In her own words...

To Paint


....Now the doors are all open, the air is mother-of-pearl, and you know the way to tame a tiger. It will not elude you today for you have grabbed a brush, you have dipped it almost at random, so high is your rage, into the amalgam of color, formless on a docile palette.

As you drag lines like ropes across one brink of reality after another, annihilating the world you made yesterday and hated today, a new world heaves into sight. Again the event progresses without benefit of hours.

Before the emerging picture there is no longer panic to shake heart and hand, only a buzzing in your ears to mark rather unconvincingly the passage of time. You sit or stand, numb in either case, or step backward, bumping as often as not into forgotten objects dropped on the floor. You coax the picture out of its cage along with personae, essences, its fatidic suggestion, its insolence. Friend or enemy? Tinged with reference as black as an address book, weighted as the drop of rain that slid on the window, it swims toward completion. Evening soaks in unnoticed until penumbrae have caressed every surface in the room, every hair on your head, and every shape in your painted picture.

The application of color to a support, something to talk about when it's all over, now holds you in thrall. The act is your accomplice. So are the tools, beakers, bottles, knives, glues, solubles, insolubles, tubes, plasters, cans; there is no end. . . .

Time to sit down. Time to clean the brushes, now become a kindly interlude. Time to gaze and gaze; you can't get enough of it because you are now on the outside looking in. You are merely the visitor, grandly invited: "Step in."

"Oh I accept." Even though the twilight has faded to black and blur, making sooty phantoms of your new companions, you accept. Feeling rather than seeing, you share exuberance. You are surprised and uneasy when you seem to hear the rather conspiratorial reminder that it was, after all, your hand, your will, your turmoil that has produced it all, this brand new event in a very old world.

Thus you may think: Have I brought a little order out of chaos? Or have I merely added to the general confusion? Either way a mutation has taken place. You have not painted in a vacuum. You have been bold, working for change. To overturn values. The whirling thought: change the world. It directs the artist's daily act. Yes, modesty forbids saying it. But say it secretly. You risk nothing.

This last additional touch with the light failing and when you thought you had done with it; you so believe what you have done when you have not done it at all: it has simply pulled away, detached itself from you like the ineffable division of a cell. You watch its final separation in the fading day with a nod of recognition for you see that the sixth sense has been dealt with.

What is to be made of this, O analyzers? What can I tell you, O gentle art lovers, O kindly dreamers? Is some help needed? Doesn't the paint say it all? What am I after? A long time ago I said I want to seduce by means of imperceptible passages from one reality to another. The viewer is caught in a net from which the only escape is by going through the whole picture until the exit is found. My dearest wish: to make a trap with no exit at all either for you or for me.

     –excerpt, pp. 15-17.


About this work

To Paint is an excerpt from Birthday, published in 1995 by Nadja Press, New York.