The woods are lovely …

Robert Frost, 1913.

Robert Frost, 1913. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It might just be true that there are some words that own us before we even truly know them.

A long time ago, I was a kid still, I watched a spy movie. I don’t even know the title of that movie now nor do I remember the plot.  I seem to remember the face of the main actress but do not know her name. I just recall that the story unfolded around a group of so called “sleepers”, people who were leading normal average US citizen lives until they were called – by phone – by a contact person who then “woke” them to perform a certain task by reciting a single line from a poem to them. And this single line from a very famous poem  stayed with me for years. Alas, neither did I know it was famous, nor did I initially know that it would haunt me for many years.

To make things more difficult, the movie was American synchronized to German. The time must have been late Seventies, I guess. None of these fragments of information enabled me to identify the movie.

The line as that came to haunt me was: “Des Waldes Dunkel zieht mich an, doch muss zu meinem Wort ich stehn und Meilen gehn’ bevor ich schlafen kann, und Meilen gehn, bevor ich schlafen kann.” I was immediately electrified. It was as if I had been woken up. The line stuck. After a few days I knew that I longed to  learn the whole poem.Eventually, and maybe only a lover of poetry gets this, I longed for the poem the line was taken from like I would learn to long for a certain person much later on – but just not quite then.

Alas, there was no mentioning of the title of the poem. Nor of the author. I didn’t know what it was that electrified me. It was well before one could start an internet search. So I had to nurse that longing. And marvelously I did. For years actually. I never forgot those lines. Even though they might be among the most famous last lines of any poem ever written, I didn’t find them for a long time. It might have been easier had they been first lines though.

The translation of these lines, of course, is: The wood are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep.

We finally found each other, that poem and I, some twenty years later. And I was as happy as if someone had revealed my fate to me. And the revelation of that fate would have been to know the poem. The woods are lovely. It took about three minutes to learn the rest of the poem when I found it. I knew I had known it before I had known it. I knew it when I found it.

And I have no answer as to how it can be that a poem, a poem not even in my then native language came to claim my allegiance. Came to claim me.

The poem was written by Robert Frost. I am a sober person but this poem was written into my genetic make-up. It seems that I had always known it, that it had been waiting for me, patiently, all these years, even testing me.

This is a kind of respectless approach to the great poet, forgive me, Mr. Robert Frost, respect less in the sense that, of course, this poem is not individual, and that is where its true beauty lies.

Robert Frost, a poet who died before I was even born. But not long after, in a small book store in the Upper, upper east side, around 95th street and Lex, I  had discovered a kid’s illustrated version of “Stopping by the woods”, stumbling upon it, virtually, I met an old photographer, a neighbor of mine on 95th Street and Columbus, Jacob Lofman. In his apartment there was a beautiful picture of Robert Frost that Jacob Lofman had taken years before. I know now that the picture was well known by the time I spotted it on the walls of the humble apartment in the Upper West Side when Jacob had invited me for tea.

Well known that foto might have been and still is, but it wasn’t to me back then. It was still not part of my culture. Robert Frost in New England. And so it came that I had the great pleasure to discover this image, the image of Robert Frost, in the apartment of a photographer who knew how to look at a man who by the time he met him was already legend and still to show something deeply personal about him.

I kept looking at the picture for a long time. Jacob made tea and I looked at the picture. I still can hear the water boiling, the tea cups cluttering. It made me happy to just look at the picture hanging on a wall in an apartment in the Upper West Side. In my ignorance I didn’t know that the man in the picture was famous. I knew by then, just for a few days, that he had written the poem I had searched for ever so many years. I don’t know why it was that poem by Robert Frost any more than you could answer why you love a certain person and not another.

I still don’t know why words have that kind of power. I just know by fortunate experience now that they do. I have rarely been as happy in my life as when I discovered those fragile bonds to a poem that had claimed me so many years ago. I know now, of course, that EVERBODY and their neighbors love “Stopping by the woods”. I guess that’s how it ended up in a spy movie. But without any cultural context, even without the context of the poem, just by a few lines in translation, spoken a few times, these lines had been truly powerful.

Life is strange, complex, opaque, but  still we can establish part of its truth. We just know it when we see it. Truth claims us. Words have that kind of sober, relentless, inconsequential power. They are an end in themselves, no further salvation promised or needed.

Portfolio of an amazing photographer and friend, Kristina Steiner, presenting CIRCUS UTOPIA PAINTINGS


Photos were taken during the 2012 exhibition of my work in an old barn … Enjoy! A great WOW and thank you to Kristina Steiner who recreated the Circus in these pictures perfectly!

Infinite Jest …

IMG_5726It only occurred to me some years after first meeting him that his brain had been on fire probably day and night, during waking moments and during sleep. He was, I could see that right away, back then, high wired, hyper intelligent, super sensitive, coy, cornered, cynical. In was apparent in the first conversation one would have with him that he was constantly computing any kind of informational offering of his environment for bits and pieces of useful knowledge, useful in his own sense, not ruling out the value of overheard conversations of strangers, visual clues of bill board advertisement, the color scheme of the dioxin polluted NJ marsh lands, conspiracy theories and their opposites, math, astronomy, information technology, Shakespeare, even the CNN news ticker. He was reading, forever reading, and then reading some more, his brain was speed feeding itself knowledge, and he could recover this knowledge with the casual speed of a trained illusionist. When I knew him better he showed me the encyclopedic if highly individual work he was dedicated to, a work in many volumes bound in blue linen as soon as a new one was considered completed. A friend who worked at a university library did this for him volume by volume, one for the shelf in his den, and a twin one that he archived openly secretely in said library, for everyone to see and no one to find in maybe another century. It was a work so biased and yet so beautiful that it was unquestionable that I had been admitted to a unique work of art though he preferred to call it a scientific study of random code.

And still, it was only years later when in the course of an increase of my English language skills I could not only read but  also hear all the different voices merging in “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace that I realized I had actually met a man who is – if that is at all possible considered who Wallace was – the dark twin of David Foster Wallace, sharing his semantics, his obsession, his socioeconomic circumstances, his despair, his addiction, his near autistic ingenuity to gain access to ever deeper layers of information and information encoded within this information,and that he was the man who had to be expected to exist in the margins of literary history, never to be found, as we know that there is never just one genius at any given time, but often just one to emerge to public consciousness , maybe to his own destruction. so that, with other words, i know there to be one other living madman, or genius, or whatever you’d like to call a man with a brain on fire, to weave the net still, to still find the words, to write the chronic of what is and was and will be in all its Borgean implications, thereby freely accepting the responsibility of calling the world into existence.

art as a sanctuary

art as a sanctuary

Every person in this world has a place where they can go when they are tired of all the other places. For some people it is a favorite tree that they like to lean against and spend an hour gloomily … Continue reading

An open question, rephrased … (Thank you, OléVolta)

Do you feel that what you see in official exhibitions and what you conceive as important contributions to art through your own experience as an artist are related? Or do you feel that there is a disconnect between the relevance of “official” art and the art that is relevant in your own political and cultural environment?

blog dialog: art and the internet – an open question

There are so many works of art I only got to know because of the internet and especially through blogs. Amazing artists who would have been never known to me and whose work I enjoy immensely and allow to take an influence on my own standard of creating. I come to other artists’ blogs for encouragement when I feel that I have spent too much time with myself and my own work; I admire and am in awe of the amazing work from the most unlikely corners of the world – of the skill, the amount of expertise and professionalism and fortitude both in writing and painting/illustrating – I actually feel that the internet has allowed me to find my own “people”.
I am currently writing my (legal) doctoral thesis about museum and other cultural spaces and the selection process of paintings and artists to be included in exhibitions in those desired spaces.With the internet, artists – for the first time in history – have been empowered to present their work to a wider audience regardless of whether the art, cultural and political establishment will accept it. I would be truly interested in feed-back about representation of artists to the public. In your experience: does the work you are finding included in traditional exhibition spaces represent the spirit, quality and intellectual content of work artists you know are currently working on?