old face/mustache put on . . .
Ah. Duchamp. His upside down urinal taught us more about sculpture than all of Michelangelo and Rodin. In fact their sculpture becomes even more sculptural because of 'Fountain.' And the 'Bottle Dryer'-- who, after seeing it, can go into a hardware store and not see an art gallery? Our minds have been opened--the 'Bottle Dryer' has taught us. As de Kooning once said, 'Duchamp is a one-man movement, but a movement for each person and open to everybody.' 1
Now we know our minds can put a mustache and beard on works of art whenever they become stale or exert too much power over us. Once, in my early development as a painter, I had to shut a book of Bonnard's paintings and say, 'I will not look at those colors until I figure out what I am painting.' Bonnard was keeping me from painting red and green. Now Bonnard is Bonnard and I and my red and green exist. Our minds can put a mustache on Botticelli's 'Birth of Venus,' Raphael's 'The School of Athens,' Dante's 'Divine Comedy,' Shakespeare's 'King Lear,' Basho's frog. But once a mustache is put on by hand, it's there to stay. Duchamp committed himself. The 'Mona Lisa' has a mustache. When I saw her in the Louvre my mind saw the mustache and beard. The little old lady in black who was copying the painting must not have heard of Duchamp. My mind put hair on her copy. It also put them on the little old lady.
Tundra? Why tundra? Why not one of a hundred other words? I looked it up in the dictionary to see if I were missing something. Didn't you? Why not a prettier (more beautiful) word? Why not a more significant word? A prettier word would have canceled the idea; a more significant one would have been too much of an idea. Cor van den Heuvel committed himself. Since 'tundra' we've all written one-word haiku--at least in our minds. But we'll never better 'tundra.' We're stuck with it. For better or worse, 'tundra' is the upside down sculpture of haiku. The mustache we can't get rid of. Didn't most of us run the gamut of emotions with it? 'That's ridiculous!' 'Who's he trying to kid?' 'So what?' It took me almost a year but 'tundra' and I finally got together and my senses are enriched. (I forget how long 'Fountain' took.) In a sense 'tundra' is all words.
Think of how many poppies (and haystacks, etc.) Monet painted. Then Cezanne and Michael McClintock came along and made Impressionism lasting like museum art.
a poppy . . .
a field of poppies!
the hills blowing with poppies! 3
Not only did McClintock show us form, he gave us a concept to explore and expand. He gave it to me: 'a cloud/a sky of clouds/ the something or other blowing with clouds'; 'a sunflower'; 'a raindrop'; 'a young leaf.' Thanks Michael. Oh, I'll never put down such words and call them my haiku. Like the hardware store, they're only there for the mind. Warhol's followers almost ruined the soup cans by bringing the grocery store into the galleries.
Well, it happened. John Wills became a butterfly. So did I. So can you.
above the jewel weed!
to settle! 4
Too many other butterfly haiku are
about butterflies. This is butterfly . . .
is us-as-butterfly, is us-as-settling. I've never been above a jewel weed that way--or above a tulip tree blossom, or above a mountain . . . not that way. Uh oh. There goes the mind again. An eagle, an owl, a song sparrow, a starling who will soon be sprayed with soap, a warbler, a turkey we once had who lost her mate . . . But now I'm above the jewel weed.
For me, Cor's, Michael's and John's
haiku have a power beyond themselves. Now, wait a minute, I didn't say the concept
is better than the haiku. If your mind wants to say that, it's all right. Duchamp
The onlooker is as important as the
artist. In spite of what he [sic]
thinks he is doing, something stays on that is completely
independent of what he intended, and that something is grabbed
by society--if he's lucky. The artist himself doesn't count.
Society just takes what it wants. The work of art is always based
on these two poles of the maker and the onlooker, and the spark
that comes from this bi-polar action gives birth to something, like
electricity. But the artist shouldn't concern himself with this
because it has nothing to do with him--it's the onlooker who has
the last word. Fifty years later there will be another generation
and another critical language, an entirely different approach.
No, the thing to do is try to make a painting [haiku ?] that will be
active in your own lifetime. No painting [haiku ?] has an active
life of more than thirty or forty years--that's another little idea of
mine. I don't care if it's true, it helps me make that distinction
between living art and art history. 5
1 Quoted in Calvin Tomkins, THE BRIDE AND THE BACHELORS: FIVE MASTERS OF THE
AVANT-GARDE, 1965; rpt. New York: The Viking Press, 1968, p. 65.
2 Cor van den Heuvel, the window-washer's pail, New York: Chant Press, 1963.
3 Haiku Magazine 5:1 1971.
4 John Wills, 'One Poem,' Los Angeles: Seer Ox, Pieces Edition No. 2 1976.
5 Quoted in Tomkins, op. cit., p. 18.
6 James Hackett, THE WAY OF HAIKU: AN ANTHOLOGY OF HAIKU POEMS, Tokyo: Japan Publications, 1969
Tweed 5:3 1977 Australia
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