painting by using the same moving template approach to developing the grid, then celebrating it with the dots (in a functional way, since the dots offer a locational clue to both the primary and secondary grids). As it turns out, I worked too far into the painting and obliterated virtually every trace of the grid. So here, I suppose, the dots are like those organs we have but don't need. Is it the spleen? Definitely the appendix.
Your life is so complicated you could definitely use an appendix.
Nicely said. For the completists, yes?
Exactly. And indices.
Exactly.
Anyway, I thought the dots would also help tie the artists series together by linking the Schnabel painting to the Close painting in the same way that the fingers on the face of three of the other paintings tie them together. It's a thematic thing.

'Cept I didn't really like them. The dots, that is. So I got to thinking about alternatives. And for a long time I was stuck on the idea of mattress ticking. I don't think that's even the right word, but do you remember back in the old days how some mattresses had bits of yarn coming out of the surface, more or less where there might otherwise be those little buttons?

So I was trying to figure out how to paint the thing, then celebrate the grid with a piece of thick twine which I would (I conjectured) punch through the surface of the painting with one of those hooked awls they use for needlepoint (it would have to be a fierce fucking awl to get through all that canvas and paint). The idea was that I would pull the middle of the piece of twine through, then tie a knot on the back side--so it couldn't slip back out--and then tighten the thing up, maybe put some glue on the back as well so it all stayed put, and then trim the two pieces of exposed twine so they were both about an inch long, just sticking out of the face of the painting.

Like whiskers. Which would have worked nicely with Big Julian.

Also like the twine around the edge of "Elena in the Morning," an old and much missed favorite now hanging in an apartment formerly owned by anger-challenged, now-fading-supermodel Naomi Campbell.



Man, I do like that painting. Not just because I think it's beautiful but because it assists in my narrative flow by bringing the mind back to nipples. Reaching back into history I can truthfully report that Elena was almost completely done except for the nipples. And I was having a lot of what artists call (I assume) "nipple anxiety." That is to say, if I screw these babies up the whole painting is gonna stink like week old scallops.

As it turned out, they turned out great.

Which should be an inspirational lesson. Because I am sure the moment will come, as I am about to glue the first nipple on the surface of the exquisitely rendered (on canvas) face of the exquisitely rendered (in real life, one has to assume) porn star, when I stare into the abyss and ask if it is a good idea and the answer coming back from the infinite expanse of alligators, wildebeests, lions and sawgrass, from the murky depths of the river, from the chattering pthalo-greeness of the jungle (all of which being what comprise my personal abyss) will almost certainly be no.

"No. It is a bad idea," the abyss will say.
"No?" I will ask back. "By 'no,' do you mean the Cheney thing or do you mean the whole thing?"
"The nipples," the abyss will answer. "The nipples are a bad idea."
"How about the twine? Is that a better idea?" I'll ask back. Which, really, you have to admit, is pathetic.
And the silence will be deafening.

You think this stuff is easy?

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