Here’s a definition–


hot rather than cool

committed rather than disengaged

bizarre rather than formal

it is sensuous

frequently quite ugly and ungainly

symbolic in content

evocative in feeling

This is from Peter Selz, referring to a musical style, but I found it quoted in a book Whole Cloth  borrowed from my dear deceased Nancy Chappell (to her heirs:  still reading!  returning eventually!)

Okay.,. now, coming at this topic from another angle I gotta tell ya that I started life as a Perfectionist.  I think this affliction befalls the daughters of distant fathers (or worse than distant….) In an effort to be LOVED, there occurs an introversion, the searching out of any fault, failing or loose thread that would cause the little girl to be rejected yet again.  And of course anything done must be done beyond mortal efforts.

This is a rough path to walk– involves much ripping out and ripping up, wretched crying and self-flagellation… the other end of that stick is, one gets to be pretty good at one’s endeavors.  Anything I do well I attribute to this early exacting training I laid upon my own self in an effort to be acceptable to my dad (who, it turns out, was off licking his own wounds and therewith oblivious to the suffering of others).

Enough angst… I’ve burned it all up in the bright light of epiphanies, moments when a few more pieces fell into place and everything was right in the world.

So anyways I did everything as perfectly as possible until I was about 45 and had a brief Retrospective of my work– laid it all out on the sofa, everything I could find from everso long ago ’til right then– and was struck by the MENTALNESS of it all.  A frozen sort of quality.  An undesirable quality, not at all what I was wishing to convey.

At that moment clicked in a conversation I’d had long before, with Judy Duboff, one of those old friends I’ve rediscovered recently– she’s a potter.  We were driving I specifically remember down Freestone Hill to the old hotel at the bottom where she was sort of camped out with her wasband and little baby… and we were discussing how our minds worked.

She allowed as how when she started a pot, she had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what it would be.  A teacup? A pitcher??  No idea.

This was utterly bizarre to me.  Before beginning ANYthing, I’d have ALL, I mean EVERY SINGLE DETAIL, worked out in advance.  Totally pictured in my mind.

Then she revealed that in between moments, her mind was totally blank– like in between stations on the radio dial.  Fuzz. 

MY mind, by contrast, was always in high gear compiling shopping lists, conjugating French verbs, figuring out the 13’s multiplication table  (in  3rd grade, Miss Simpson only took us up to the 10’s),  or having imaginary conversations with past or future people.

I love this girl Judy Duboff.  She is like a ripe piece of fruit, with a generous and marvellously curvy derriere, who wore lace bikinis and eyeshadow while I was a stressed-out and overworked young mother with no time even for my own fingernails.  What she said that day on that ride had stuck with me for DECADES… right up to that moment of surveying my work spread out on Richard Xerna’s sofa.

Something snapped then.  Since then, I have no longer been the boss of my art, but the servant of it.  I am solicitous with my materials– how best could they be utilized, do they still want to be what we started making together, do they want to just SIT alone for awhile and regroup?  Considerations like that.  Except for occasional dry spaces, this is A LOT more fun of an approach than the power-tripping from before.  Lots of surprises, most of ’em better ‘n what I’d thought of.  That space created by backing off from the materials gives Goddess Knows What an open invitation to appear.  Delight!

And maybe that definition of Funk fits better.  We all know of First Peoples who leave mistakes in their work so as not to challenge the Creator, in Whose sphere alone is Perfection properly at home… I take their good example and do not tempt the gods by trespassing!

Except in the matter of Love.  I do wish to convey to you perfect, untarnished, warm and shining and pure Love… if it didn’t come across as such just now, don’t despair, I’m keeping on practicing!

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  1. wow. I stumbled into this blog this morning at 4:45 am. I was lying in bed with a sleeping baby by my side, another warm and breathing in his bed, the husband snoring joyfully (and loudly) and all cats and the dog were given treats, water etc. All of this before 5 am…and so with everything in place, what else is there to do except get up and get something done? Write some music instead of lying in bed feeling like I am wasting time (even though normal people are still asleep at that hour on a Sunday.

    What I want to say to you is, thank you. What an amazing piece. I can’t begin to tell you how much it hit home for me. I can relate glaringly. Your insight is welcome and phenomenal.

    Love you!

  2. So nice to find you writing so much and so beautifully, Ayala! I’ve been thinking about you and it was a pleasure to come here today and spend an hour or so browsing your thoughts.

    I’m really enjoying reading chunks of your personal history — all the stuff that happened in your life apart from the 3 1/2 years I knew you in Hingham Way Back When and the microscopic visit we enjoyed Much Later in Los Angeles.

    Sorry for the dreary aspects this year has brought, but I’m so pleased to find you sharing so much here. Please continue to keep in touch this way and continue to weave the “Tassel on the Lunatic Fringe!”

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