This time of year, the colors become more of the earth–mud, sticks, grays, silvers, and pink sunrises and sunsets. As the leaves fall off the trees, the skeletal picture of winter begins to render itself in this city. It gets dark at 4:30 and the cold becomes even more biting. It is to remind you that winter is cruel and winter is coming. Getting old is not for pussies.
I always notice the people who work outside in this weather–the Streets and San guys, the mailman, the U.P.S. drivers, the cab drivers. There is a middle-aged man who walks dogs in my neighborhood. He got downsized out of his corporate job some years ago and I notice him because he is so close to my age. He tells me that he was no longer “relevant.” He says this without acrimony or bitterness. He tells me it is what it is. He tells me it is the best thing that ever happened to him; that he walks dogs for a living, mostly for cash that he doesn’t have to report and he lives a simple kind of life.
“I’ve learned gratitude. I’ve learned it from the dogs. I take them to Wicker Park and sit on the bench and we watch the world change minute by minute and it is not bad. I got off the Hamster wheel.”
I’m sometimes uncomfortable around him because he is so close to my age. Selfishly; I feel like irrelevance might be contagious .
In fact in the art world, I’m pretty damned irrelevant–a dinosaur, a guy who makes pictures, which is SO last century. So not post modern. In Chicago, for years, there has been an effort to imbue the pantomime of art-making with the same definition as actual art-making. In some circles, talk is the same as art.
To all you “conceptual” theorists, tell me how that works out for you
Culture moves fast, usually faster than we do. It’s HOW one is rendered irrelevant. What one generation considers important, or considers art, or literature, the next doesn’t. One minute you are the next big whisper, the next, you’re talking to dogs.
I kind of get it and oddly, I accept it.
I’ve never functioned well in the art world. I always had more in common with the Teamsters and cops assigned to art fairs than the art world mout breathers. Twenty years ago, when Chicago had the biggest art fair in the world, I remember talking with the Teamsters and kind of seeing this silly world full of self-important douchebags through their eyes. One of my favorite lines came from my pal, Pirate, who has been a Teamster at Navy Pier for years.
“Hey, Tone. . .who dresses these motherfuckers?”
You’d have had to have been there to notice the absolute earnestness in Pirate’s face when he offered this query.
The truth is, I don’t belong here. I’m a statistical aberration; one of those square peg, oddball cases. I love making art and I hate the world one must traffic in to exist while doing this. It is full of boot-lickers, ass-kissers, dilettantes, wankers, paste-eaters and pukes and sadly, these dopes? They are necessary and as much as I would like it to not be true, these twat’ push the discourse forward, like it or not.
I never liked the contempt the collector class had for working class people. People like the long line of them that I come from. I remember once hearing a dipshit dealer complain about the working class’ enclave near where he “summered.” He was pissed that the “service industry people” were
clogging up the supermarket on the weekends. In fact, he thought they should have their own, on their side of town. I’ve always been ashamed that I didn’t say anything. I was new to all of this and didn’t want to upset anyone. Needless to say, I soon got over this.
It is this time of year I’m extra nice to the dog walkers, the mail people, those who lift, push, carry, and build things, because I know I’m supposed to be out there in the winter weather with them,pushing a wheel-barrow, carrying an 8-pound sledge, building or pouring a form; the jobs I used to do before I refused to do anything seriously except draw pictures. I remember the ache of physical work and sometimes I miss it. It was a fatigue earned in the dust. In an animal kind of way, I understood. These are my people and this was my lot. It was simple and honest and elemental. Creating things is a burden and it fills you with strange, onerous fires that change who you are and how you carry your pain and your joy in this world. It is the curse we are blessed with. . . those lucky enough to be afflicted with Art.