Panning for Gold in the River of Artistic Achievement




Once the dirt is washed away, what’s left at the bottom of a pan is probably just gravel. But every now and then, comes a Eureka moment. 

Any art that has been around for awhile, but is inspiring enough to track down and enjoy long after the ship originally sailed, is probably going to be worth your time and attention, because even while sinking into the sediment, real gold continues to shine. It’s still prime material for the for the groom’s ringbox or the alchemist’s vial. For me, there’s nothing more inspiring than great art. I’ve struck a lot of gold lately:

Recovered nugget #1: Black Swan – after seven years and many enthusiastic recommendations by friends. As soon as I saw it, I regretted taking so long. Dark magic realism as opposed to horror; the film is intensely visual, symbolic, and devastating in its complications and implications. The character of Nina is inhabited more than acted by Natalie Portman, and the film is composed as much as directed by Darren Aronofsky.


The film blazes a trail through insecurity, to anxiety, stress, depression, and mental instability. Sometimes genius resides in very dark places and reaching it comes at the ultimate cost. 

Recovered nugget #2: The Women Surrealists. It started when I was looking for cover art and stumbled across a Leonora Carrington painting that gobsmacked me. I tracked her back to the surrealist painting movement in the 1920 and 30’s, feeling astonished that I was previously unaware of a genius of Carrington's calibre. This article layed out her astonishing life and led me to several related discoveries.

Carrington was also a groundbreaking writer of weird fiction.

While exiled in Mexico, she developed close friendship with a network of amazing women including Remedios Vera, Kati Horna and Leonor Fini, everyone of whom was a artistic trailblazer with a significant body of work - and almost everyone of whom was all but ignored in the heyday of male self-importance.

Recovered nugget #3: Geek Love. An audacious masterpiece with no fucks to give about offending anyone. Like its characters. The book is so subversive, poignant, hilarious and fearless that you forgive it for being obnoxious. Never has a character in fiction been as marginalized as the novel’s bald, albino, hunchback narrator, Olympia Binewski McGurk. She herself explains why she can get away with just about anything. “Just being visible is my biggest confession, so [people] try to set me at ease by revealing our equality, dragging out all their own less apparent deformities.” Actually, the author gleefully reveals them for us. Katherine Dunn’s prose is gaudy and unlikely and perfect. Ranks with Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, Palahniuk’s Fight Club, and John Gardener’s Grendel among the most brilliantly subversive works in literature.

Here's a wonderful skit about the writing process - with a tragic side. Sadly, Katherine Dunn never completed The Cut Man.


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