“Peace to Allen Ginsberg and Carl Solomon”
This is my watercolor, a diptych I am exhibiting at PSA Annual Members exhibit. My words on the piece and my thinking about the title for it are below.
Opening reception is downtown Thursday, December 16, 5:00 – 8:00 pm
Celebrating 45 years
Pittsburgh Society of Artists Annual Members Exhibition
Dec 7, 2010 – Jan 28, 2011
The Art Institute of Pittsburgh Gallery 420 Boulevard of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15219
I wrote this by way of introducing the artwork I submitted for this annual show. It’s going to be cold and dark downtown and requiring a parking garage BUT it will be WARM inside the gallery this Thursday night for the opening reception. Hope you can come, or if not, visit the show at some point. If neither is a possibility here is more on what I have come up with for this exhibit. This exhibit has no theme so all member artists can submit whatever they want.
Is a movie ever needed when a piece of writing it is based on exists? Is a movie ever as good as the book? Can it be better than the book? That subject will always be tossed around. For me, seeing the recent movie Howl where James Franco plays Allen Ginsberg, caused me to revisit the poem Howl and poet Allen Ginsberg. I don’t know that I would have revisited those subjects otherwise. I had a professor in college in the Bay Area, Michael McClure, one of the beat poets. He was always promising to bring Ginsberg to class and though he often did, it did not happen during my one semester in his class.
Outside McClure’s class I did read Howl, Ginsberg being in the air, and the part I especially remembered was one part of the poem. I was reminded of this recently when seeing the recent movie and it was Part 3–I’m with you in Rockland–that I remembered best. This is where you find out about Carl Solomon. Ginsberg wrote Howl when he was 29 in 1955, and he dedicated Howl to Carl Solomon, but you don’t hear about Carl until Part 3 of the poem. Even without knowing anything of the real story of Carl, the reader will know some things about him, at least that he is in a hospital named Rockland-on Long island, he is getting shock treatment, he is more insane than Ginsberg, and he reminds Ginsberg of his own mother’s madness.
Like many families, my own family has grappled with mental illness. When I read Ginsberg’s poem Howl I was about 20. I had no idea then in what way he had experienced mental illness within his family, or how it may have informed his art. I perhaps only thought he was a creative artist. I never considered the biographical angle and likely would not have been very interested at the age 20. His anti-war antics held more interest to me then. But the fact of mental illness as described about his friend Carl did resonate with me, even as a self centered 20 year old, and I remembered it when seeing Franco recite the words of the Ginsberg’s poem in the movie Howl.
Reading Howl when I was 20, and hearing Franco’s recitation of it in the movie Howl now, put me in mind of two family members who have struggled with mental health.Â So the artwork I submitted for Pittsburgh Society of Artists Annual Members exhibit is titled “Peace to Allen Ginsberg and Carl Solomon”. I took one of my watercolor diptychs from a spiral bound notebook I work in and framed the piece along with a piece of vellum trace. On the trace I wrote some of the lines from Part 3 of Howl. The watercolor is a very peaceful, still, yet dark landscape. Not a ripple of breeze disturbs the dark ocean. Beyond are sandy headlands (they happen to be Provincelands on Cape Cod) and the sky over the headlands is very dark with anticipation of coming weather. But overall the landscape to me is very still and peaceful and it also felt that way when I saw it. Some weather was coming but I had no sense at all of worry about a storm, just mesmerized by the simplicity of the colors and flatness of the atmosphere. It seemed to me this painting worked well in concert with my wish for peace for Allen Ginsberg and Carl Solomon- and to all families affected by mental illness. The holiday time is a particularly challenging time for families affected by mental illness, so I am thinking of that.
This one below is kind of amazing because it picked up some reflections of paper mache masks I have hanging on the oposite wall. I really LOVE that resulting artwork with lights and masks peaking over the headlands!! It’s all reversible so it can become simply a landscape and after this show that is likely what I will do with it. So that’s it. PEACE be with you. – Carol
Ginsberg –best known for “Howl”, with its famous opening line …”I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness”… and relentless, rhythmic litany of lines devoted to the celebration of those minds, and “Kaddish” the powerful, heartbreaking biography of his mother, Naomi Ginsberg, who spent most of her adult life in a state of mental torment.
About filmmakers of recent movie of Howl-Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman
James Franco as Ginsberg reading some of Howl Part 3 “I’m with you in Rockland”
Here is the post card advertising the show.
On this 45th anniversary, PSA Charter Members Cynthia Cooley, Peter Calaboyias, F. Walter Jones (retired Shadyside Academy history teacher of David McCullough) , and past presidents of PSA Kathleen Zimbicki, Paula Garrick Klein and Judi Charlson will all have work in the exhibit.
Some responses to this post:
…”My own experience with Ginsberg—back in 1973 he gave a poetry reading at Dartmouth. Heavily involved with writing and the UVM lit journal News and Weather, a friend and I drove down in my parents car to hear him. When we got there it was announced that he and Peter Orlovsky had arrived at the train station and needed a lift. So my friend and I got to pick them up and drive them to campus. We chatted along the way (Ginsburg had one leg in a cast –he had slipped on the ice at his farm in upstate NY) and had it propped on the top of the front seat. Orlovsky was hyper and generally nuts (and very funny) but Ginsburg was warm and relaxed. I have always remembered how sweet and open he was. Even when some Dartmouth jocks invaded the reading and heckled him he never lost his cool–just chatted with them in a friendly way that succeeded in dissaming them completely…
All long ago–a nice thought of yours– to tie friendship and its tribulations to dunes (the sands of time?) beseiged by weather and sea –as they always are and as we in some sense are as well–worn by winds and waves of time into new shapes–different but still, basically, the same” Levi Smith
Wow–so much food for thought. I enjoyed reading about your artwork here. The assemblage of the final piece, complete with lines from “Howl” looks and feels very compelling. It’s fascinating how language can lend or enhance meaning in an image. Really beautiful.
Katie Hutchison Registered Architect, Design Writer & Photographer Salem, MA 01970