New Year’s Revolution

I had intended to ad lib a blog post about writer’s block, because I seemed to be suffering from it. Except…I am writing an essay and gathering notes for another, neither of which seem impeded by the aforementioned block. I am close to completing another painting, so no block there. It’s only in regard to blogging that I seem to be enmired.

So let’s try this and see if improv blogging is workable. While writing an email today I made a typo, caught it at once, then had second thoughts. I had written “New Year’s Revolution” instead of “New Year’s Resolution,” and, although I fixed it, I rather like the first version. We need more revolutions, loud or quiet – perhaps quiet most of all, because quiet revolution creeps in and changes the world before too many people notice and take offense. Marches and referenda do not equal the opening of hearts and minds, the incremental growth like a tree rising to the sun.

It was then that I started to look inward. The revolution(s) in my own life came without fanfare or, indeed, much conscious effort. I did not declare myself to be an artist until I was already making art – pretty poor art, but the voyage began before I told the world I was going that way. It was as big a surprise to me as anyone else, though not much of a surprise to anyone who knew me. I had been writing and drawing since childhood, stories, paintings, skits, songs. They poured out, inspired by everything I read and watched and dreamed. I was on the road before I looked down to see it under my feet. Perhaps I should have been more self-reflective and not have lead an unexamined life (thank you, Henry David Thoreau).

It seems to me, from a cursory examination of art history, that the greatest revolutionaries in art did not set out to rebel. They sought a new way to express those universal things, and did not begin with sibylline pronouncements or manifestos. Once set on a new course, artists may claim it as their own, but good luck with that. There are exceptions, surely, but I’m generalizing, because I have blogger’s block.

At the bottom of this post I have put a painting by Yves Tanguy, as today (January 5, 2016) is his 116th birthday. Tanguy was inspired to become a painter after he saw a painting by Giorgio de Chirico, but he was never an imitator. Tanguy made his own quiet revolution, perhaps not on New Year’s Day, or even close to it, but he made it nonetheless. I think I’m going to give up resolutions for revolutions – but stay resolute in my revolution. Enjoy this new year, everyone!


Yves Tanguy, Slowly Toward the North, 1942, Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Philip Johnson. © 2016 Estate of Yves Tanguy / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


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