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By FIELDING DAWSON (1970)
|Published in: Lurie, Boris; Krim, Seymour: NO!art, Cologne 1988|
In the spring of 1958 when the New York Art World was approaching zenith, and its 10th Street nucleus was beginning to crumble and fragment, like something thrown from centrifugal force, I began a run from myself which somehow like always, led me straight to myself, and as I began to discover myself, a new and deeply intricate form began, I mean what was the continuity once you found yourself? Can't recall having read many novels about it, and it is, quite obviously, a personal thing which I love to talk about and won't here (negative space reasons), yet I think the catalyst that created the trauma we call the Fifties has helped cause the geometric rigidity which prevails in Art today, and keeps the eye, intellect, and spirit definitely apart, and slightly taboo(?). I have the feeling Art is trying to get to where color will take it, but is still pretty naked and maybe rather than look emotions square in their savage eye. The square is what is supposed to make the savage look, and OK these are just words.
But around 1958 all hell was breaking loose; galleries were beginning to open everywhere, and the critics, writing those three liners for Art News and The Arts were frantically covering too many shows a month, and being edited at that; the Beatniks had come to town in a gathering storm, and so the young girls came too; Black Mountain College had just folded, LeRoi Jones had just begun his magazine Yugen, we met Gil Sorrentino and his friend, a thin white-faced guy with his hair slicked back, called Cubby by his friends, and on introduction (shy and friendly), Hubert Selby, Jr., by the world, and with a Brooklyn/New York gong we went to the Five Spot just open and great, and entered the threshold for fond Infories of Monk, Sonny, and Dave Amram and so many others, and junkies, gangsters and cops became part of the scene, and Provincetown headed towards its next to last 1959 sweet summer, and the end, at the decade turn of 1960 wasI think we knew itreally the end for us all in many many ways, and it is much more than a shame no one has written how they felt it and reacted to ot, because there was so much going on our world was changing painfully, always, and when the March Gallery switched over into the wild collage, and separated its group of painters from the known world, ruthlessly, it was one of the first inner changes that took placewhich everybody always quickly turns from, and forgetsand The March was doom to me, I didn't like it, I didn't like it at all, it was the caper to me, and I got out, because my world was coming down around my head anyway.
I was there, of course, but I was out; I was very fucked up, drinking and smoking and taking pills and screwing and always borrowing money, in fact, like a young man approaching his personal cross-roads, anxious; it was so painful, hellish, chaotic, and always on the tip of some heaving wave, we got flipped over, and out, remember those parties? Wow, and to say there weren't great times and even wonderful times is just wrong my God the girls were lovely, the loft-roof parties where we danced and screwedand foughtwell, part of the structure of hell must be the discovery of paradise in the jaws of crack-up, and the painters in The March were right there, helping to force the inevitable change in their way, to them, angrily, stubbornly, with a willpower I had run from, because the change I had to make was of a violence I feared literally akin and altogether, point blank dead ahead, to become myself, as I had always been, standing in the path before me, and for several years or the opening years of the 1960's I resented The March painters, while I was at the bar drunk and broke, I resented them. I resented them.
Well a couple of years ago, like ten years later I saw a red headed woman I hadn't seen since - since then and we had a drink together; such an old friend she is! And when she said, with her typical tight-lipped cowboy smile, and she always calls me Fee Dawson.
"You know, Fee Dawson, I didn't think you were going to make it".
I laughed, and looking at her, thanked her, because she had remembered, and it was with a voice I'm not too familiar with, which confessed the strange voice to change, thanks.
"I didn't either".
FIELDING DAWSON (1930-2002) was a beat-era author of short stories and novels, a student of the Black Mountain College. Dawson was known for his stream-of-consciousness style before the term was coined. Much of his work was lax in punctuation to emphasize the immediacy of thought. Additionally, dialogue would often be used to break this up. Though conversational, much of his dialogue could often halt the metre while still staying on track. His lack of deference toward tradition in writing, other than that of the necessity to evoke humanity, often painfully raw, is what puts him in the category of many of his better-known contemporaries, such as Jack Kerouac or Alan Ginsberg. Dawson was still writing up until his unexpected death in January 2002, but by then had made his name known outside of the strictly literary world. He had become a teacher, first in prisons like Sing Sing, and continuing on to work with at-risk students at Upward Bound High School in Hartwick, New York. He wrote often of his experiences in prisons without regret but not without concern. He expected truth in the work of his students, and as disturbing as that could often be, he refused to look away. This passion for reality ran through his life and work.