Site Has a Thousand Smiles

Just what the on-line world needs, another Joe Linker site. But while The Coming of the Toads blogs onward, I continue to doodle, and the results often suggest cartoons. A perfect cartoon is one that needs no words. Thus my new site, titled “Cartoons at Joe’s,” promises: “The less said the better, but there will be captions.” Interested readers, anyone looking for a smile, can find “Cartoons at Joe’s” by clicking here. It’s over at Substack.

The set up for “Cartoons at Joe’s” is minimalist, the writing sparse. And the readers few – so far 3 subscribers. Subscriptions are free, but at the cost of yet another email in your inbox. But the reward of a smile hopefully defrays that cost. But you can also check out “Cartoons at Joe’s” anytime you want with a Google bar search, or by saving the link, or a thousand other ways well paid programmers have come up with. I’ll be sitting at the bar, where there’s no wait.

You might have seen a few of the cartoons before, elsewhere, here, in fact, maybe. That’s ok. Watching reruns of classics is a perfectly acceptable use of your time. And I’ll always be doodling for new cartoons.

Nothing to be done

Where Joyce tried writing everything in, Beckett tried leaving everything out. For Joyce, writing was a process of addition; for Beckett, one of subtraction. In Waiting for Godot, the phrase “Nothing to be done” becomes a kind of mantra. But it’s just an opinion, as Vlad says, even as he considers giving in to it:

Estragon (giving up on his boot) 

- Nothing to be done.

Vladimir
 
- I'm beginning to come round to that opinion. All my life I've tried to put it from me, saying, Vladimir, be reasonable, you haven't yet tried everything. 

“Waiting for Godot,” Samuel Beckett, 1953

Beckett’s characters often seem to have nothing to do. Most modern distractions are taken out, life’s experience parboiled to essentials. There are not many spices on Beckett’s kitchen shelf. Estragon and Vladimir don’t have cell phones. No books, no television, no newspaper. The game is not on. The team is not in town. The ballpark is empty. The surf is flat. While they consider what to do when there is nothing to be done, they can’t sit still. They talk. They have one another.

If they had pen and notebook, maybe they’d doodle:

If they had a laptop, maybe they’d blog.

Art from The Arc

I paint for the same reasons I write: it’s a physical activity that is peaceful, happy, and all about light. Though for some time now I’ve not been painting much. When I do paint, the images come from some underground reservoir, the same place many poems come from, a vision from the inside, if I can say so without sounding too psycho, as opposed to en plein air, painting what one sees on the outside. I read recently that Monet painted dozens of scenes of the River Seine – the same scene over and over, but each scene in different light. I’ve never seen a Monet painting in person, only pics of them, often the light different in each photo, and I’ve often wondered what Monet would think of that, the light in his paintings changing with each reproduction. The light in a parlour or museum likewise might change the scene as it was seen and painted. That effect is not unlike sound effects, where the splendid, carefully practiced arpeggio heard on the radio is accompanied by static, a dog barking in some distant yard, or a trash truck picking up the street cans and noisily dumping them into the void.

I did see some Rothko paintings in person, some time ago, at a show at the Portland Art Museum, and I was surprised by how thinly he applied the paint to the canvas. You could easily see the warp and weft of the canvas. Of course you’re supposed to view from a distance – the same distance for everyone? One’s eyesight too changes the light. Way back in my school days, I once tried to argue that Monet’s impressionist style was the result of cataracts, but I was struck down by an art student who argued that the work of the impressionists was the result of an art theory they had invented and implemented as a complicated statement on reality and vision. I still think it might have been cataracts.

I started painting with my two granddaughters when they were little and liked to play with paints, unconcerned with talent or any kind of “I can’t draw” self-criticism. We all three painted for the same reasons mentioned above: peaceful, happy, and light. And fun! At first I bought new canvases from an art supply store, of modest size, 20″ by 20″ or so, but I then started to find large canvases at garage sales, priced cheaply enough, far less than I was paying for the new ones at the art store, and I bought them for us to paint over. The garage sale finds were not Monet’s or Rothko’s, so no harm was brought to the art world by our painting over them.

Recently, over at The Arc, a non-profit thrift store not far from us, out on the sidewalk, against the wall, behind some smaller items, I spied a large canvas, 26″ x 60″ x 1 & 1/2″. They wanted $10 for it. A great find. The visions of what I might paint over it started drifting in like a slow moving moon, the light in a park changing by the minute. But when I got the painting home, a canvas print of some sort, the kind used to decorate hotel rooms or small business lobbies, I began to have second thoughts about painting over it. Something about it said no, put me up as is.

So I did, and here it is, for your critical review. Please leave a comment! Is it art? Is it good? Why, why not? …B, care to comment? Ashen? Dan? Bill? Barbara? Lisa? Susan? All you artists and art aficionados out there?

The pic in the bottom right corner shows one of my basement paintings, sitting on the piano, which I took down to hang the Arc find.

Notes on Earliest Parietal Art

A Science Bulletin article, available online 10 September 2021, titled “Earliest parietal art: Hominin hand and foot traces from the middle Pleistocene of Tibet,” provides an opportunity to consider definitions and purposes of art. The article discloses and describes what appears to be the discovery of the oldest known evidence of human art, from over a million years ago, much further back than any previous find, and probably made by children.

To ask the question what is art and attempt an answer is to engage in an argument of definition. The scientists involved in the recent discovery outline a kind of argument of stipulation; that is, in the example being discussed, for something to be considered art, it must include mimesis. It must be “a copy of something else.” And that copy is taken out of its natural context and given a new birth:

The Tibetan art-panel meets this basic criterion, but with its own flourishes. The placement of the prints is not as they would naturally occur, with tracks spaced by movement, or hands placed to stabilize [4]; rather, the artist has taken a form that was already known through lived experience (i.e., the artist presumably having seen their own footprints), and took that form (the footprint) and reproduced it in a context and pattern in which it would not normally appear. This is made even clearer by the addition of the handprints, which are not commonly seen in lived experience.

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scib.2021.09.001

According to the definition of art built into the article, the object of art need not be something an audience bows to in reverence. The skill required to make the artwork is not as important as the intention of the maker that the work be “received as art.” The purpose of the work might be “enjoyment, fun or decoration.” The article uses the example of contemporary parents displaying a child’s work as art, even if “tentative artistic endeavours as art.” The authors argue the prehistoric art panel satisfies all of those conditions.

There are other important implications and conclusions of the discovery and analysis of the hand and foot prints (a human presence not expected on the Tibetan Plateau so long ago, for example). But the insistence of calling the panel art seems to distinguish this discovery from that of some other remote relic or fossil find.

What is art that does not free us from the existential cages into which we are born – distraction, deceit, knickknack; advertisement, marketing, sales? In short, propaganda. The artist deviates, moves on, leaves, wanders, wonders, is born again, an outsider, without a comfort zone. Even to just want to be an artist might suggest a kind of alienation, isolation, irrelevance – playing an instrument out of time and pocket. To turn art into a practice is craft, which is fidelity. Art is what is born again, a reassembling of experience, a repurposing of predicament. A pastime, when we had time on our hands.

The word primitive does not appear in the “art panel” article of foot and hand prints. This may be read as a sidestepping or a deliberate absence from the definition. Seen as art, the prints develop their own place of permanence and value without reference to a hierarchy of skill level, training or education, or complexity of instrument. The body parts are at once the form and content and implement of the art work. And it is the arrangement of those parts, the rearrangement in an unexpected pattern or rhythm or placement, that fulfills the necessary characteristics of a work of art.

I’ve been making art with my granddaughters since they were toddlers. I’ve put together a collage here of pieces, adding a few other pics on topic: