Pretty Mess with Words (2010)
by Dorothy Goode
My life fell apart last year. As breakdowns go, this one was enviable (if you are anything of a romantic, which I am) and unexpected. Once in trouble, however, I set to work. There is nothing like having one’s cells ripped apart and then re-cemented to make for fresh curiosity. “Material” becomes inevitable—which brings us to the by-now terribly familiar question: What is the difference between fact and fiction?
I am long accustomed to viewing my life as a partially coherent, not-very-well-written novel, and my artwork has been a partner in this. I do like words. I like how they work. I like how cunning they are, and insidiously influential. I even like how they look when handled by hand and allowed to spread out like momentarily tired, sharp-toothed beasts. So when the crisis hit, I began to write things down all over 144 accidentally book-sized panels, specially prepared for them and meant to set the stage for yet another batch of colorful, acquiescent abstract paintings.
Initially I thought to call the series something along the lines of The Jesus Prayer. This was satisfying to my psyche, given the astonishing amount of guilt I was experiencing, but was also rather disingenuous, as I have no relationship to Jesus whatsoever, unless you count an unnerving tendency to talk to him whenever I walk into humble Mission churches. So I gradually let the idea of publicly proclaiming myself a sinner go, and settled on calling the work, once completed, exactly what I saw it to be: a pretty mess with words.
This wasn’t the first time I had written on a surface as an underpainting, but it was the first time there was a unifying theme to the writing. Also, some of it remains legible—and the subject matter is more than a little narcissistic. To write personal information on a surface meant to become a painting is a dubious thing. It makes one feel, subtly, already more significant than one was before. The surface has become the rack on which one can either stretch oneself or clothe oneself, spilling color all the while. And it changes the painting game. It makes it—the game—just a bit more dangerous, rather like putting a new edge on a well-used knife. But like the knife, it is simply a tool.
RETURN TO MAIN MENU