about

self-portrait with mask              Photo 17

I’m an exile of the art world.   I recall I attended art school, but the memory is now distant and faded.  For quite a while I’ve existed privately, part of no group or movement, wandering alone through strange and peculiar landscapes of mind and imagination, getting lost down side paths and frustrated at dead ends, wondering about what might elude censor and defy category, while outwardly stumbling along as just another face in the crowd.

Self-Portrait surrounded by tormenting creatures,John dockus

Self-Portrait surrounded by tormenting figures

 

Quasi Self-Portrait, John Dockus

Quasi Self-Portrait:  interrupted drawing by a vision of beauty

 

*The text and images in this blog are the exclusive property of John Dockus.   No copy or reproduction without permission.

My email address:  jdockus@att.net


33 comments

    • Thanks for all the likes, Nichole E. Perkins. You ran the table. I’m a little surprised but heartened, after I looked at some of your own work and words at your blog, the wise and instructive quotes interspersed with photos of you and your husband and kids and family and friends. You definitely convey a more palpable humanity than I do, which I admire. It would take a woman like you to drag me out of my cave, and it probably wouldn’t happen without me kicking and screaming. As you wrote, “All artists are a little selfish and loners, especially as they age…” How true that is. I like your style too, your fashion sense, and really like your moral character. Your writing is sound and true to who you are, plain and direct. I tip my hat to you, great lady. It’s good to know you’re also a good shot. I’ve only fired a gun at one time in my life, when my Dad, a retired Postal Inspector in Charge, took me and my dear sister Amy to a firing range. My sister Amy was a better shot than I was. I’m gonna stick to my pencils, pens and brushes and inks and paints…

  1. Your work reminds me of all my mother’s art books she had spread around our home growing up. I would sit in awe of the artists that could create such unimaginable images. I never thought in my life I would be one, I don’t think I could ever create the like of your skills, my mother, or many others. I have figured that as I have aged…memories and skills intertwine and it seems easier to place my thoughts on paper. I go through a lot of blogs on here, their work, and I skip through them all and ever so often I stop, go back, and then stalk every piece they have posted. You have been one of those. Fascinating concepts, so detailed, horrific in a dreamlike sense of a fairy tale. I want to grimace and giggle at the same time…fantastic!! You are a talent that I will admire for the rest of my days…I hope your art lives long after you have passed. Love Love Love. I am a total fan 🙂

    • This is so tremendously touching and sweet to me, Nichole. I’m glad you pick up on the fairy-tale strain in my imagery. I have said to others before that the childlike in us is sacred. I think what kind of keeps me in check, artistically, and prevents me from really going over the edge, is the child in me, the pure child full of wonder. I’m not a parent as you are, but in doing my art, it’s like I’m taking this child in me by the hand and showing him around. Sometimes he clings to my leg, ha ha. Thanks so much for your warm praise and encouragement!

  2. I cried all over my keyboard with laughter at your very wonderful verbal hemorrhage on my about page. You must never stop bleeding! Loved the “mangia merde”, even though I do not own a single white dress. But I guess it’s all about the cheesecake (I know I shall never live it down–neither do I care to; it was a most wonderful play).

    Good to have discovered your work, you absurdist Hieronymus Bosch, you!

    • Hey Manja: You’re talented, without a doubt. I sense a facility in you which I don’t possess. There’s something more nimble in your imagination. Where you do backflips, cartwheels, entire floor exercises, then lifting off and fluttering around like a butterfly, you transform yet again and hit the nail on the head, jerking around delightfully unpredictable, I’m caught ambling along at an even pace and in tension-filled directness. You have the secret of great art: heart and guts.

  3. I had almost changed the colour as you’d requested, but was saved from my impulsivity by the time: I had to run. Enough time has passed now to realise a white dress is good. The idea alone is absurd enough. Heart and guts are good. Though at times I wish I was a simple postman.

    • Ah yes, the Postman: in the realm of spirit there they are, all walking zombie-like, bumping into garbage cans, tripping over curbs and falling face first into lawns, setting off automatic sprinkler systems, which soak the unopened mail and packages like noodles and cubes of bread in soup. Recipients such as you and I, not simple conveyors and passers of info, but shapers and transformers, can get quite angry at the laziness and incompetence. Postmen in the realm of spirit only come to life when they ring a doorbell or a dog comes barking after them. If you, Manja, showed up at my door wearing a Postman’s outfit, a little can of mace hooked to your belt, I’d burst out laughing and invite you in for tea, though I’d have to clear a path through all the books, notepads, cds and sketchbooks. Damn space is too cramped, my modest studio apartment here in San Francisco, California: Good thing we have large imaginations. We play volleyball with the globe, touching it ever so gently back and forth, aware of the life thereon. The world’s beaches are our sandbox. As I’ve posted in comment elsewhere, I exist in a Palace in my mind, as I figure you do too in your own mind.

      I agree to leave the white dress alone. It has a life of its own, you know. Last spotted it left the Manja Theater, tumbling along. It was so sad and dejected leaving your body. It fell on hard times, was swept up and pinned to a clothes-line in a tenement, but broke free, fluttering over the rooftops, getting clean in rainstorms and dried by winds, and now it’s attached to a young girl’s string extended into the sky, and she’s flying it like a kite. Her little friends are with her and they’re all laughing and having fun. Her Dad is helping her keep hold of the string. It’s so high up, kind of blending in with the clouds, they don’t yet realize it’s a white dress with a life of its own they’ll be reeling in.

  4. After your generous comment on Joe Linker, had to drop by,and stayed for more than an hour, only touching the surface of your fascinating, compelling complex images, evoking not only Bosch, but Arthur Rankin, and although not similar in draftsmanship de Chirico in detachment. Have sent a link to a man ( a de Chirico acolyte) who writes as you draw ( and write!) and paint, unendingly fascinating. I’ll be back, quietly and no need to clear space. I like falling over riches!

    • I’m honored and thrilled you left a comment here, Philippa. God what a thrill! I ordered your two books, “Involution” and “A Shadow in Yucatan”, clearly labors of love. It doesn’t surprise me that you don’t have more readers in this age of whipping up froths and surface-skimming. Maybe you have more readers than you know of; it’s just that they don’t know how to approach you, how to respond to one who displays such knowledge and wisdom and mastery. I hope you don’t get too discouraged or saddened by it. It makes me contemplate with deep sympathy and wonder the deepening solitude and loneliness of teachers and guides. Your work is made to endure, strong and sound and nuanced, having jewels hidden in its depths. I can see that already, and I haven’t yet read you in full. I have this sense there’s fine quality everywhere in your work, that by one detail, there’s a living and organic connection to a larger whole which extending even further back to that life-altering vision you shared with that mysterious man you mention in your interviews, showers it all in a radiant and luminous light. That All-Seeing Eye which appeared to you in that living vision, which has completely transformed your understanding of consciousness and reality, is still alive and with you, lighting your path and helping you to see. The words I’ve read from you so far, there’s far more light in them than I have in mine. I crawl around on hands and knees with a miner’s helmet on my head.

  5. I do see the darkness John, but not only darkness. There is huge inventiveness and skill, and diligence and mastery too, none of those things are dark. The friend, (Brian George) I sent a link has already commented and I am sure he won’t mind me sharing that comment ‘The iconography is reminiscent of late Medieval and early Renaissance German woodcuts. The particular mix of mythology and hallucination and eroticism also reminded me of the post WW2 Viennese artist Ernst Fuchs. https://www.google.com/search?q=images+of+ernst+fuchs&biw=1093&bih=464&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=IiL5VPeTBouqU9iMgIAC&ved=0CB0QsAQ I think that I like Dockus’s black and white pieces the best. His style seems essentially a language of form and image, and the colors seem like a distraction’ You may or may not agree with him on colour, but he is a very erudite and discerning intellect, both a writer and artist himself, and like anyone prepared to stand against prevailing superficiality, finding recognition hard to achieve ( or perhaps too much of a distraction to bother with!)

    I feel, with you, a kind of desperation, that your independence of mind and labours have not been rewarded by breaking into light and inner self belief. That is true of most solitaries! The crucifix is always present, and at its ‘crux’ is that searing abandonment. All any of us can do is accept the small shafts of friendship and recognition. Thank you for investing in the books. I hope they reward your impulse.

    The past few days (through Joe Linker’s generosity) have encouraged me to believe that one-by-one people find their way to what they value. Your comment was as great a pleasure for me to receive. Have you thought of showing your work to James Curcio of Modern Mythology? He generously published this analysis of the links between both books ( Involution and Yucatan) http://bit.ly/BGcallans. Another hugely generous and thoughtful analysis.

    • Hi Philippa: Reading on your blog, there’s a whole other side of you I didn’t realize – your fight with misunderstandings – the state it’s left you in, angry, furious even, frustrated, disillusioned, I imagine exhausted from fighting to have your own books simply stand on their own, in their own integrity, and kept under your own creative control. My heart sinks reading what you’ve been going through privately, the mock trial you’ve set up in order to play out and vent how you’ve been left feeling by it all. I hope you pardon me for my naivete in my first comments to you. It’s going to take me a little while to gauge the levels, survey the grounds, figure out where I can put my foot firmly without slipping and falling. – I also read that mind-blowing and scary lucid essay by Brian George on your two books which you remarked seems a bit like your own obituary. Really brilliant critique and essay however. I find it fascinating. I don’t think it diminishes your work, but it does seem to come a little too close for comfort with scalpel to the heart of your genius. His own eye appearing all-seeing and unblinking, perhaps indirectly and inadvertently on some level mocking and ironic, he carries out a kind of surgical operation on the living body of your text, separating out specimens for observation, holding them up to the light and drawing attention to their degree of transparency and to the properties of light itself, growing out new tissues from the samples for grafting, forming duplicate organs of thought, which he then stitches back into the body of his own text, and he performs the whole operation with such uncanny precision that if pushed to the extreme one wonders if he could really animate a corpse or create a clone. He displays an incredible power of scrutinizing intellect and acumen indeed. I receive his words about my work which you’ve kindly shared with me maybe a little like you regard his toward your own: with respect and gratitude and humble appreciation of him for even taking the time but also with some anxiety and trepidation. He’s a man with whom I’d definitely not like to get into a verbal joust. That goes for you too, Philippa. Both of you are remarkable with words. My plain sincerity is the only thing I have going for me which I hope disarms and has anyone who relates to me sharing in an even childlike common good nature. I wish for us artists to stick together instead of sticking needles in each other. As the proverb goes: “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” I wish to be on the healing side of things. I’m already a wounded and deformed creature. I don’t need anyone to rub my nose in it. For me just for you to have addressed me, to have shown any interest in me at all, has infused me with a warmth and energy and delights me beyond measure, reinvigorating me, touching me in an especially deep way coming from you, a fellow solitary. It’s truly a wonderful thing in my life to be sharing some words with you, Philippa, in the calm center of the storm.

      P.S. I can’t help but to think of you in your work, your thinking and poetry, as the Faust character wrestling with your humanity and questions of heart and soul and Brian George in relation to you playing Mephistopheles, the entertaining mimicker and witty spirit of negation, the formidable challenger, a goad, a mocker, a tempter, a brilliant debater, definitely necessary but a supreme pain in the ass. (If he reads this, I hope it brings a smile to his face, not a sneer. To be compared to Mephistopheles is an honor. He’s a magnificent character. I figure, being a mortal human like you and I, Brian must have the flipside in him too and is just as able to play the character of Faust, unless he’s a psychopath.)

      P.P.S. More specifically what draws me to your work, Philippa, is the apparently harmonious solution – the synthesis you’ve arrived at – when I still have in myself a skepticism combined and often at war with the religious tendency, a yearning for mystical union. I cut myself off from broader and fuller expression, hemming myself in and trying to control the religious tendency. I think I may be harming myself but I can’t help myself. I don’t allow this natural religious tendency, the soul of me, much room for expression, to expand and breathe. I have these fits of atheistic thought, of downright cynicism and even blasphemy. Holding back the natural religious tendency in myself, stifling and suffocating it, my images develop masochistic aspects. I deform myself and tie myself into knots. Yes, the cross – the crucifix – is there. Brian George has correctly observed a medievalism in my work, the yearning of the soul trapped in the suffering body. Again, just to be sure, I embrace his observations. Bosch, and yes, Fuchs – I know of Fuchs, and german woodcuts, old etchings – I could mention a number of artists, I do feel kinships, affinities, but as you might say of yourself and your own kinships and affinities, one arrives at those afterward. I don’t consciously model myself on anyone. I do what I can with my ability, this sensibility and constituted being I have, finding an angle into an image, intuitively feeling for its contour, then connecting to it by a sort of umbilical cord I go through the stages of a pregnancy. Each work hopefully comes out with life in it, a pulse, which I love as my child and have a relationship with even if it turns out to have some deformity or oddity. Sometimes it’s difficult because I have a desire for purity and perfection too. I’ve also suffered my share of abortions.

  6. For someone who claims an inadequacy with words, you spill them with fair fluency John! Likewise I am warmed by the trouble you take. With regard to the Court case, I must disabuse you a little. I did not embark on that to vent spleen or frustration but to find a vehicle that might amuse, detain and mostly provide an imaginative forum to expose some essence of the book.( and its reception). I have become fatigued by the pretense that I must turn juggler of trivia, in the hope that someone might actually turn towards my books ( and the stories published in Narrative- one manifested distraction) when in fact the only things of value are the books ( and perhaps one WIP). The Court case gives the chance for some short burst analysis, some gobbets of idea. Not that it is fictional, it isn’t, but any disappointments have now been subsumed in the recognition that anyone who rocks the boat, especially the scientific boat, will attract vilification. More so if that are as much of a non-entity as I am! The initial rejection ( and details will continue on the next) forced me to a great reflection, but also refined the thesis itself, and added a better worked component- the difference between intellect and consciousness and how they related to one another ( or mostly didn’t!)

    Brian has been a very great supporter, over more than a year. It was he who got me interviewed on Occult Sentinel, and wrote that extraordinary essay. I did not feel eviscerated by being forcepted to the light, and tucked back, more or less intact. Yes I think he might like being cast as Mephistopheles, although he would see himself more as Faust. He is as painstaking with words as you are with images. Nobody who takes those kind of pains with draftsmanship, seriously believes his work has no value, but like all finely wrought thought, carefully selected lines of penmanship, the audience is hard to find. He is far better read in mythologies than I am. He approves the stratagem of the court since he has long suggested I should evangelize the substance of Involution, instead of lesser distractions. His understanding of the relationship ( answering the call) of both books was very perceptive. I always knew that Yucatan was a preliminary towards something else, but had not really got much beyond that, yet once seen its truth was undeniable.

    You do beat yourself like any medieval penitent, with hair shirts and knotted rope! I was blest with a vision, but blessings come at a price! A lifetime price, and doubt and despair revisit frequently, perhaps sharpened by once knowing certainty, and often losing it, and more importantly now questioning its obligations. Satisfied or not? Adequately? I have a great respect for questioning, and understand that without a moment of clear certainty, it will always recur. If you have never seen the sun, how can anyone be sure it exists? I get as close to cynical as anyone with this prevailing ethos that now sweeps the world of access to spiritual truth simply by conformity, new conformity but conformity nevertheless.

    But I have the greatest respect for anyone who ploughs an independent furrow. If you are interested I was asked to introduce Involution to the Mind Body Spirit Watkins Magazine and you find a link to Scribd that makes it available here https://www.scribd.com/doc/183526685/The-Genesis-and-Embryology-of-a-Rainbow-MBS-Whole-Article-doc

    • Hi Philippa:

      I read some of Brian George’s work on his “Masks of Origin” blog and plan to read more. I really like his work. To some extent he catalogues signs and wonders, but his writing is so elegant and beautiful, there’s a level where he’s a teacher, and a level where he’s a seer and visionary, opening the mind, transporting one into out-of-body experiences. He’s also with words not only a poet, interested in image and sound and rhythm, but a mathematician, doing Divine Geometry. Each line crystal clear in relation to the others, each poem is worked out like a formula. Intelligence presides over all his work. His work is of an enlightened mind, not really of yearning and suffering in passions. Everything about it seems “arrived” and luminous. Nothing dark or stormy or confused. He’s not a poet of emotions, or at least easily relatable human emotions, which down to earth are a sloppy hodge-podge. I don’t think in his lifetime he’ll ever gain a large readership, but that’s obviously not due to a lack of quality. He’s up in the sidereal, each of his lines a star up in the sky, each poem crystallizing into a constellation. His potency of mind transmutes matter out of Self, and turns it into energy, offering it up to the Other. Deity speaks through him, out of that Other. It’s not really a “human” voice in his poetry. Maybe that’s why it may catch others off guard or even startle and hurt them, until they realize that the stuff he offers is really good medicine. It’s manna from Deity. Like I wrote in my sense of your own work, Philippa, one is also brought by his work to a state of awe, a reverential silence. It’s becoming apparent to me certain problems and challenges you share in common in the social sphere, in relation to the broader public. As could be said of you and your own work, most individuals after they’ve read Brian’s powerful and rich words probably refrain from commenting, or at most stay on the side of easy compliments and excessive deference… out of fear and trembling in the presence of manifested Deity, a feeling of one’s own inadequacy and ignorance and impoverishment. One feels in relation to such work merely human, all-too-human. I wonder what Brian’s daily life is like. I looked at the photo of him with Hawaiian shirt on and he appears as a regular guy. It’s interesting too that he comes from a working class backround. I do as well. The deities hide in the most unlikely places.

      I definitely see how important De Chirico is to him in his style and sensibility and intelligence. It’s not just anyone who could have De Chirico as a guiding light and not become a ridiculous imitator. Brian comes out extending and enriching that vision, the key to the wisdom of that vision perhaps having been passed by De Chirico to him in a dream; or maybe they’ve shared the same genius since the beginning of time which now runs through Brian, inspiring and moving him, and the work of it will continue in another to come in the future. All I can say is that my encounter so far with Brian’s work (which of course I need to spend much more time with, this kind of work one doesn’t just read but lives with) is personally meaningful to me. I feel things jostling around in me and sense possibilities for my own art which before hadn’t occurred to me. Not that I would do so because I have things I’m working on right now, as a visual artist there are single lines in his work which make me feel: “Oh! I’d love to illustrate that!”

      Thank you very much, Philippa, for introducing me to Brian’s work. Each of you alone in vision and journey, as well as your relationship to each other and your friendship, is fascinating and inspiring to me. There’s so much here for me to think about, and I’m so thrilled because here at last I don’t feel like an “outsider”.

  7. Dear John,

    I am moved, grateful, and overwhelmed by the generosity of your comments on my work. Your own, seemingly spontaneous, eloquence is quite striking. Such positive and insightful comments coming from anyone would be a great gift, but the fact that the language of the comments was itself so beautifully formed makes your appreciation all the more significant to me. I only wish that my very brief response to your work had offered more of substance. It was not intended as an analysis in any way, just as an off-hand impression. Philippa caught me in the middle of a very intense and challenging period of revision, and I was not able to offer your art and writing anything like the full attention that they demanded. I hope to do better in the future. I am just now moving towards the final stages of revising “Maps of the Metaphysical Double: In the Footprints of de Chirico,” a book that I thought was 100 percent done a year ago. I was somewhat shocked to discover that it was not. Then again, this has happened a number of times before. Like you, I tend to stay away from the spotlight. This has any number of disadvantages, but it does give our creative projects plenty of time to come to fruition.

    In case you might be interested, here is a bit about the challenges posed (and the reasons that, over the past three weeks, I have been ripping out my hair):

    The format of the book is a very convoluted one and the project is something of a juggling act. The voice throughout is intended to be that of de Chirico, sometimes speaking in the first person, sometimes speaking in the first person but occasionally referring to himself as de Chirico, sometimes reflecting very abstractly on the persona of de Chirico, sometimes speaking from an almost other dimensional, post incarnation viewpoint, sometimes speaking from the viewpoint of his daimon, and sometimes speaking as Brian George who has put on the mask of de Chirico. From pretty much the beginning in de Chirico’s writing and art, there is an arrogance verging on megalomania as well as a sense that something of great importance has been lost and that the artist’s visionary quest will ultimately lead around in a circle. I have only recently come fully to terms with de Chirico’s belief that all of history and human action is “nonsensical.” His use of this word was adopted from Nietzsche, and does not mean what it would, let’s say to Jarry or to Beckett. Rather, the concept points to the paradox of the Eternal Return—that things always seem to be progressing in a straight line to an end point but are actually moving in vast cycles.

    Your insight into my relationship with de Chirico’s daimon is, I think, right on the mark. I have felt an oddly intimate kind of connection with it from the age of 16 or so. A daimon is a transpersonal force field that is quite different from an artist’s personality. While not publicly accessible, as such, it can nonetheless be accessed from any number of angles. Here is what I say about this connection in the last part of my “Note to the Reader”:

    While de Chirico, the person, whether as Grand Metaphysical Superman or Combative Anti-Modernist, was quite happy to present himself to the public as an Egotist, we can also observe a process of almost infinite recession or self-removal taking place. We could interpret this, perhaps, as an unconscious version of the Vedic “not this; not that” method—i.e., that the primal self is “not this; not that”—so that the writer seems to be writing himself out of the text, just as the painter seems to be painting himself out of the picture. Like Nietzsche, de Chirico, as Hebdomeros, must dare to go too far. This would seem to be a matter of principle. Hebdomeros is impelled to speak in “a language that on any other occasion would have brought upon his shoulders not only the sarcasm of the crowd, which is often necessary to far reaching minds, but also the sarcasm of the elite, that same elite to which he boasted, with every right, of belonging, but which, to his great regret, he was obliged to renounce, as a prophet renounces his mother.” In his painting, too, we can observe this process of self-removal to be at work. Quite often, for example, the later de Chirico would declare that a masterpiece from the classic 1911-1920 period was no more than a pathetic fake, or that a forgery, done by another artist, was real, or that one of his own imitations of an earlier work, done, let’s say, in 1936, had actually been produced in 1917.

    As far as it goes, the above description of self-removal is quite accurate, I believe, and would normally be understood in terms of literary and/or artistic strategy: It can be useful, and quite liberating, to pretend. It makes sense to assume an identity in keeping with the particular work at hand. If one desires to immerse oneself in an alternate version of reality, one might, to preserve one’s sanity or health, then choose to detach oneself from the power of the archetypal forces that one has somehow set in motion. Yet there is also a stranger perspective that we might do well to consider: It is always possible that Giorgio de Chirico was himself a kind of mask, employed to great theatrical effect, by a daemon who was not born with him at Volos, on July 10th, 1888, and who did not pass away with him in Rome, on November 20th, 1978. Even now, with “Maps of the Metaphysical Double: In the Footprints of de Chirico,” this daemon, whose focus we might reasonably assume to be less personal than collective, may be continuing to work on a project that he had started long ago.
    __

    Relatively hermetic works of this type, however, give a perhaps distorted picture of my writing as a whole. I was delighted that you found pieces that you enjoyed on the blog, but, I must confess, I was not sure until I just looked that there was really much of anything still up there. About a year and a half ago, I took down about 90 percent of the work that I had posted, and have not put up anything since. I did the same thing with my essays on “Modern Mythology” and “Reality Sandwich.” I felt a strong need to concentrate my energies, and to rigorously revise and finalize the three books that I had been working on before making a push for a larger audience and then reformatting my remaining two books of essays into a single, much shorter volume. Missing from the samples of my work that you have seen so far are pieces in a warmer, human direction. I will send you several more personal pieces of this type, along with some of the recent revisions from the de Chirico book.

    On a humorous note: a distant, decidedly non-literary inspiration for the use of the third person in the de Chirico book was perhaps provided by my 1980 Mafia restaurant manager, Lenny Silvestri. He would call us in for unpaid Saturday morning rant sessions, where he would scream things like, “Lenny Sylvestri is here to tell yous guys that anyone who doesn’t tip the busboys 15 PERCENT IS A PIECE OF SHIT!!!” Luckily, a waitress slipped on the stairs and dumped a pot of scalding coffee on my arm, causing severe second degree burns, and bringing about an abrupt end to this eight-month mini-nightmare.

    Again, many thanks for your kind words, and I look forward to learning more about your visions, your philosophy, your personal experiences, your art, and your writing. Let me know if you are ever planning a trip to Boston. My wife and I host regular salons with artists, writers, and musicians, and I think that you would find it a congenial place to present.

    Best wishes,

    Brian

    • Dear Brian:

      I read the “Maps of the Metaphysical Double: In the Footprints of de Chirico” excerpt, “The Centrifugal Displacement of the Tribe” excerpt, and the “Masks of Origin” Forward. I haven’t yet read the other excerpts. It’s going to take me some time to read these things, which is the deepest pleasure imaginable. I come away reading your words nourished and stimulated and excited, and desiring to return to them as a thirsty man goes to a watering hole. You’re not a mirage, an illusion which disappears on arrival, but an actual watering hole. I’m experiencing moments of serious recognition in your work, both personally in intellectual temperament (the particular literary quality of your work is after my own heart) and across the astral plane. I see some underlying connections of symbol in our work. What is very significant to me is how you’ve extended and developed and articulated these symbols, out of underlying archetypes, so that now I can see possible ways forward where before I felt at a dead-end. What I meant (though I know you know what I meant) by mentioning to Philippa that you’re more on the Joycean side and I on the side of Beckett is that you’re abundant in your work, multifaceted and complex, and I am lean, even gaunt in my own work. Yet my leanness is also contained in your abundance, like a seed planted in it. Beckett of course ended up exploring a whole world of futility and dead-ends, a world of shadows and nothingness, memory and lostness, a stark minimalism, but he achieved even in that a multifacetedness and complexity. (I keep returning to the hourglass as a symbol. Now I think of the Doubleness of Joyce and Beckett, abundance in relation to leanness. I imagine a robust woman, fertile, wide hips and with full breasts, naked, Mother Nature herself holding the hourglass, and as the sand falls through the juncture, the small joining ring, she loses weight, starting to wither away, turns gaunt, the flesh decomposing and falling off her bones, and when the hourglass is empty: It’s Death holding it. Then it flips over and begins again, the skeleton putting its flesh back on and transforming back into Mother Nature. Munch’s Death and the Maiden comes to mind as another way of expressing this idea.)

      This is probably the greatest gift about my discovery of you, Brian: I don’t feel envy of you at all. I don’t feel mean or low or competitive. I feel I can be completely honest about where I am, and there’s a place of understanding in you. I feel an admiration and even a pride of you, a nurturing and encouragement coming from you and your work for which you don’t even have to try. It simply exists. Beckett began as the secretary of Joyce, and I feel a similar humble and grateful relation to you and your works. I recognize in you a teacher to me. Not just a compliment. You are a teacher and a guide.

      I’m also interested in this book “The Soul’s Code” by James Hillman you mention in your writing. I have his book “Pan and the Nightmare”, and I’ve come across quotes of him in some places, but haven’t read anything else by him. I also want to ask you if there are hard copies, or will there be hard copies, of your books? I’d like to have hard copies. I’m one of the old school who likes the feel of paper in my hands when reading. Your hermetic poetry and prose are a perfect fit to each other. I really like your hermetic poetry. It’s a rich trove of imagery for any visual artist. It’s more dislocating, more raw and impactful of an experience, undiluted. Reading that I grew scared of you but at the same time captivated. Wondering indeed if you are a Grand Magus. A man who can cast spells, practice black magic or white. I came to you first on mention from Philippa, then I read your essay on her books, then the next thing I read were some of your poems you left posted on your “Masks of Origin” blog. I came to you first through your very power, exposed to it without any mollifying elements. Thrilling first encounter for me. I recall reading in a monograph of incredible graphic artist and painter Joe Coleman that he puts sign-filled borders around his iconic depictions of serial killers and outcasts to contain a dark power he feels which if he didn’t contain it, would annihilate his being, drive him out of his mind, perhaps turning him into a serial killer himself. The border acts as a protective membrane and the signs in them are a kind of spell necessary for him.

      To end, Brian, I may drop off for a while, wrapping myself in a cloak of silence. I have these unfinished paintings here waiting for my attention. I know it’s the same in the call coming from your own work. I just wanted to put some words here in response to your own to me, to show my profound appreciation and gratitude to you, and to strengthen this connection. I have your email address now. I want to read more and turn more of all this over in my mind. My natural rhythms are very slow and ponderous, so I need time and patience, which I’m hoping you feel somewhat too on your end, hopefully relieved at my mentioning it. This reading and writing business can be exhausting! (I shoot this out to you too, Philippa. I’m still waiting to receive your two books, and can’t wait to read and absorb and live with them, and return to you my thoughts, and maybe with some questions.)

      Best wishes in return!

      John

  8. One of my smaller fantasies is a dinner table in which the right people are introduced to one another. I would like Scarlatti to meet Sheridan, and invite Beethoven to be seated with Shakespeare. Have I made a start?

    • I’m personally overwhelmed right now and so happy with Mr. George’s words. And with you too, Philippa. This is all very significant to me. I’m afraid if I was at a dinner table with both of you, I’d be the more quiet one, smiling, drinking in the sweet nectar of your words. I think Brian is more on the Joycean side and I on the side of Beckett, I staring into the abyss and nothingness, the absurdity leading to muteness, wondering what the point of it all is. But this is talking me away from the ledge, this spirit which is entering me now, and gives me some hope. He writes of Giants, and I haven’t been able to see Man is much more than an insect. I can’t let go of this vision as yet, but something in both of you is working in me now. A very good influence!

  9. It’s a good beginning John! And a great pleasure. Let’s face it we are all pretty lonely and a single friend lights up life! One really only needs one, more then one is richness. Brian is greatly generous, Mephistopheles notwithstanding!

  10. Before you close the door on your intended period of quietness, just to say I was interested in the centrality of the hourglass/infinity symbol, the oscillation of slow filtered time that stands quite still.

    • Dear Philippa (I can’t possibly leave you without a response):

      The entire cosmology of Dante’s Divine Comedy also comes to mind, the form of it in its entirety, in thought of the hourglass symbol. There’s a descent down through rings of Hell, narrowing and narrowing, and at the juncture, before coming out the other end, into Purgatory and ascending to Heaven, is Satan, Emperor of the Universe of Pain. It’s only occurring to me now how important this hourglass symbol – and Dante’s Divine Comedy – is to me. In high school I painted a picture of the three-headed Satan of Dante’s Inferno. I went through a period of severe self-loathing and destroyed some early work I did, including that painting, which I literally cut to shreds and shoved into an empty wine bottle, corking it, then I hand-painted a label on it. I forget what I put on it, “Devil’s Elixir” I think it was. The hourglass in another way is in my short story “The Hatched Monad.” I feel the ending still needs work, can be better (I ran out of gas and was sliding into a bad place at that point, getting all clogged up inside, so I just posted it for release of the pent up energy). But the hourglass form of the story, a cycle of transformation which begins and ends, not exactly in the same place, but in a similar place with an internal change, an overlap of time, didn’t even occur to me until the approach of the halfway point of it.

      Related to all of this, Philippa, I’m particularly interested in the overall structure, or the Cosmic Form, of your “Involution” book. I realize on another level that Dante’s cosmology, with how scientific understanding has developed (I don’t have much of a scientific mind, per se, but I can intuit and perceive this) is now antiquated, little more than a model. It’s a symbolic model of the universe, static and fixed, in which the moral dilemma of the soul of the human being, Dante, in his seeking for reunion with Beatrice, plays out or is enacted as in a Theater.

      Brian George grapples with and actually succeeds in articulating brilliantly and memorably far more advanced concepts in his writing. I do basic math in my understanding of forms, where you and Brian have progressed into ideas more abstract and complicated which, honestly, I strain and struggle to grasp. I do kind of “get” however what I’ve read so far. It’s interesting to consider what science can explain better, in its own terms, than art. Art without science, taking out of it the considerations of the heart, ends in empty formalism or stiff mannerism, or abstraction without soul. But science without art, just as easily ends in a sterile monotony and an objectionable pedantry (and all the crap it appears you’re dealing with from certain segments of the scientific community).

  11. Thank you John. As I see it, vision is never linear, and the visual artist has the edge in composite ‘both/and thinking! The problem for me is translating the holistic single image into a linear form of words. That is why the hourglass with its illusory movement within a static constancy is so satisfying, although it is also more than that. It is interesting that the left brain seems to insist upon grasping, when grasping often kills what it hopes will live.

    I believe that science is merely one of a number of languages, music ( I mostly mean classical) is a better one because it pays some heed to time, yet exists outside time, as does visual imagery. Yet none are exempt from history; all ‘refer’ to what is already familiar. I think that is the essence of the artistic entrapment. We strive to escape but never take flight. Brian is absorbed in the labyrinth, which is his image of this imprisonment. In that sense we have to accept servitude!

    I entirely agree that science without art ( even the art of language) has become almost vacuous. I sought to reach into its dynamic ligaments, and its passion to find an alternative, but whether it is now too atrophied to revive remains to be seen. I get the feeling that science is simply floundering, like a fish deprived of water, aware that it has run out of oxygen, but unable to seek a new sea.

  12. Hi John,

    You wrote—about the samples of my work that I sent—”It’s going to take me some time to read these things, which is the deepest pleasure imaginable. I come away reading your words nourished and stimulated and excited, and desiring to return to them as a thirsty man goes to a watering hole.” Whenever I try to imagine my ideal reader and the type of response that I would like to provoke, this is exactly the type of thing that I imagine. In spite of the more forbidding and esoteric aspects to my work, I very much would like it to be of use. What this means will, of course, vary with each reader. What is essential, though, is that the work touch them on more than a purely intellectual or even emotional level; it should sink in to mysterious depths and provide them with a sense of expanded possibility. As a culture, we have grown so used to scanning articles and books only for their information, that we have forgotten what actual reading is and how it has been practiced through the centuries. We do ourselves no favors in trying to cruise through tens of thousands of books. I often think that we would do better to read a very few books, but read them deeply and well. If you look through a volume of letters home from average civil war soldiers with an eighth- grade education, it is shocking to find that prose style is often clearer and more powerful than that of today’s college educated professional. I often tell readers first encountering my work that my goal is not so much to be read as to be reread, and then lived with; I would like my work to present them with a challenge, like a dream that can neither be fully remembered nor forgotten, which makes demands, and which, finally, prompts them to see the world with different eyes. There are writers that I respect and learn from and appreciate; then there are writers who, on some subtle level, change the whole way that I think and feel and move. It is this quality of deep engagement that I hope to offer to a reader.

    The arc of my creative development has been a long and circuitous one. Also, I have tended to see my art and writing as a kind of yoga, so that my creative development was inextricably bound up with the process of my spiritual growth, which was not something that I wanted to enact in public. A sense of secret space and fertile darkness were a must. I have actually written quite a bit—six books of poetry and three books of essays—but it is only over the past seven years that I have begun putting things out. Since 2007, I’ve posted 22 essays on “Reality Sandwich,” about a piece a month on “Modern Mythology,” and about a piece a week on my blog “Masks of Origin.” Then, about a year ago, I stopped, and have focused on revising the manuscripts for my books “Masks of Origin: Regression in the Service of Omnipotence,” “Maps of the Metaphysical Double: In the Footprints of de Chirico,” and “To Akasha: An Incantation for the End of History.” A great many of the essays that I’ve posted have been revised beyond recognition, and I’ve taken about 90 percent of them down. Since 2012, I’ve been searching for a publisher for “Masks of Origin.” Daniel Pinchbeck—an editor at RS—had originally suggested that I publish with “Evolver Editions/ North Atlantic Press,” but our meeting during has April, 2012 trip to Boston did not go well, and we have not spoken since. Last year, I thought that I had found a publisher in “Red Wheel/ Weiser/ Conari,” but they changed their mind at the last minute. “Masks of Origin” is a very peculiar book, and does not really fit into any recognizable category. At the moment, I am hoping that I might hear back from “Dalkey Archive Press.” James Curcio, the founder of the “Modern Mythology” site, has offered to publish the book with “Mythos Media.” This is an attractive suggestion in that I would be able to keep the rights to the material, but they would not be able to do that much in the way of promotion.

    In “Anonymous, and His International Fame,” as well as in several other essays, I describe the Olmec tradition of creating artwork that is designed to be ritually buried; vast, intricate, and meticulously executed complexes were created for other-than-human eyes. Although I have kept these descriptions more or less scholarly in tone, they also have a personal, and even intimate, aspect. For many years, deluded though the idea may be, I often felt as though I were writing and creating artwork for a kind of interdimensional audience, and that my imperfect efforts helped to ground certain possibilities on this plane of existence. Since 2007, I have been trying, in fits and starts, to push beyond this attitude. In spite of my indifference to external success, I had always expected, I guess, that when the time was right a flood of hands would reach out to assist me. This has not happened yet, and, at times, I cannot help but wonder if my interdimensional point of focus was not the correct one after all.

    Beginning perhaps in 1984, when I self-published 50 copies of my first book “X: Revenge of the Autogenes” for friends, I have systematically cut myself off from almost all concern for external literary success. I knew quite a number of writers during my first 10 years in Boston, and, when I moved here in 1974, I felt that I had stumbled into a kind of Renaissance. In Boston, at least, the Counterculture had not ended; explosive Surreal forces were in motion, and creativity seemed to happen almost by itself. Of course, I was also young. It is possible that young artists and writers discovering Boston now might still feel that same excitement. Objectively, however, things had indeed changed by 1984. The psychology of the Reagan years was fully in effect. Also, most of the writers that I knew, although they were still producing good work, seemed to have gotten stuck in a kind of incestuous feedback loop; their focus was predominantly on other contemporary American writers, and they were unconcerned about being read or understood except by other like-minded writers. It is ironic that I should criticize this, of course, since my work sometimes strikes people as obscure, but I do make every attempt to make even the subtlest concepts tangible.
    I was seized by an overwhelming sense of claustrophobia, as well as touched by the breath of a larger space, whose anatomy I could feel as though it were a forgotten extension of my body but whose details I could not yet begin to describe. There was much work to be done; to even attempt to enter this vast space that I sensed, it seemed important to clear away all inessential elements in the foreground. I fear that I may have done this all too well! I guess I felt that the world would wait for me while I fit together all the moving bits and pieces of my vision. Instead, it has moved quickly on, and I do not know that I will be able to find my place within it. It may be too late to launch a normal literary career, as I might have imagined such a thing when I was first starting to write, nor can I afford to care about this much more than I do. One way or another, I will make my work available, and will put my trust in the principle of “like attracts like.” And if that doesn’t work, I will just have to keep plodding along.

    This brings us to Philippa’s comment on the topology of the labyrinth, which also ties in with “The Soul’s Code,” the James Hillman book that interested you, as well as with your comment “My natural rhythms are very slow and ponderous, so I need time and patience, which I’m hoping you feel somewhat too on your end, hopefully relieved at my mentioning it.” While I can certainly see how Philippa might get the sense that I regard the labyrinth as a prison—since I may, for dramatic purposes, present it this way at times—my intuition is that the labyrinth is anything but a prison; rather, it is the insanely convoluted path of Fate made tangible. There is one path, and there is no way to get lost. At the same time, we must go out in order to go in and back in order to go forward. Just as we are nearing the center, we must swing way out to the circumference. To extend the topology a bit further, we must go down in order to go up. This means that all of our positive and negative experiences are very intimately bound together. From a linear viewpoint, we tend to think that our experiences are either good or bad, that something is either a virtue or a vice, a strength or a weakness, and that significant punctuations in our life’s rhythm are either a blessing or a curse. If we contemplate the implications of the topology of the labyrinth, we may come to realize that our understanding of such opposites may be limited, at best. Appearances to the contrary, our lives have an overall shape, and it is up to us to figure out how all of the contradictory elements fit together. Is there really any difference between an obstacle and a door? The very thing that seems to block us may be the key to our transformation.

    I just wanted to take a moment to respond a second time to the overflowing generosity of your comments. Please focus on the paintings that are calling to you. There is no reason to get back to me right away.

    Best wishes,

    Brian

  13. Dear Cousin John. Your art is like a great book, that you feel the need to read over and over again, to understand what was inside the mind of the author. I look at each image and I long to understand you, and your logic. I fall in love with each one, and cannot find a favorite. The detail you present, blows my mind and brings me back to the detail i saw my Anna create at the age of two. So happy i saw you this year. So excited you are an artist that challenges and excites!

    • How heartwarming are your words, cousin Linda. What a delightful surprise. I brought back with me the strange and intriguing image of the Devilish face comprised of smaller figures within it, printed on cardboard, which smirking you slipped to me at cousin Kathy and Gil’s enjoyable musical performance. You have as mischievous a sense of humor as I have, though in my private behavior, I’m actually something of a goody two shoes. I agree it’s too bad more time couldn’t be spent together when I, my two sisters, and parents were there in Chicago. I’d have also liked to spend more time with Anna, a budding fellow visual artist. She’s indeed talented. I hope she doesn’t grow discouraged finding her way toward balancing making a living and practicing her art. I know from my own experience, that the art-making impulse can go under and seem to be lost forever, but it’s only in hibernation. One can go a year or more feeling all is lost, that one will never make art again, that there’s just no time, when all of a sudden it comes out of hibernation, stretches its limbs, and yawns, bringing happy tears to one’s eyes. The art-making impulse comes out stronger than ever, being so well rested. I like the mythological world Anna inhabits through her imagination and am not unfamiliar with it. – But I kept my distance from all three of your and Larry’s kids, all three of them appearing to be good young individuals, because I remember how I viewed older folk when I was that age. I think Uncle Bill, your Dad, is the perfect model of how to be. Around him when I was a kid, I was never uncomfortable or creeped out and, despite all the truly scary and sad and even tragic mysteries of adulthood which I too keenly sensed at that time (and made me cry), I was absolutely delighted and amused by his particular wit and prankish humor and sense of fun. – I asked Amy to snap a photo of Anna and I together at niece Theresa’s and Tony’s wedding, and she did. I told Anna, “no funny faces”, and she obliged, and the photo turned out great. I love it. She’s lovely and wonderfully mysterious, in a way I think I understand, of course not completely, but at least in some of its aspects. I asked Amy to forward the photo of Anna and I to me, and she hasn’t yet; she’s really busy right now, but when she does, I hope to forward it to Anna.

      I really enjoyed the old footage of good times past, when we were kids, which you brought along for viewing by us all at Aunt Linda and Uncle Terry’s house. God what happened to us. Amy told me she has wondered gazing upon her favorite photo of herself as a baby girl, holding a milk bottle up to her lips, wearing a cute little dress, short little unbraided ponytails sticking out, adorable as can be, “What happened to that little girl. Who is that? Is that really me?”

      Thanks again for the complimentary comment, cousin Linda, and love and well wishes to you.

      John

    • Thank you, Thrity Vakil, for stopping by and leaving a comment. You’re the first to have left one here in a while. Lately I’ve been leaving more comments with other individuals at their blogs, getting so involved with that I’ve been sorely neglecting my own art. I should probably blow the dust and cobwebs off of my materials and get back to work.

      I don’t belong to Facebook, but I clicked on your name, and from what I could discern from the glimpse I could get there, you’re a socially aware human being and committed activist for preserving the natural world. Next, my curiosity piqued, I did a Google search of your name, and I came across an impressive resume of your interests and work, including your own art. Very remarkable and wonderful. You are far more varied and accomplished than I am. It enhances my gladness that you’ve stopped by.

      No doubt being cut off and alienated from Nature, the feeling of having dried up and decaying roots, is a major cause of distress and turmoil in individuals and of so many emotional disorders and psychic maladies in the world. My own work in its bone dryness and obsessive inward knot-tying to some extent expresses and reflects my experience of this.

      You appear to be on the healing side of things, through your life experiences and close and careful studies and teaching of others and your own more personal creative activities being a nourisher, a refreshing and encouraging presence, a bringer of good energy.

      Thanks again for stopping by!

      P.S. I notice in addition to all the work in forestry preservation you’re involved in, sailing at one time in your life on the Heraclitus (great name for a ship!) you’ve done work to bring attention to coral reefs AND you are an admirer of the films of Sergei Paradjanov (The Color of Pomegranates). The relation between the two is resonant. I myself have seen all of Paradjanov’s major films and I love his sensibility. It’s incredibly extravagant and even flamboyant, but reined in and controlled by this sense of symbolic stylization. From the eye of Deity looking down from a great height, one could say his sets were like coral reefs. I think in another sense, albeit in a more overtly decadent way, the French painter Gustave Moreau shared this metaphysical deep sea sense of the spiritual world, where the more one immerses oneself in that world, the more enchanting and alluring the colors become and the more surprising and marvelous the forms and patterns and designs, with certain dangers lurking and poisons hidden in all that luxuriance.

      Goodness, Thrity, I looked on-line at some of your paintings and drawings, the refreshing fluid naturalism in the spirit of your seeking for patterns, something healthy and alive even down in your obsessive workings and manifestations, everything tightening up but still breathing, and then I think of your travels around the world and all the things you must have seen and experienced, no doubt informing your creative approach, and I feel there are countless angles one could explore of any given subject with you. I back myself into corners and tight spaces, and with tongue in cheek crown myself with a dunce cap. I descend creaky steps and pace around in a dark, dank cellar, and tiring of that I strike a match on the heel of my boot, light a candle, plop down on an overturned rusty pail and have tea with the rats; or I climb up a rickety pull-down ladder and hang out in the rafters of an arid, musky attic, looking down at all the junk and antiques, whereas you, in contrast, as fresh as the wind, appear as open as the sky, as wide as the sea, drawing your own work toward the horizon.

  14. I’ve often looked for you online. Thought to try again. Found your blog and more importantly for me, evidence that you’re alive and your eyes are as bright and penetrating as ever. I hope you’re well.

    Perhaps you might remember me,
    Heather

    • Greetings, Heather:

      If I’m not mistaken, the Center for Creative Youth program at Wesleyan, that small window of time during our early high school years, is where we first met. That was so long ago.

      I always had this sense of you, back then, as having a kind of wildness under the surface, something larger than life trapped inside you which probably made you suffer, much latent creative energy seeking some outlet and direction, some form for manifestation and release, which when it did spontaneously burst forth in its seeking in the presence of my curiously introspective immaturity at that age made me feel anxious and guarded. You intrigued and scared me at the same time.

      Unfortunately at the time I had not the inner strength and self-confidence to receive and fully process all that you had to offer and to return to you clear and honest sympathy and understanding and much of any encouragement. In some part of myself I feel I should ask you for forgiveness.

      I thank you warmly for the kindness of your remark and for your remembrance of me.

      I hope you’re well in turn, Heather!

      Sincerely,

      John

    • Hi Adairia:

      I looked at your gravatar photo, and the image in stand-in for you is from a more enchanted realm. I love that realm myself and wish I could live full-time there. Unfortunately, ah, the pinch in my shoe, the bills to be paid.

      Thank you very much for the compliment. Sure, go ahead and use the “snake shedding skin” drawing. I only wish I developed it more if I knew you’d be coming along. It’s really just a drawing I did trying to plot out my Family Tree painting. I never heard of Lenormand decks before. I did a google search and find a woman named Marie Anne Lenormand, a French professional fortune-teller during the Napoleonic era, considered “the greatest cartomancer of all time.” I found also some discussion of central differences between the Lenormand and Tarot deck. I come at this with some skepticism but also genuine curiosity. I have an open mind. On an aesthetic level, I love the visual impact of those cards, the miniature size. I myself in my modest work have a tendency toward the compact and detail-oriented within the miniature, so I find a natural sympathy with those cards. They’re really quite wonderful and charming. They do have an uncanny power. One may not know what they mean or were intended to mean, and still very much enjoy looking at them. I didn’t investigate too deeply, but I see the snake card doesn’t necessarily have a positive connotation within the Lenormand system of signs.

      You could probably teach me a class on all this.

      I wish you one thing, Adairia, in channeling and reading the signs sent by the spirits: Don’t burn yourself playing with the mystic fire. Don’t get bitten by clumsily handling the snake!

      My best to you –

      John


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