Progress Reports : Twilight of the Vanities

May 13, 2009

posted by Caroline Picard

I’m gearing up for a show at MiniDutch at the end of the month – I’ll be binding about 20 copies of a work-in-progress novel called “Happy Ending,” excerpts of which have been published on this blog. I’m working up these “portraits” based on the characters described in the book. I’ve been interested in translating a linear, linguistic narrative into a flat intuitive meditation on the subjects in the story. Additionally, since I’m looking at this “Hipster” as a collective group (acknowledging, of course, the inherent problems in such an enterprise), I’ve been thinking a lot about the flat-line of post-modernism, where often it is difficult to get beyond the surface. Often there is some question about what is beneath the surface. That comes across more in the paintings than in the written work. Hence, the surface of each “character” or “persona” is highly decorative, stylized and self-conscious.

Also, I’ve been incorporating dollhouse wall paper in some places. Partly to reference childhood, the resistence to growing up, partly to reference the idea of domestic spaces, recreated to be played with and seen (the way dollhouses always have one whole side missing)….I guess there are other things too, but maybe they don’t need to be mentioned much more…

Tibetan_Thangka,_anonymous,_private_collectionAt the same time, I’ve been thinking about Tibetan Thangkha paintings, where each painting serves this religious function, providing a means to study a particular god.  So, for instance in the Anna painting, you’ll see riffs on the “wish fulfilling jewels” that transition into bottles. Whereas the Thangkha paintings imply a kind of spiritual depth (their purpose is to create avenues for enlightment; thus if one studies/meditates on the Thangkha rightly, one will discover enlightenment,) these hipster paintings do not. On the contrary, I hope that they play off the celebrity-culture desire, playing off the narcissitic, albeit innocent, desire to be looked at. Without, of course, providing the same promise for realiazation.

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Potrait of Anna : In progress

I got into a great conversation the other day about the Hipster and who self-identitifies as such. The conclusion we came to is that the Hipster is in some sense dead. That is, the hipster aesthetic has become such a part of main stream culture, that it no longer represents anything in particular. It used to reflect irony. But then of course, and thankfully, irony collapsed. It happened to me when I finally admitted that I liked Journey. Now those things that used to sit as ironic gestures, the moustache, pink glitter eye shadow, dream catchers, the trucker hat–what have you, those symbols now seems like signs of how irony failed. Which is a good thing, I think. It has been replaced by new and young-feeling desire, that of resurgant folk music and what I like to think of as suburban shamanism–

The book I’m working on, it’s describing people just before irony collapses on itself. I don’t know if I’ve managed to work it out of yet, but that’s where its headed.

portrait 1- noi in progress

Portrait of Noi, detailAn Episode of Childhood: Noi & The Backwoods.In Arizona, age five, Noi (then called by her real name, Isabelle) had a best friend. Her first lover.Maxwell was the naughty boy in school and Isabelle loved him. Maxwell sang to her on Valentine’s Day “You are my baby blue. My only baby is you.” And they giggled and got in trouble. Isabelle was a good girl, but she loved Maxwell. Isabelle liked being naughty sometimes. Because the teacher read them James & The Giant Peach during story time, the children made insects out of clay during Art. Isabelle fashioned a butterfly. Maxwell made a spider. They sat side by side on preschool chairs. MAXWELLMaxwell smashed his fist through his clay spider. “MAXWELL!” the teacher cried. Maxwell giggled, well used to the sound of his name formed in admonishment. He leaned in towards Isabelle with half-lidded eyes and she kicked her patent white mary-janes back and forth listening as he said, “You’re my baby blue.”ISABELLE “Insidedness,” Isabelle pulled up her shirt and pointed to her belly button in the play house. Maxwell put his finger in her belly button. They giggled. When the teacher came, they ran away to separate corners of the room. MAXWELLMaxwell took off his pants and started running around; the head of his penis jogged up and down. He screamed, clapping his hands together. “MAXWELL!” the teacher cried. Isabelle blushed and leaned back in her small child’s chair, observant. “My only baby blue is you,” she whispered to her shoulder, just loud enough for him to hear. Tobias laughed and ran away to the other room. “Put your pants on,” the teacher said, stern and following after him.One day, as often happened, Maxwell went to Isabelle’s house. They went to the backyard to play. Because it had just rained it was muddy and Isabelle proposed that they make mud tea and drink it at the edge of the golf course, where the yard and the grass met. They sat behind a tree, sipping potions in pretend. Maxwell leaned in to kiss and they kissed, lips sticking out, mouths shut, eyes closed. “You are my husband,” Isabelle said. “And you are my wife,” said Maxwell. “We live in a house and we have a baby.” “The baby is sleeping. You should take your shoes off. Warm yourself by the fire I made for you.” Isabelle pretended to stoke a fire as Maxwell took off his shoes. Pretending to be a man, he put an arm around her. The stone couch they sat upon was wet and the earth smelled like rain, breathing and rich and red as Arizona dirt it—the desert preened with unaccustomed relief, its plants spreading out in wet vibrant colors. “You spilled your tea on the couch!” Isabelle cried, frowning. She pulled out from under his arm. “You are naughty.” She waggled her finger at him, as her mother did to her father. “Now I will have to clean your clothes in time for your work tomorrow.” Maxwell took off his shirt, grumbling. “Your dress is wet too. I think you spilled.” He smiled. Isabelle took off her dress. She shivered a little and put her plastic tea cup on the ground. “Let me show you,” Maxwell said. “I can show you something.” The children, undressed entirely and hidden behind a tree pressed themselves against one another, among other things.

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Portrait of Noi : in progress

Here is an article about the hipster that I thought was kind of interesting as well.

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Portrait of the Plunk : in progress

I’d boast a sighting of a hipster vampire loping down milwaukee at twilight on the back of a pink wolverine.do you remember when the cougar appeared in the city last year? I suspect it’s the same sort of thing: either, there was a wealthy middle aged couple that bought a hipster in the mail, kept it in their wicker park condo closet, feeding it twinkies and pizza, fine cheese, espresso and pbr – then with the recession the couple couldn’t keep their housepet, so like Ceausescu, let the hipster loose before abandoning their flat for the country. OR the hipster followed the train tracks into town. Either way, I’d like to imagine that it is The Last Hipster.

So. If you’re up for it. Come to Minidutch on May 30th. When all of this everything is supposed to be finished and hanging and crisp and clean.

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