Where My Pet Rock Came From
Late stage capitalism sucks. We live in a time of unprecedented resources and technology. Yet, no one seems happy. People seemed overly concerned someone else is trying to get one over on them. Folks are obsessed with money and how to pay for things. The smallest illness can put someone in an unrecoverable economic downward spiral. In America, we can’t address basic social problems because somehow it would upset the financial order of things. My friends work too much, struggle too much, and fear falling off what little pile they have made for themselves.
I make art to tell stories. I brought home a couple of coasters from the bar thinking I would make some little paintings on them. I painted them with gesso and transferred a page from an old encyclopedia I had lying around. The first painting was a doodle. I was laying fields of color, aqua, bright orange, soft purples. For this triangle in the center, I mixed some red watercolor with red acrylic and I liked how it was translucent. Later, when I looked at the small painting, I thought, if I had a pet rock that is how I would paint it. My Pet Rock Has a Red Triangle Heart was born.
My work habits are such that I get up and write and when my head is too gooey to write some more, I take a nap. And when I wake up, if I don’t feel like writing, I make art. Often what I am writing about filters into my art making. Lately, I’ve been trying to understand the relationship between art and society. This means I’ve been reading a lot of Donald Kuspit who writes things like this:
“The issue that haunts this paper is whether ideology, including the ideologies of technology and corporate capitalism, which converge in the ideology of the spectacle–a mind-numbing dumbing down of consciousness–represses, even denies, or at least systematically suppresses, interiority and subjectivity, or whether the spectacle grants them a new lease on life, bringing with it a fresh consciousness of feelings and sensations, more broadly, of subjective possibility, indeterminate yet invigorating, despite capitalism’s apparent determination to manufacture spectacular appearances that belie and discredit their reality, for feelings and sensations interfere with efficient functioning in the world of action and technological society.” (1)
Kuspit got me on to the work of Daniel Bell who predicted the post-industrial society back in 1973. Bell also tried to understand the contradictions of capitalism, specifically, how we can live in a time of unprecedented resources and be so unhappy.
When I get to deep into economic theory, I like to watch YouTube videos about history. I stumbled onto this Channel 4 documentary hosted by Rupert Everett, The Scandalous Adventures of Lord Byron, in which Everett retraces Byron’s early 19th century jaunt through the Continent. While the Grand Tour was a common thing for noblemen to do, Byron’s journey was special in that he was seeking liberation of his self and his creative soul, which he found. And I thought, Nobody liberates themselves any more. Probably because it costs too much. And then I decided to send My Pet Rock on a Grand Tour of his own. A few paintings, some collaging, and some writing and word-collaging later, My Pet Rock: A Tragedy & A Love Story was made.
My Pet Rock is a tragedy and a love story where the Byronic hero journeys to the Caribbean to Europe to the Middle East. He meet artists and writers, longs for lovers at home, and dies after eating Kentucky Fried Chicken across from the Great Pyramids of Giza. With guest appearances by Carl Werner, Louis Marie de Schryver, Eduard Gaertner, Jean-Frédéric Bazille, Claude Monet, Tears for Fears, Dean Martin, Rudolf Ernst, Antonio Maria Esquivel, Agostino Brunias, Daniel Bell, José de Espronceda, and Duckey. My Pet Rock is a parable about capitalism. I hope you enjoy it.