Pauly grumbles over tea as he recounts his troubled time with the art critics at the Boonton Art Fair where the snobs of the Boonton Art Council discounted his work as “cartoon.”
He sounds hurt, and I understand it.
Poe hated these highfalutin art critic types, the “art mongers” who made their living drinking the blood of real artists, and yet lived like kings.
Pauly is hardly a starving artist, living in a house rent free at the top of the mountain, where he gets to putter around daily in his garden before he makes his way to the post office at the bottom of the hill to mail this off or that, spending most of his time in a library smaller than the tiny train station across the street.
Pauly needs remote places away from the hubbub to create. I know other artists and writers like that, who ache for some kind of retreat where they can get away from it all in order to stoke up the engines of creatively.
He did not do well when he lived next door to me in
always being distracted by the rattle of water pipes or the bratty kids banging
a basketball against the side of the building.
Pauly is silent for so long I think he might never speak again. I want to tell him we might still find a piece of land where we can make his dream come true, maybe up in Nova Scotia or along the Canadian border like we once planned.
But in truth, I would be miserable there.
I would drive myself crazy with the silence and the distance. I need to be up close to what I write about, eye ball to eye ball, dragging my notebooks to barrooms where the worst or best characters reside, pissing off strippers who hate the idea that I love words more than I love looking at them, which isn’t true – or at least only in the limited way they mean it. They (that preponderance of the washed and unwashed that make up this world) are everything to me and without them, I have no art, and my imagination would starve to death.
This is not to say I don’t find inspiration in the remote at times, suffering through terrific storms or feeling the intense isolation at the very edge of a beach, seeing something in every grain of sand or every lick of wave that none around me see.
But people in their own environment mean more to me than anything, from stripper to bank president, even the range of folk I deal with at my job.
Everybody I meet is an inspiration, someone I need to paint with words, some more than others, some I can’t resist, others I force myself to document because I know that if I don’t do it, nobody else will.
And sitting with Pauly in this café at the end of the world, I wonder what the art critics would say about what I do, and whether I would be like Poe, cast out to the dogs, to fend for myself, unaccepted in the upper art circles because I choose things that seem too ugly or real to ever get accepted as art.
I tell Pauly to forget those assholes. Who’s going to remember any of them in a hundred years anyway?