Archive for December, 2008

Manifesto Toward a Magical Art

December 22, 2008


This is an old manifesto from my manual typewriter.  This scan here is sort of an experiment.  Is the type too small to read?  I probably won’t do this very often.  It gives a sense of my old format.

It does save me the trouble of re-typing key statements.  What do you think?   Does it work for you?

Later: I decided to re-type it.  I resisted temptation to change it.  I did break it into a few more paragraphs.  When I did first did it I was trying to fit it all on one piece of paper.  As you can see , my old manifestos were often a bit dense and tightly packed.

The P.O. Box address is no longer used. 

It’s very surreal in its way.  It’s always been important to me, to have much of my work with a “magical content.”  You can “cast a spell” on the audience in ways.  The mysterious and unfathomable becomes a sort of a constant.

I still move “toward a magical art.”  This too, is one of the paths I take.


MANIFESTO TOWARD A MAGICAL ART        February 27, 1993

“The eye exists in its savage state.  The Marvels of the earth a hundred feet high, the Marvels of the sea a hundred feet deep, have as their sole witness the wild eye that traces all its colors back to the rainbow.  It presides over the conventional exchange of signals that the navigation of the wind would seem to demand.  But who is to draw up the scale of vision?”

Andre Breton;  from SURREALISM AND PAINTING  in book “What Is Surrealism?” (translated by David Gascoyne)

A silver sun of reflected flashes of choked-up moons pauses to gather its energies.  The slashed gold of misspent time shudders, then breaks into shards, which cut across the mirroring surfaces of flat water.  The sleeping bones (which had supposed to have been lost) suddenly arise up againshaking, crying, laughing and singing-in full glory.

The time of infinite nectar is upon us.  The lost jewels of the deepest possible night have resurfaced with a vengeance.  The phantom shadows of lies, deception and trickery appear to be befuddled, confused and in a panic.  Ageless mysteries call us and reach out to us.  A new day pulls at our hearts with desperate, invisible hands.  Drunk on the most extreme sort of truth, we walk the tightrope across a cruel and burning world.  Something so magical, so impossible seems to be urgent and undeniable.  A wild fierce, zany, delirious sense of absolute responsibility takes hold, takes control.  We live for humanity, for earth, for the dreaming heart in its full glory!

1. The dreaming heart: oh to be truly, absolutely, passionately aware of the world around us!  What we see on the surface is only part of the game.  scratch that surface and we find-intense and irrational feelings, a blind faith in certain forms of spontaneous intuition, surrender to hundreds of possible forms of true love, the breakdown of barriers between sleeping and waking life, boundaries between peoples and nations dissolving, a giddy and intoxicating sense of hope and possibility, a force of unexplainable magic and depth, a light at the end of the tunnel, a reprieve, amazing adventures, liberating humor, a roll of the dice, transformations, surprises, wonders, mysteries and much, much more.

The unfettered hear often feels with all its might.  This feeling can take on the form of a miniature sun or a mild-mannered bomb or merely an extremely passionate soul-unafraid to let go and follow its deepest feelings to wherever they may lead.

This heart is sometimes overcome by an irresistible urge to dream.  An overactive imagination takes hold.  Daydreams and nightdreams merge, dialogue and intermingle.  This dreaming/ feeling/ imagining takes in all the reality around it.  The dreaming heart is born and begins to grow.  Imagination has no master.  It freely refuses to be a servant or a slave.  Strong now, the dreaming heart can become a source of magic.  This magic can bring forth a different sort of art and even a whole different way to live.

2. Toward a magical art: oh to those of us who refuse to or are unable to be held down by the weary day-to-days.  Art is not merely an intellectual game, an occupation, a skill or a medicine (though it can have certain curative, healing, preventative, nurturing and restorative powers).

One person’s deeply felt dreams, enacted, can help another to see life differently-to retrace their steps.  Like a shaman or a medicine man, we can find ways to use our art work to help turn things a bit more “truly toward the better, the less cruel.”  It’s an instance of using art therapy upon a sick world.  We try to see what’s most wrong and dangerous and then try to influence that somehow.  Whether we know it or not-the dreaming heart grabs some of us and takes us to places we never would have gone otherwise.

When children create and play/ some pure and strong sparks can result.  Some of their dreams have never been ill or else are strong enough for some astounding recoveries.

The so-called “primitive people”/the natural peoples often create in order to change things or prevent things.  Their dreams are brought to life and made magic.

The ill or so-called “insane” often create toward health or to drive out their demons.

The healthy and somewhat lucid artist can also enter these worlds.  The irrational in art can seem a reasoned response to an irrational world.  The passion of magic can lift us up and take us to places we never expected to go.  Those of us who are brave and reckless enough to surrender to these forces should be ready  for anything.

This world needs more magic, more enchantment, more dreams made real, more passion, more surprises, more healing energy, more intensity, more shadows.

Things can happen now which can never happen again.  in painting, writing, poetry, art, theatre, cinema, photography, drawing, music, singing and in all life: Magic! Mysteries!


December 17, 2008


Surrealism has always been important to me. In fact, my affinity to Surrealism is responsible for me taking the leap and creating a large body of visual work. When I saw what self-taught artists and Surrealists could do, it gave me confidence to make art. It put a fire under me. It got me going. I was 23 when I got serious about painting, drawing and making sculpture.

I’d look at surrealist art and poetry and feel a special connection. Also their extreme and passionate point of view appealed to me: Andre Breton, Joan Miro, Benjamin Peret, Toyen, Luis Bunuel, Andre Masson, Yves Tanguy, Joseph Cornell, Victor Brauner, Robert Desnos, Man Ray, Leonora Carrington, Antonin Artaud, Wifredo Lam and many more.

Some artists and poets were deeply involved with Surrealism their whole lives. Others, like Picasso and Arshile Gorky, had some involvement and made friendships within the Surrealist Group.

Some, like Dali and Max Ernst, were Surrealist for a while but eventually were cast away from the group for excessive devotion toward $$$ or for watering down their work and so on.

Then there are the precursors. Many were surrealist in spirit before Surrealism hit the globe as an authentic movement. These include poets (in writing) such as Lautreamont, Arthur Rimbaud, Alfred Jarry, Lewis Carroll, Jonathan Swift, Charles Fourier and Saint-Pol-Roux. Earlier painters admired by Surrealists included Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Hieronymus Bosch and Gustave Moreau.

Surrealism also loves much of what I love: the Cinema, slapstick, animated cartoons, music (blues, jazz, Harry Partch), comic strips, Ernie Kovacs, Watts Towers as well as many other “popular culture highlights.”

It’s an important sort of weather vane or loadstone amidst my myriad of researches. Thoughts, dreams and emotions fly and crawl in the struggle to change life and transform the world.

Field of Mutations

Field of Mutations

Early on in my “Surrealist studies” I found that there were still active groups both here in the U.S. and around the world. Since the 1970’s, I’ve met and corresponded with various Surrealists. I met with a group of Surrealists in San Francisco (including the late, great Philip Lamantia). They gave me good conversation and a box of books to hitchhike home with. I’ve visited Chicago and met Franklin and Penelope Rosemont, Paul Garon and others involved with Surrealism in the U.S.

Their concerns often dovetail with my own: dreams, mysteries, haunted magic, revolutions, scandals and various histories. Then too, the struggle for the rights of the Earth itself, of “nature”, of animals, of Native Americans, of all indigenous peoples, of women, of the poor and hungry, of children, of African-Americans, of the so-called Insane, of youth and future generations and of true Artists everywhere.

Surrealism convinces me that artists have an essential part to play in waking the world up. We need to fertilize the Earth for amazing growth (in the form of changes, reconsiderations and restructurings). Creativity contains some of the keys toward freedom and liberation.

Mass cruelty, bloodthirsty activities, an extravagance of screaming and frustrated weeping, insensitive exploitation and usury, strings of wars, mindless attacks, fear of art, indifference to art, feeding the cycle of poverty and not feeding the poor: all of these things are not really essential. If human nature often becomes ugly, it doesn’t always need to be so. Beware, but be aware. Don’t be afraid to love, to dream, to live.

The adventures of Maugre

December 12, 2008

In the 1980’s, I started to sign my visual art as “Maugre.”  It’s a combination between the first three letters of my first name and of my last name.

I later found out it was an actual word.  My favorite meaning: “…to withstand in a defiant manner.”

When I showed my work in France in 1996, they gave me an accent to put over the “e” in Maugre.

A year ago, a large archival site of my work came up.  It’s sponsored by my dayjob:  the library of the University of Detroit Mercy.

Many of my works and adventures are chronicled herein:


Thoughts on Art #1

December 11, 2008




It’s often puzzling just how much to charge for a work of art.  What’s the price?  Only the artist has some idea of the “price paid” in creating the work. 


First, there’s the amount of time spent in creating the work.  This is balanced with the artist’s own sense of how successful the work is. 


Second, there’s the accrued amount of “wood-shedding” and study.  Some people have done 5 or 10,000 drawings by the time they’re 30.  Others never do that many.  The total amount of time studying art, artists, techniques and history is important.  This can be done in school, after school, totally “self-taught” or in any other combination. 


It gets so intense that the devotion and the work involved can be immense.  It can even be as large as that of those who study to be doctors or lawyers.  Yet the serious, fully committed artist can expect no similar financial compensation.  Yet it can be a factor in how one decides how to price their work. 


Third, there are the “strange sciences” of art-world games and word-of-mouth market values.  How these “voodoo economics” function is a mystery to many of us.  Much has to do with what your biggest sale ever has been and whether it is big enough to attract attention.  Sometimes, this may have something to do with the quality of the art.  Other times, it is totally unrelated.  One may have to die to get their work to really sell.  Sometimes, even that doesn’t work. 


Fourth, is some sense of “general regard.”  If your work is appreciated by your peers, that helps.  One sign of this is to make trades with others.  Then there’s seeing who comes to your exhibits. Is it artists or the press or the public-at-large?   Or is it some of all three?  Do you ever get any real reviews, write-ups or profiles? 


All of these things can be factors in how to price your work.  If you price it too high, it will rarely sell.  If you price it to sell, as cheap as you can go, it may not sell either.  Selling isn’t everything.  Yet, if being an artist is your only job, you need to make money.   If it’s your second job, you still need to sell sometimes.  It’s a puzzle.


To me, doing a large body of new work for a gallery show is always quite a task.  It’s a marathon.  It’s a juggling act.  If you try to keep the quality “first rate” it can be a real struggle.  Focus, concentration, skills, sacrifices, determination and energy all play their parts.  It’s similar to other artistic pursuits. 


If you make a movie, record an album of music or write a book it seems more permanent in ways.  An art show is a one time thing.  Someday, you might exhibit one or two of the same paintings again.  More likely, they’ll be on display at your home or go into storage.  Unless you have a formal retrospective, they always seem to want something new.  It’s as if someone gave a concert and says they’ll never play any of the same songs again.  Or as if someone put on a play and said it will never be staged again. 


Live performances are unique in their way.  A sustained gallery exhibit is totally unique, a melting snowflake, it will never be again.  Even if the art seems permanent, its display is as fleeting as a speech or a musical note.  I’m not saying that books, movies and films should be withdrawn after a single printing or run.  I’m just saying that a first rate art exhibit should get respect (and attendance) for being the rare flowers that they are.  This has never happened before.  This will certainly, certainly never happen again.



May 22, 2007

Detroit and the Zeitgeist

December 9, 2008


I’ve lived here, in Detroit, Michigan for nearly all of my life.  It’s a rough and complicated city in ways.  I often feel tested.  They don’t make it easy for you.  I love it though.  Sure.   It’s home.

Its recent troubles are well publicized.  The auto industry is in trouble.  Our former mayor is in jail.  The economy has been very bad here for over five years.  I have a job.  I know I’m lucky to have one.

I don’t drive and ride the Detroit busses.  Our mass transit system’s not very good. Busses have been more crowded with people out of work and fluctuating gas prices.

This isn’t the place to really get into talking about Detroit, but it’s where I’m coming from.


I helped run the Zeitgeist Gallery and Performance Venue here.  Zeitgeist means “in the spirit of the times” and we were often “onto something.”

Yet we weren’t “with it” so much as “in advance” yet “rooted in the past.”  Then, last month, after over eleven years, we closed down.  Another great and unique art space bites the dust.  I’ll speak more of the Zeitgeist eventually.  It was my second home base.


ABC: Always Being Creative

December 6, 2008

I started to mimeograph and photocopy “arts manifestos” back in the mid- 1970’s, when I first got serious about art.  Since then, I’ve written hundreds of texts on art and artists.

I write poetry (and other things) as well.  Yet writing about art is something I’ve done for as long as I can remember.

In this sphere, I hope to write some new arts texts and explore some of my older ones.   There are many questions which I hold dear.  They seem urgent enough.

What is art and what isn’t art?  Can everyone become an artist?  What is the true place of the artist in America?  In other countries?  In the World?  Why do we create?  What does it all mean?  Is dreaming ever a waste of time?  Can art change the world?  Can it change life?

I could list hundreds of questions as easily as I breathe.  I can raise questions.  Yet I don’t search for answers so much as strive to be part of the discussion.  I live the artist’s life as well as writing about it.  ABC: always being creative.

I have a day job doing work at a University Library.  My art life keeps me spread pretty thin.  It’s like working two jobs, yet I rarely lose momentum.

I paint, draw, sculpt, write, sing, play music and do puppet shows.  I’m in two bands.  One’s an experimental “art band” called the Space Band.  The other’s an old timey aggregation known as The Don’t Look Now Jug Band.

It’s hard to seperate arts from another.  Someone spoke of “all arts forming a single art.”  Was it poet Saint-Pol-Roux?  Music, theatre, painting,drawing, sculpture, puppetry, acting, poetry, writing, singing and dancing are but a few of the branches of the river of arts.

It’s equally hard to seperate art from life.  I’m sure that there are some who are good at it or are experts at it.  Yet for me it’s impossible.

Art is an expression of life.   Art is a way of life.   Art is alive.

Why walk when you can run.

Why run when you can fly?

Why fly when you can dream?

Hello world!

December 6, 2008

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