When I was young, rather some time ago – the 1960’s – I had little experience in the arts, though a year or two in college in Chicago (IIT) quickly altered that, and I found myself drawn deeply into the vortex of contemporary art back then: Warhol, Rothko, de Kooning, Rauschenberg, Johns, Stella, Clifford Still, Motherwell and the whole roster of abstract expressionists, pop, and others. I had not come from a background remotely concerned with the arts, though my family had a few Gauguin prints on the walls, and I recall a big coffee table book of paintings from the Louvre of which a David Rape of the Sabines provided some bare-breasted masturbation imagery. Otherwise it was a desert. I left home at 17 knowing more or less nothing of the arts, or for that matter, life.
But something in me was drawn to the arts, and on my own, I jumped in, full tilt. The visual arts, music (I saw and heard Segovia from the farthest reaches of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Hall in Chicago, and van Cliburn playing piano). I was ignorant, but eager, though back then outside music in which I liked classical work, I found older art – meaning anything not contemporary or very close – something I could not look at. Naturally, as time went by, this inverted, and in these days it is difficult for me to look (without acidic comments) at most modern and contemporary art, and I long since took a kind of refuge in things ancient to older. In phases I’ve been drawn to Vermeer, Uccello, Duccio, Goya, Rembrandt (primarily graphic arts and self-portraits), Constable (sketches mainly), Turner, Manet, Monet, Munch (graphics mostly), Lautrec, Degas, and many others.
For some years I’ve fantasized of the chance to be in London for a month or two, with the possibility of going each day to the National Gallery, the British Museum, and other smaller such institutions, to look slowly and carefully at the vast collection of imperial and royal robbery and prerogatives. To look, to think, to perhaps sketch and write.
The Elgin Marbles Room