I've been thinking about family lately. I think it's because I'm going to see my daughter for the first time since the Christmas before the Covid pandemic. Almost a year-and-a-half to the date. The pandemic help me realize what's really important to me. Family. I miss both my daughters so much it hurts. But, just like me, when I'm supposed to feel joyous, I feel the opposite. When life bursts forth, I think about losing it.
When I make pieces like these, actually most of my pieces, I have to make pieces first to destroy them. These pieces are about decay (and memory, because what is memory but the shadow of something that is no longer here?) I make a piece, then think to myself that someone comes along and gets rid of it. Maybe it was painted on a wall, like graffiti, or many times I think that was made by someone held in a bedroom or an attic, a shut-in perhaps, with light coming in through one dirty window, with yellowed shades, and dead flies scattered on the window sash, and this person writes their musings on the wall, and whoever it is, their caretaker, comes in and sees it and thinks it's just more lunatic ravings, and they paint it out, but they can never paint it all out. That's what I'm thinking when I make these pieces.
For all who died last year...from Covid, Black Lives, war, from sadness...
We say that words have meaning, and we hold them in high regard. Words are precious, but they can lose their power, for example, when they are translated. Like a religion, which language is the “true” language that will get you to heaven?
Words have meaning. Paint has mood and feeling. When you take words out of their element—the printed page, on a stage—and put them on a piece of canvas mingled with paint, the words don’t so much lose some of the power they have on the printed page, but their power changes. The words are detached from their meanings and the painting becomes a different experience, as do the meanings of the words. And the painting changes. Words on canvas; words as paint strokes. The words become material, like the paint.
Art is no more precious than a word. A rip, a tear, a fray. A spatter of paint. It doesn't destroy the painting or make it lose value. It can only add.
Writing Poetry At Work In The Men’s Room Stall
With pants bunched around
shined black shoes and tie
tucked safely into an open shirt button
so as not to piss on it
he sits in the stall
while black oxfords pinstripes
pant legs swim around him.
He peers through cracks to see from whom he's hiding
like in a shark cage; safe
if he stays inside.
in the business whirlpool
just trying to get it down
on paper before he's
The Business Meeting
So seductively time seeps
out through your veins
pooling around your wingtips
or you, Ms. Corporate I'm Going Places
be careful of your patent-leather pumps
step carefully around the sticky puddles
collecting beneath the conference table
do not soil your white stockings.
Your smile will soon turn to a grimace
as lost opportunity twists your heart
like an old rag, unknowingly you’ll strangle
as the intoxicating sound of your own voice
replaces the importance of your life
with the irrelevance of your action items.
The Button-Down Man
Into his closet
every morning he reaches
and pulls out
a button-down shirt.
Cotton, maybe striped
if he's daring. And a tie
solid blue or red
or perhaps polka-dot.
Always a jacket.
He wouldn't think of going out
without a jacket.
He wouldn't feel complete or whole.
Every thing buttoned,
every thing knotted: collar,
a strand of lint in the mirror
from his lapel.
Now he is ready.
To work he drives. Parks
in the same spot. Engages
just to be sure.
It rained last night
so he picks his way around
in the parking lot.
Oh gallant hunter
Chasing bulls through the night.
Striding bold in spite of
Or is it because of
You have gained obvious strength since I last saw you
Carrying twins on your shoulders light
Faithful Sirius trots at your heel trusting
His Master's guidance on your heavenly journey
That will continue long after I've completed mine.
John Greiner-Ferris is an artist in the Boston area. Sometimes he makes images. Sometimes he writes. Sometimes he does both.