My favorite artist and my favorite fictional character died, six years apart, on the same date. On May 12, 2008, we lost Robert Rauschenberg. I remember my high school art teachers talking about him, specifically the combine with the chicken, Odalisk. It didn't really resonate with me at the time. It was later, when I was at Mars Hill, or I think even after I'd graduated, that I fell hard for Rauschenberg. It was Monogram, the combine with the goat (goats really intrigued me), that captured my heart. I became obsessed. I began to research him on my own. He worked incessantly and produced an enormous, tremendous body of work. For me there is more life and soul and energy in his art than in anybody else's. He gathered the detritus from the world around him and cobbled it together with paint and wood and canvas and made pieces that simultaneously felt universal and deeply personal. In interviews he seems playful, light-hearted, but in a way that masks unknown, subversive thoughts and feelings. Layers upon layers upon layers. His work is life and it makes me feel more alive than the work of any other artist.
Is it weird that I feel just as strongly about, just as connected to, Nick Fallon, a Days of Our Lives character who was pronounced dead on May 12, 2014? In Patti Smith's memoir, M Train, she talks about her affection for the moody crime drama The Killing, and, in particular, her love for its lead character, the troubled detective Sarah Linden: " . . . my subconscious mind seeks out Linden, for even as a character in a television series she is dearer to me than most people. I wait for her every week, quietly fearing the day when The Killing will come to a finish and I will never see her again." After reading this passage I felt vindicated, as if I was being granted permission to mourn Nick Fallon in earnest. Nick's story was so brief and so brutal. He was a character who could infuriate me but, more often than not, I loved him. And I related with him. And I think that's part of the reason he infuriated me, because I could identify, could empathize, with the bad that he was doing. I understood that his actions, both good and bad, came from a place of wanting to be loved, to be seen, to be acknowledged, even in some small way.
So I'm thinking of both of these men, and the impact both of them have had on my life. The way they put themselves out there, took tremendous risks, in an effort to connect with the people and the world around them. And I feel like that's what I'm trying to do. I'm always seeking those connections. So when I find fellow seekers, be they real or fictional, I recognize them. I embrace them. I am so grateful for their contributions. I am so grateful to be reminded that it's not just me out here. That I am not alone.
Friday, May 12, 2017
Sunday, May 31, 2015
I dreamed I had four small spots, in a straight line, on the inside of my forearm. I picked at them, they scabbed over, I picked at them again, as I do. Then one day I noticed tiny, green leaves sprouting from each spot. I gently tugged at them and sizable green seedlings came out of my arm. There was no blood and I don't remember feeling like I was in pain but I don't know if I ever really feel physical pain in my dreams. The people I was with were horrified. They asked if whatever I had was going to come back. Then some other woman, a woman I don't believe I knew, came over and said everything would be fine, the whole process had run its course, but to give her the discarded seedlings (which had turned goopy and kind of purple-ish bloody once I removed them, like biohazard waste) to dispose of, so they wouldn't infect someone else. So I scooped them up and handed them to her. Then I woke up.
I think this can either be interpreted as some sort of allegory about the creative process and the sprouting of new ideas or a warning that I'm going to get some sort of exotic disease because I spend my weekends lying around in my backyard with a dead opossum.
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
website. Because a) I'm finally at a point where I don't wanna spend all my spare time faffing off on my blog about Nick Fallon and b) I'm actually feeling motivated to make stuff again.
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Full disclosure: Though these scenarios have been knocking around in my head, fueling my private fantasies, for months, I totally cribbed the idea for this post from The Toast's series about hypothetical celebrity significant others. While I'm sure they could come up with a much more clever scenario than mine I'm not sure Mr. Berris is well-known enough to show up on their radar. So, once again, I've taken matters into my own hands. My apologies to The Toast and Mr. Berris; I just couldn't stop myself.
If Blake Berris were your boyfriend you'd make out all the time, any and everywhere, because oh my God, those lips! How are they even real? And you'd hug a lot (like, a lot) because he's one of those "all in" types who hugs with his whole body and you're like that, too. And your friends would be made uncomfortable by your public displays of affection because they'd be so intimate but you just wouldn't be able to help yourself because, the way your height matches up with his, your head just fits against his shoulder and beneath his chin and it is perfection and you simply wouldn't be able to get enough of it.
If Blake Berris were your boyfriend you'd always be running late because he'd always be misplacing his keys. Or his wallet. Or his denim shirt. But you wouldn't be bothered in the slightest because you'd find his enormous capacity for misplacing things oddly endearing and charming.
If Blake Berris were your boyfriend you'd constantly be doing silly things, like wearing wacky costumes and making up preposterous dance routines, to try and crack him up because he has the biggest, toothiest grin and it melts your heart every time you see it. He's also adorable when he laughs. And he would always be cracking corny jokes himself or doing zany impersonations or making goofy faces and, even though you'd roll your eyes, you'd still laugh because he's totally thirty going on fifty-five, with his dorky sense of humor and his affection for middle-aged romantic comedies, and you love that about him.
If Blake Berris were your boyfriend the two of you would get high and watch 2001: A Space Odyssey together at least once a month (maybe twice). You'd pop popcorn but you'd always be trying out different seasoning combinations, like coconut lime or chipotle chocolate or matcha. And, as you watched, you'd have these rambling, passionate exchanges about the Star Child and the Monolith and evolutionary jumps and you'd both wonder why Childhood's End has never gotten the cinematic treatment it so richly deserves and then you'd agree to co-write an adaptation of the novel for the big screen but you'd never actually get around to doing it because it's more your passion project than his and you're far less driven and goal-oriented than he is; you just like to dream big.
If Blake Berris were your boyfriend every year on Valentine's Day he'd recreate the "Nick Fallon and the heart-shaped pillow" scene from the February 14th, 2013 episode of Days of Our Lives. Even though it embarrasses him when this scene is referenced in interviews or on social media he knows how much you love it so he'd set aside his ego and play along (provided it stays between the two of you).
If Blake Berris were your boyfriend you'd get concerned about him when he started replacing his lazy meals with Soylent. And, when he wasn't looking, you'd pitch that stuff and fix him some homemade soup and a sandwich. Because, even though he's a grown man, he still seems like he needs to be mothered (or, if you're being totally honest with yourself, he really just triggers your misplaced maternal instincts). And you'd try to convince him to leave L.A. and find a new home base because he's better than that whole plastic Hollywood scene and if he lived some place like Brooklyn he'd stop fixating on going "post food" and get obsessed with running a small artisanal butcher shop (he does, after all, have that running joke about pigs, so it seems like a natural fit). And that would make both your lives better.
If Blake Berris were your boyfriend you'd run his lines with him. You wouldn't even mind when he got agitated and snippy with you because you'd understand that it wasn't about you it was about his devotion to his craft and him being a Virgo and a perfectionist and hyper-critical of himself and exacting when it comes to his work so, despite the fact that you might want to slap him for being a bit of a diva, you'd remain calm and supportive and encouraging because you'd understand that that's what he really needs.
If Blake Berris were your boyfriend you'd sit on the deck and drink gin & tonics (heavy on the gin, light on the tonic, lots and lots of lime) together in the sun during the spring and summer months. You'd also hula hoop in the backyard because anyone with a torso that long has just got to be a natural at hula hooping (on rainy days you'd make him stay inside and play Twister with you for the same reason). You'd also have living room dance parties, like, two or three nights a week, minimum.
If Blake Berris were your boyfriend you'd take regular trips to New York together and he'd never get tired of going to art museums with you. And he'd stand in front of the Rauschenbergs and the Twomblys at the MoMA with you for as long as you wanted. He'd scrutinize them, too, trying to figure out what it is you love so much about the abstract expressionists (cause he's more a Hopper man himself). He'd even hold your hand, squeezing it if he senses that you're getting especially emotional about a particular piece. And he'd agree with you that the subway is one of the best things about the city, because the people watching is so extraordinary.
If Blake Berris were your boyfriend he'd never mind staying out late at your friend's house if there was a decent shindig in full swing. And he'd be game for absolutely anything. Cookout? He'd mix drinks and help prep food in the kitchen. Drum circle? Hand him some bongos. Crafting party? He's totally down with that. Oh, and that wonky looking "dog" you sculpted that looks more like an anemic, deformed, prematurely-born lamb? He thinks it's genius. And if you both stayed too late and got too tired and too drunk to drive home he wouldn't feel the least bit self-conscious about crashing on the floor with you, or on the sofa, or in the hammock in the yard. And if everyone wanted to up and go to Waffle House at four in the morning he'd be cool with that, too.
If Blake Berris were your boyfriend you'd constantly be borrowing his shirts because his fashion sensibilities are really quite close to yours. And you'd both wear scarves indoors, year round, for reasons that only the two of you would really understand.
If Blake Berris were your boyfriend he'd dress up as Paul Sheldon for Halloween, bruised and battered legs, leg braces and all. You'd be his number one fan Annie Wilkes, clad in a denim jumper, carrying a sledgehammer. You'd find someone who would lend you a pig for the evening to complete the ensemble (or, if you've convinced him by this point to move to Brooklyn and become a butcher, you can just use one of your own swine).
If Blake Berris were your boyfriend you'd want to ruffle his hair all the time.You'd fight this urge in public because you'd know how important his 'do is to him and how much care he puts into making his hair look artfully disheveled. But once you got him home alone those tousled locks would belong to you. You'd spend countless evenings sitting on the sofa with him curled up next to you, head in your lap, and you'd run your fingers through his hair for hours on end.
If Blake Berris were your boyfriend he'd totally get carried away watching TV shows and movies, just like you do. And any time something super emotional or traumatic happened you'd both cry and pat each other's knees and hold hands and try to reassure one another. It would be both cathartic and soothing. And you'd both read the same books so that you could have lengthy discussions about them that would involve lots of ecstatic hand-waving on both your parts to emphasize the most important points.
If Blake Berris were your boyfriend you'd insist on accompanying him to his soap opera and fan club events even though he'd try to dissuade you because he knows how uncomfortable they make you. You'd remain at a distance from the action, a careful observer, not a participant, but you'd watch him like a hawk the entire time. Not because you're jealous or distrustful, you're just protective of your sweet, sensitive fella. Every once in a while, from the center of a teeming throng of fangirls, he would glance in your direction, you'd lock eyes, he'd smile and you would know that your presence there was a comfort to him. And that would make you happy.
Monday, April 6, 2015
It's an odd sensation, watching a movie and simultaneously thinking that you understand it but you don't really get it; you can follow it but you know you're missing out on all kinds of stuff. That's how I felt when I watched Upstream Color. It's beautiful, it's hypnotic, it's disorienting and unusual. I tried to describe the basic premise to my husband after I watched it and I found that I couldn't compose sentences to convey my thoughts. In fact I really have no idea why I'm writing about it, except that I liked it so much and I'm hoping that, by writing about it, I might be able to better understand why I liked it. Maybe I'll even be able to explain my reasons for liking it to other people.
A woman, Kris (Amy Seimetz), is knocked unconscious by a drug dealer, dragged into an alley and forced to ingest a powerful hallucinogenic larva. Kris is subsequently held captive and subjected to a series of exercises that show that she is not in command of her thoughts, feelings or actions while under the influence of the hallucinogen. She is eventually released but the life she once knew is gone. Everything she made for herself has been taken from her. Even Kris herself seems, at times, to be a wholly different person, or at least one who has been fundamentally altered by her experience. She begins the slow process of reacclimating and building a new life for herself. One day she is approached by a stranger, a man named Jeff (Shane Carruth), who is drawn to her because he has had a similar experience. They become romantically involved but their affection for one another seems both genuine and manufactured, a by-product of their shared experience. Though they are seemingly free they are still affected by the outside influences that initially threw both of their lives into such disarray.
Or, at least, that was how I interpreted it. I have turned this story over in my head dozens of times since I watched it. I thought about watching it a second time before writing about it but decided I wanted to go ahead and share my initial thoughts before I revisit the story. Because I may come away with an entirely different take on the whole thing after a second viewing. There have been moments throughout the day, as I've tried to decide what I wanted to say about this movie, when I've wondered if I wasn't overthinking it. I'll think I've got it figured but then I'll remember something I'd previously forgotten and think to myself "Hold up; how does that factor into it?" I do know that Upstream Color made an enormous emotional impression upon me and its theme of shared experience and interconnectedness resonated in an especially powerful way. I thought Shane Carruth was excellent as Jeff and, when I realized afterwards that he not only starred in but also wrote, directed and scored the film I was both impressed and moved, because it leant the whole thing an additional patina of intimacy. I thought Amy Seimetz was absolutely astonishing as Kris. Like many of my favorite performances the role demands a tremendous level of versatility because Kris suffers tremendous emotional and psychological upheavals. Seimetz aces the hurdles of the role in a way that is graceful, believable and nuanced. Kris felt very real and I felt very connected to her and her experiences as I was watching.
Upstream Color is an incredibly unique, beautifully rendered movie. I appreciate the initial impression it made upon me but I also look forward to revisiting it and seeing what I take away from additional viewings, because I have a feeling this one still a lot more to offer me.