The Horse Star (For Crazy Horse)

The Horse Star (For Crazy Horse)

All through the Badlands there are reminders of who used to own this land.  There are  hay-colored grasses and scrub trees standing silently like penitent monks or atavistic sentries that bore witness.  Then and now, window rocks from the “Devil’s Tower” where the  Sioux kept watch  for cavalry and road agents and bounty hunters, who collected a tarriff for every Sioux they killed.  The natural history and landscape of the Badlands still bear the impression of the bloody and brutal history  that unfolded there.

We sometimes think of the Badlands as only Montana and the Dakotas.  It actually spanned many states and the Great Plains almost as a whole.  Horses were not introduced to the Americas until the Spanish brought them in 1640 or so and the Sioux were among the first tribes to become expert horsemen.  Horses were of more value than land in many Native American cultures.

Crazy Horse was a superior rider who could do many other things while riding a horse.  He was as expert at breaking and training horses as well as capturing wild horses.  As a young man, Crazy Horse stole another brave’s wife, Black Buffalo Woman, who it is said he was in love with ’til the day he died.  Upon being confronted and captured by tribal elders, he was forced to return her as well as two horses to the aggrieved brave.  This was considered an extremely harsh penalty.  All Black Buffalo Woman would have had to do in order to divorce the brave was to move his stuff  out in front of their tent and this would have been the only statement necessary regarding the finality of their marriage.  Crazy Horse was heartbroken by this and became even more reckless in leading war parties and raids.  His first wife, Yellow Dress, grieved endlessly over his taking up with another woman and died at a young age.

At a relatively young, age Crazy Horse lost the woman he loved, a brother and his father, and it probably affected the view he had of the world.  That life was perilous, short, bitter, and fragile. . .this piece is called, “The Horse Star.”

Published in: on December 26, 2009 at 7:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Winter Monument (For Crazy Horse)

Winter Monument (For Crazy Horse)When one drives through the Badlands or the Gila wilderness at night, one keeps company with the stars.  They are never more visible, never more primary, and never more operatic.  There are no street lights or buildings or ambient lights to interfere with their radiance.

Crazy Horse loved sleeping out under the stars, as did the poet Li-Po in China, 1200 years earlier.  Both men had a communion with nature that is best described as spiritual.  The poet, Li-Po, would be reduced to tears at the sight of the constellations.  Crazy Horse wore three hailstones painted on his forehead because he believed they were of the stars.
They guide us and move us to poetry and song and paint and dance.

Years ago I did an Artist in Residence in Missoula, Montana.  They put me up in a Double Tree Suites place right next to the Bitterroot River.  It was early winter/late-autumn and the colors were muted, russety reds, ochres, firey yellows, as well as plum-colored leaves that were as furiously sad as a Guy Clark song.  It woke me to the idea of making work rooted in nature.  This was kind of a new idea to me.  I’d always drawn birds, but never the land itself.  Some of my favorite art were Charles Burchfield’s watercolors, Arthur Dove’s bloody suns, John Marin’s scratchy and earthy mountain-scapes and the sublimely lovely Marsden Hartley paintings.  But until then I’d never seen myself as being able to cobble together works about nature.

While I was staying there, the woman at the hotel desk informed me that at four the next morning there would be a meteor shower, and if I’d like to see it, she’d give me a wake-up call and I could walk out next to the river and witness one of nature’s most amazing light-shows.  True to her word, she woke me up at 3:30 and I made some coffee. . .

I walked out to the river with five or six other guests and watched–and was astonished. The stars and comets were dancing a ferocious dervish in the black sky.  I thought it’d be one or two shooting stars; this was the sky moving like amphetamine-laced neon light.  I’d never seen anything like it.  I had the thought that I knew what people meant when they said the stars spoke to them.

These thoughts loomed large in my head when I thought about the work I’d been making about Crazy Horse and the monument still being carved out of Thunder Mountain to “honor” him.

I thought that the greatest, and most resonant monument one could build for him is already there; the stars, the river. . .the mountain itself.

It is hard to imagine what shooting stars would have meant to someone so attuned to nature, as he was.  To Crazy Horse, the sun was the Almighty; and one did not curse the rain or the hail or the blinding white winter.  It was nature, and this combination of forces, or spirits and the Creator were all the same thing.

On my way back from L.A., me and my pal, Stan, drove through Apache, Navajo, Hopi, Cherokee and Blackfeet land.

In Carl Sandburg‘s, “The People, Yes“, the poet claims that, “The people know what the land knows,” and implies, just like Native American cultures do,  that the land itself        has a memory.

This thought is not hard to believe crossing the Black Mesa and the high desert.  It is unforgiving and thorny, beautiful, fierce, spiky and haunted.  It is a land of shooting stars, thick poisonous snakes, abandoned towns and absolutely no mercy.

Published in: on December 21, 2009 at 12:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Girl of the Emerald Sky

It is that time of year again.  Miami has allowed the circus of mental defectives that comprise the art world to pitch its tent on South-Beach.  Every mouth-breathing, social misfit in the country has strapped on the fake tits and spray-on tans and found the most outre-retard outfits to promenade down Collins Avenue and engage in the casual brutality of the art market.

Boo-yah.

I stopped going to these things a couple of years ago.  They are not much about art.  They are more about skin and money and the ambitions of a culture of squishy people who fancy themselves as “taste-makers.”  The parade of jerk-offs checking their Blackberries in full view of a gorgeous ocean makes one despair of the species.  The hookers, male and female, will make a killing, a ballerina or two will get shit-faced on free vodka and go skinny dipping in the pool at the Delano.  Art stars will be made and unmade, and the dealers will lie about how well sales are going in order to keep the one-ball juggling act known as the economy up in the air.

The art-world worker bees will man booths and realize hour after mundane hour that, in this end of the pool, this is all there is.  Success at an art-fair is at best a Pyrrhic victory.  The swells like you, and this doesn’t mean you’ve achieved anything like art.  In fact, it often means the opposite.  Not that there is no profit in being “fashionable”; there is a whole dearth of talent slaying cash right now.  Celebrity -types will wander the aisles with their dealers in tow, verbally fondling each other’s sacks and air-kissing up a storm.  It will be a daisy-chain amounting to nothing lasting.  A well-lit nowhere.

Have a daiquiri for me and tip the fucking waiters, you cheap pricks.

I leave for Los Angleles on Monday.  Me and Stan Klein are driving out there.  On the way, we’ll stop in the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest  and Joshua Tree, where I haven’t been for 28 years and the last time I was there I was tripping, so I haven’t really seen it.  This route was well known to hoboes and Native Americans.  This was the land of railroads, Indian wars, wildcat oil-men, and absolutely no mercy.

The Southwest’s history, like the rest of American history, is written in blood and dirt and oil.  Land settled, land stolen, dirt lived for, dirt died for.  Over the history of the world, wars have been fought over land, gold, oil, emeralds, jade, tobacco, tea and flesh.  You name it; we’ve killed for it.  There is an idea in Japanese and American poetry that insists that the land has a memory.  And I believe this.

Published in: on December 3, 2009 at 9:59 pm  Comments (1)  
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