The Juggler was a poem written by my friend Doug who was as dedicated to poetry and music as I was to painting and drawing. On a deeper level he was as dedicated to the spirit of Modernism as I was and equally as opposed to the contemporary thought of our time which became referred to as Post Modernism. As vague and non committal as this term is, it collectively meant a kind of nihilistic cynicism wrapped in clever irony that Doug and I detested.
Instead, we made art… lots of art. And for some reason this poem opened a flood gate of ideas. Among other things I was inspired by the idea of the need to be active and pensive as implied by the juggler performing during the day and then painting at night. While painting is an activity, it requires much more quiet and directed looking than the active of juggling. And yet within that contrast there is it’s own twist. The juggler must be in tune with the still moments between tosses and the painter must rise from his chair and apply paint to canvas. I was also fascinated by the double contrast of viewer and viewed. And most of all by the overlapping and reversal of he and I. In one sense Doug was the juggler and I the painter. But in another, I was the performer and he the quiet writer at night.
In any case, the result was hundreds of drawings and many paintings. I explored countless variations of many different themes from the juggle’s managing his sexual urges on the one hand and reflecting on his loneliness on the other to the more abstract idea of the yin and Yang of a balanced life. There are also images ranging from realistic depictions of a young man juggling or observing his paintings to dozens of invented figures doing everything from acrobatics to painting or being painted. There also paintings within paintings that also include puns blending the boundaries between what is and what is imagined.
8.5″ x 11”
Seattle has more than its share of performance art buskers. These characters don’t have the benefit of a historical tradition like they do in Europe. But nevertheless, they feel the call to perform and the allure of a hat filled with cash. So, even with little more than a simple trick and a prop they are out on the street corners in what seems like a disproportionate magnitude even on a rainy day.
Jugglers are the ones that have fascinated me the most. They are the real life metaphor of what so much of my life has felt like. I am constantly juggling several things in what seems like an impossible situation. The only way it works is to keep it going. And to some degree it is fun and just like my cohorts on the street, it is often about pleasing others. And of course, there is the money. I have never seen a street busker performing without some version of the obligatory hat. It’s never enough to really thrive on but often enough to keep you in what feels like a trap.
To me these folks are living and breathing metaphors of my whole existence as a man, a father and an artist. My fascination with painting them is tinged with pity and empathy. I am both perturbed and fascinated the way one often is when you catch your glimpse of yourself unexpectedly in a mirror.