So, today was St. Patrick’s Day. Also my birthday. After spending the morning teaching my Parsons School of Design Illustration in Motion class at Grand Central Station, I decided to go to midtown Manhattan and draw a little of the St. Patrick’s Day parade, and spend the rest of the afternoon at the Museum of Modern Art. A perfect way to spend the day. Well, let me tell you, it was COLD on Fifth Avenue today! And I have to admit, I have a love/hate relationship with the St. Patrick’s Day parade. On the one hand, I am 3/4 Irish descent, and very proud of the contributions the Irish have made to the United States. Did you know that the French troops sent to help the colonists win the Revolutionary War were mostly Irish mercenaries? They couldn’t wait to stick it to England and help one of her colonies gain independence, how very Irish of them, ha! And I love to see all those proud people marching with their Irish sweaters on, bagpipes blaring. Those are my people! On the other hand, I really hate that the Ancient Order of the Hibernians continues to refuse to allow gay and lesbian Irish groups to march in the parade. The group claims to exclude the homosexual marchers on religious principles, but, as my four-year-old nephew says, “REALLY?” It is so against the teachings of Christianity – Jesus accepted everyone, according to the Bible – that I just can’t abide it. And don’t believe that it’s right. Everyone who is PROUD to be of Irish descent should be welcomed, Irish sweaters, Kelly Green atrocities of fashion, and all! So there’s my dilemma about this parade. I mean, even the Pope himself has said that he cannot judge people by nature of their sexuality, and rightfully so!
So, there lies my overall mixed feeling of the St. Patrick’s Day parade: I love it, I hate it, but it’s a part of who I am, so I absolutely can’t ignore it. So that’s why I found myself compelled, despite the frigid temperatures, and despite my political/moral objections, to at least draw a little bit of it. And I have to admit, I enjoyed drawing those extremely Irish faces. Made me think of family members, some long gone, whom I have loved, and who have shown me love in my life. So come on Irish-Americans, let’s get it together and welcome everyone to the fold already!!
(Setting up at Grand Central Station.)
After I froze myself for a little while on Fifth Avenue, I decided to treat myself to an afternoon at the Museum of Modern Art. It’s my birthday, after all, and I can’t think of a better way to spend it than gathering some inspiration for the coming year at one of my favorite museums in NY. OK now, here is the crazy part. I swear to you, this morning as I got on the subway to go to Grand Central Station to meet my class, I mentally asked the universe for a sign. “Universe,” I said, “It’s my — – year, and I need a sign for the next part of my life.” (Didn’t think I’d tell you how old I was, did you?) So I’m walking around the MoMA, thinking over my life, and of course, thinking not only of the blessings of my life (there are many) but also of those things I wish I had done, or those things I feel that I should have done. Not in any kind of dramatic way, you understand, just that it’s my birthday, and I’m kind of going over my life, good and not-so-good, as all lives go. So, as I’m thinking these thoughts in a peripheral kind of a way, I turn a corner in the museum and see this word, in letters about two feet high: REGRETS. No kidding, regrets. I can’t even believe it! So, I walk in to the gallery, and it’s a show by Jasper Johns, whose work I love.
So apparently Jasper Johns purchased this old photo of Lucien Freud, that Francis Bacon had used as a point of departure for a portrait. Bacon preferred to paint from photos rather than from life. And this old photo is cracked, ripped, and mutilated, plus it is covered in spatters of paint, from being in Bacon’s studio as he did his painting. So Jasper Johns decided to use it as a metaphor for life. He took that damn photo and used it as a point of departure for a whole series of new paintings and prints. Johns turned the photo upside down, he flipped it, he turned it, he painted it, he printed it, he did all kinds of things to it, but most importantly, he saw the new art (life) inherent in the past art (life.) And the work was GOOD. What a statement, and what a wonderful thing to inspire me on my birthday. Wow.
Here is a quote from the show:
Seen as a whole, the series reveals the importance of experimentation in John’s practice, laying bare the cycle of dead ends and fresh starts, the way problems and solutions develop from one work to another, and the incessant interplay of materials, meaning, and representation so characteristic of his work over the last sixty years.
Dead ends and fresh starts. Thank you Jasper. Thank you universe, you answered my question and gave me a sign. I’m ready for another year, and looking forward to see the fresh starts and [more] problems and solutions that develop! There is so much more life and so much more work to do, even after the age of – - -!
(Still not going to tell you my age. I mean, I’m inspired and all, but haven’t lost my senses.)
And happy St. Paddy’s Day everyone! My gripes with the Ancient Order of Hibernians aside, I’m very proud to be an Irish-American!