Posted by pancho from pool0373.cvx20-bradley.dialup.earthlink.net (188.8.131.52) on Thursday, December 05, 2002 at 11:46AM :
It's all because of her.
At the Metropolitan Museum in New York Ashur first grabbed me by the scruff of my neck and rattled my bones. God works in mysterious ways. At least I didn't pay to get in...
I was shaken to the core, but that didn't provide any direction just the explosion of a passion. I made that first Assyrian reproduction, Babylonian actually but let's not quibble...you suppose if these two sides of the same coin were Armenian or Jewish, they'd be splitting each others hairs and skulls? With ancestors like ours, from one region, you suppose the Armenians would be saying, "Not him...he came from 150 miles away"!
The Israelis flew planes to Ethiopia and brought back the darkest Jews you ever saw...they opened their borders to Russian Jews and with all the problems that brought to their already troubled and tiny land...they knew they needed as many of them as they could get because they had something to DO! Only we...who haven't a thing in the world to do, can afford to say, "well yes, but are you PURE"?
Back to my mother...so I return to California for the summer, and I'm up at my uncles house in the Santa Cruz mountains...bought a kiln and was trying to do a "bad" glaze job on the ceramic "Lion Of Ishtar" I'd copied from the Met's collection...and she said, as mothers will, "Why don't you show that to Assyrians at the Federation convention in Los Angeles next month"?
Now she knew full well that like any other sane Assyrian I wouldn't go near an encampment of Assyrians if my life depended on it...ahem. She knew the mountians of ridicule I'd dumped for years on the benighted heads of the same leeders we had even back then...not to mention their "glorying" in the tin shack of an Assyria they'd been building.
And I told her too...."Who ME, go stand in a glorified motel lobby and "hawk my wares"? (The was Jackie's phrase to the lawyers...right there in her sworn statement)
Now mothers must know what's deep down inside their kids...deeper down than your basic collitch kid ever reached to write those godawful essays no one ever wanted to read if they could help it. She probably knew there was a raw nerve somewhere or maybe she was casting about in the dark...or maybe she too wished someone would do something more... She said I was being unfair...that if all the fancy boys like me were going to go off chasing what was most convenient and neat and clean and built up all around us like an amusement park, by foreigners, where all we had to do was eat cotton candy and drop a nickel into a slot...while we left the heavy lifting for our Heritage in the hands of barely literate people who found from somewhere the urge and will and made the time to meet in that shack by the road and plan a picnic or a party so those not too ashamed or uninterested could gather once in a while to try to keep something of us together...if I thought they weren't doing it just right...why didn't I help them, or build another and a better shack?
Ashur stood me up against a wall and my mother knocked the hot air right out of me. Together they did a job...I can tell you.
Weeks later I was in Los Angeles, at the new Bonnaventure Hotel...setting up a display rack with five versions of the Lion of Ishtar in glazed ceramic. I knew in my head that I was only making a fool of myself, but my gut insisted...in fact after setting up the display the first night there...in front of the main ballroom...I went up to the room, took off my clothes and got into bed...fetal position and all. I was sweating...and it was all of 5:OO o'clcock on an air conditioned August afternoon. I was anything but sleepy. My lady faire sat there looking at me...a little weirded out...not sure how to ask the obvious..."you came here to SLEEP"?
I know how Jesus felt in the garden...."oh Lord, take this humiliation from me...what the fuck was I THINKING"???
There was no cure for it...having come this far, I was going to have to go down, before several thousand people, and do the unthinkable. I was going to stand there...selling art to ASSYRIANS! That's when I developed my style... back then...I'd pretend to be disinterested and wander around as far away from the display as I could. People would have to come looking, "excuse me, do you know who put these here"?
I was thrilled beyond words that I sold three...got a lot of praise...and only one person who came out said..."why should I buy these from you, my daughter takes a ceramic class." They were each selling for a hundred bucks.
So, she was right, mother was.... make something beautiful...and how could you go wrong reproducing our art...and some Assyrians will buy. The whole point was to give us something of our own to put in our homes...beside the cowboy boot art and chrome furniture made for Looey the Fourteenth knock-offs.
In the years since then I've been startled to find the piece staring back at me from the walls holding up the roofs on houses I've visited.
The rest is painful history...but she started it...it was all her fault. And then I fell into bad company and was encouraged in my dissolute ways until today there's more Assyrian art on earth than we ever produced for the last 2000 years...that I know of....and two people being sued for two million bucks by the half-breed Armenian president of an organization that slams the Federation for being old and crusty...when NO ONE has been more cynnical, deceitful and just plain destructive than this woman and her easily impressed "minions" (Jackie's word) have been.
note: As hyped as Jackie had the hotel...as many armed and ready police as she had there, guns and batons at the itchy...we're all lucky no one was killed.
And now Walter Waw Alap has a whole collection of fine reproductions. He paid his dues too poor bastard...it was another Federation asshole who accused Walter of stealing his own merchandise, right there in front of the hotel people who'd come to file a report. The guy didn't want us to "look bad"...never mind Walter's loss...we should all just "Look" good. The same rat bastard was the only other person besides the hotel security chief who had a key to the room where the merchandise was kept over night...you figure it out.
That sent Walter into self-imposed exile for a few years...until Atour and Janey pleaded with him to come to their convention in Detroit. That isn't to say the next Assrin leeder wont abuse him again...too early to say if we've set a higher standard for how we treat ourselves...yes, ourselves....we are YOUR artists, you dumb Fucks! You think anybody's going to get rich and famous making art for US? The minute you decide to work for US...you've consigned yourself to a lifetime of poverty, insults, suspicion and resentment...because if you get away with doing something fine...you'll slander all the ones of us who can't, or wont, or don't want to because they'll have to do more than TALK.
And by work I mean REAL work...the kind that has to be good enough and serious enough to be PAID for...so serious artists can afford to eat while they spend the hours and hours it takes to do this stuff. Like any of you are going to buy a Benz put together in someone's spare time from parts picked here and there at fire sales and anywhere things are cheap enough.
It may be a lot cheaper...cost you less...but it will only scream to the world..."I AM AN IDIOT"......which is XACTLY what we've been acting like lo these many years. And if these leeders of yours have their way...you'll be driving this turkey for years to come.
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