From the artist, Jef Gunn, this note in response to a phone call from my wife, Ellie Blankfort. She had called him, earlier, in response to a note from him lamenting the state of the art scene. His thoughts resonate with much of my own sense of what it means to be an artist in today's culture, and how to Persist.
Thank you for your caring phone call today. It meant a lot to me and was very helpful.
I wanted to clarify more that what my Dharma teacher meant by (something like, I don't remember exactly) "stop being an artist," was that I can do without the extra artist identification that goes with trying to "make it" as an artist. That whole world view is fraught with expectations and neurosis. Here's a little poem from Ryokan:
Who says that my poems are poems?My poems aren't poems at allWhen you understandThat my poems aren't really poemsThen we can talk poetry together
I have a feeling inside like I want to start over, fresh and clean. I want to rinse off the stink of art. Maybe move to a small town and work there, and paint the way I want to paint, which is increasingly quiet and simple. Of course, simple is not simple; the tensions and compressions of simple shape and color interaction are complex. And how does that carry meaning? That very mystery is enough. That's all I want.
I have learned everything by teaching everything. The heart of it cannot be taught. And if you have the heart of it, nothing will stop you from learning how to make it visible. So, why worry?
The world is becoming more vulgar by the day. When I say I'd like to make an art of quiet resistance, this is what I mean. Like the literati of the Yuan Dynasty (14the c.)
Maybe there's a way to put my work in front of an audience, in another city, who might get something from it. Many people love my work here in the NW. I hear from them. And people do buy it, but not many.
First priority at the moment is finding dignified work that can pay my bills independently of art or teaching. Then, I'll start looking into showing elsewhere.
Thank you Ellie,
To which the artist attached these beautiful monotypes:
No More Struggle
Rising and Falling