The Dead Alchemist
Oils on canvas
23.23 x 16.93”
From a letter to a 1st grade friend:
This is a reason why I am myself no good in a social situation. This is why I could not attend the reunion. I have no grace at all in a group of more than three. I was thinking back on St. Lawrence. Particularly at recess. I remember well how I found ways to not join in. I’d get way back on the basketball area against the fence and watch from there the class mingling here and there. Or I’d get close to the incinerator there at the left corner of the building and try not to be noticed. Later I discovered two group activities I was really good at. Kickball. And marbles. I was surprised at how good I was at placing my kicks perfectly according to how I saw the opposing team’s field of battle. I took it all in in a glance and might hold my kick back just between an opening I perceived in their defense. Or, most surprising of all, I could kick the ball all the way to the basketball area if I saw a “home run” was the solution and an actual possibility. It was both tactical and strategic skill I had discovered. Marbles was a different campaign, again though discovering a kind of natural ability in strategy and tactics. Here, it was more compact, or intimate a situation. It was I think only boys, although I can see myself trying to enlist a girl for I was always more comfortable around girls. And it would be one on one when it was your turn. There might be four or more around the circle, but I’d watch the little beauties – those colorful little spheres – and plan my attack when my turn came up. You wanted to aim for winning the big “shooters”, while along the way winning as many of the little ones as you could. As long as you kept hitting others’ marbles you stayed in the game, acquiring more and more marbles for your bag. I remember I’d got a lovely pink quartz shooter. It was large, seems it was around 3″ in diameter. It had tiny bubbles inside like a ball of frozen champagne. Oh, to lose that would have been disastrous! But I never did. It could roll over two or three or even more in one shot. But you see the concentration needed for both of these games. I was in a group but was focused both outward, and inward for my goals. Neither demanded argumentation or much even of talking to others. This was about the extent to which I would allow myself to socialize. Thinking on it now, I realize I’d known early on that being around others was extremely painful. What I had to do was endure. I stayed camouflaged, stayed hidden. And just watched. I heard them. I wasn’t deaf. I heard their ways. And then I’d go into a daydream. My daydreams were of solutions to problems I saw they were struggling with. I wanted to tell them of my solutions, but I knew how they would respond. The few times I took courage to say something, they’d hear me. I knew they did because they’d take my thoughts into discussion. And in short order my points were changed into the babbling language they were comfortable with and I was forgotten, as if I wasn’t there. That bothered me some, that I ended up ignored. It bothered me to be unceremoniously dismissed. Not so much a recognition as a “you’re crazy”, or “get out of here”. Just ignored. But I knew it was coming; the torture for me was going out there. But after, I would move back into my camouflaged position where they didn’t have to notice me. There, I imagined further solutions – to problems of my own, that they wouldn’t see. As you’ve seen, some of my art is of this latter form, solutions to matters that must remain with me alone, and unspoken out in that world. My choice of career as an artist is perfect for me. It’s a silent thing. I show, but do not speak. So I remain dumb. And it is being dumb that keeps me unseen, and untouchable. I’ve always been like this, both as an artist and in my personality. I know I won’t be seen – and I don’t want to be seen – it’s why I don’t publicize myself very much. I don’t use the more modern things: I don’t use Twitter or Pinterest or LinkedIn and so on. Nor do I have a cell phone. Just my little web site that sits there mostly unseen. I want my isolation. I want my obscurity. What has been of never ending fascination to me is the goodness in people that I’m granted it.