Saturday, April 1, 2017

Lawrence Welk

     If you get away from caricatures of life. And think realistically about how actual people are. And think about some person in a routine. Which is most people. Let's imagine a middle-aged woman with frizzy hair. Let's imagine she's married. Let's say the relationship's not perfect. There are low points where she wonders if she can keep on keeping on. And there are high points where she feels immeasureably loved and blessed. She's got a job and it's not an awful job, but she's no mover and shaker. Let's imagine something like those guys on The Office TV show but a little less, you know, pathetic is a good word. And of course much much more realistic because that's what I'm talking about in fact. Reality. One hundred percent. I'm not pointing to any archetypes and it strikes me now as I'm writing that most of the time writing uses archetypes and I'm trying to do the opposite here.
      Now, me, I'm not much of a creature of routine. Or if I have that capasity in me I’ve nurtured the opposite. Pursuing art in college and afterward was about chasing impulse with this knowledge that my ability to draw is some verification of the usefulness of my impulses. And I think all the artists I know have a similar relationship with impulsiveness, and of course you have to be able to manage it too. But if an artist will grant to himself that it’s better that he always be creating, and if he can grant that his drawing is an act of creation, then when he feels that desire to draw after having set out to clean or when he might have planned to go to bed, he ought to draw. In this way, for me, being an artist has led to me being somewhat non routine, in some ways for better and in some ways for worse.
     But it has put me out of touch somewhat with those types of people, but many people I grew up with and respect were people of routine. I'm not talking about Hobbits where routine is romanticized, but I'm even further from pointing toward the beginning part of Fight Club where routine is absolutely abysmal. These are the archetypes that pop in my head that portray people in a routine. I think about going over to my grandma and grandpa's house, and they're watching Wheel of Fortune. And the same dumb commercials keep coming on. Imagine you see the same face day after day. You hit the mute button during the commercials, but you can't make the pictures go away. Or imagine you got the old TV with the rabbit ears, no cable. The only channel that comes in really clear is PBS. Lawrence Welk comes on every Saturday night. And there's not much else to do but watch it. 

      It's not bad, but there're all these old people and it's all reruns from the late seventies, and Lawrence Welk is pretty dopey lookin' and he always says "wonderful wonderful" in that familiar unappealing voice. I'm sort of coming in backwardly with a desire to illustrate the need for caricature. I want to really really boil it down to the need. People get caricatures at the amusement parks and they come into it lightheartedly and we somehow come to this idea that it's a frivolous thing, and that's probably to keep our heads in a place where we don't forget that ultimately the humanity and the interaction is of primary importance, but deep down, deep deep down somewhere there is a need that is a need like the need for food, clothing, shelter, love, belonging. And this is where I feel like I might lose you, and that's why I led with the opening bit.
     These little monotonies have some impact. Even if you don't let them get to you and you keep your sanity. Every time you see Lawrence Welk's face on the big box on a Saturday night. And he's got that haircut that he's got and that nose and those crooked teeth. But there he is, and he'll be there again next week at the same time. Deep down within things there's a need for caricatures. Of course nowadays so many people are caught up in all the distractions of the information age, but there are still those stable sorts who keep a tight routine and these sorts of folks will always be around. And these are the sorts of folks who really really dig a good caricature, and if you imagine an archetype rather than a real person, an archetype can appreciate a caricature or even really really enjoy a caricature, but it takes a real person to need one.


alex carter said...

Never ever regret going to art college. Tons of people here in "silicon valley" wish they had.

alex carter said...

In the 1970s in Hawaii where I grew up, with 2.5 TV channels, Lawrence Welk was on every Sunday afternoon. I think it was that lots of Midwesterners retired there, plus all the ex-military types who'd fought in WWII.

I used to get a kick out of watching the accordion, and the champagne bubbles were pretty funny too.

It's only recently I learned that my mother and my aunt, as little kids, had accordion lessons and were a "sister act" in theaters in the 1940s. How could something this unblieveably cool have been kept from me all these years?