Ambiguous Freedom

gus painting

Mr. Van Sant’s “Untitled (Hollywood 4),” 2018-2019, watercolor on linen. Credit Gus Van Sant and Vito Schnabel Projects.

Film maker Gus Van Sant is known for “Drugstore Cowboy,” “My Own Private Idaho,” and “Good Will Hunting.” I didn’t know he also painted. Watercolor on linen is an unfamiliar combination for me. I’m not sure I would look too closely at these pallid paintings without knowing they were the work of a renowned film director. They remind of the background of a cartoon by Barry Blitt.

No one should confuse the soft-spoken painter with the wild characters in his films and paintings. “Artists are not necessarily the performers,” he says. “They’re industrious. They adhere to rules, and they actually work.” As an example, he points to Jack Kerouac’s relationship with his muse, Neal Cassady: “Kerouac is disciplined and Neal Cassady is the freak, driving him around and partying.” Artists, Mr. Van Sant says, are often “attracted to the characters that seem to be freer than they are.
(Jonathan Griffin, “Gus Van Sant’s Next Picture Will Be a Watercolor,” NYTimes, 9-8-19)

“… Freer than they are.” I’m struck by the ambiguity of the pronoun “they.” Its antecedent could be either “artists” or “characters.” Each way, the statement makes an interesting, but different, point.

(c) 2019 JMN

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day, and watch Netflix and Prime Video for entertainment. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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