Escape by Sharon A. Hart
Recently, while working on a new painting, I’ve been thinking about Frank O’Hara, the late reviewer for Art News and Assistant Curator of Painting and Sculpture Exhibitions for the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Perhaps it’s because recently a book of his selected poems, edited by Mark Ford, has been released. There’s an informative review of the book found in the New York Times.
However, even prior to learning about the publication of the book, I had been reflecting on O’Hara’s poem Why I Am Not A Painter because it beautifully articulates the creative process; the result is unexpected, the process is improvisatory, ever- changing and the final product is found in the process itself which may involve a process of obliqueness or even extraction.
I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,
for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
"Sit down and have a drink" he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. "You have SARDINES in it."
"Yes, it needed something there."
"Oh." I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. "Where's SARDINES?"
All that's left is just
letters, "It was too much," Mike says.
But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven't mentioned
orange yet. It's twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike's painting, called SARDINES.
(originally published 1957, Evergreen Review)
I can relate to the understanding of “too much in the painting”, for the very painting I’ve been working on initially had been planned much too complicated. Once I started painting, the life of the painting directed me to remove certain aspects of the design, even parts initially painted. As the painting was a watercolor, this created certain demands, but I believe I was able to rise to the challenge. Spatial differences, alliances and references enter into the experience of the artist until it is imbued with a seemingly natural expression related to haiku. Sometimes it is in what we don’t add or say that we express the most.