A long while back, Harry and I were in Portland, on 21st avenue looking through thrift stores. I think this is when I had much blazer love, but had yet to paint one. We stopped in a little shop called (and I just figured this out, because I just looked it up) Keep 'Em Flying and I was picking through a circular rack of Wrangler pearl-snap conboy shirts. Harry recognized one of the two people working as being one half of a punk-ish, cabaret-ish act, a twist on Boris and Natasha called Max and (Madame??) that was a semi-regular at the sadly, sadly defunct Pho Bang. In the end the Madame would always kill off Max and here was Max, chatting quietly with the store owner, an extravagantly draped and bejeweled Grande Dame with powerful hand gestures and dramatic upswept hair. Harry asked Max (not his real name) if he was indeed a Pho Bang regular and the store owner, Pamela Springfield, broke in and said something to the effect of, "oh you know [Max]? Did you all sleep together? He has slept with so many people I thought that must be how you know each other. In the future I imagine that we all will have slept with each other. Except for the Chinese. They are so xenophobic."
She dropped several other gems like that. She seemed like a character from Dickens, or maybe a Tennessee Williams play, sprung to life saying things like, "Where are you from? Oh Seattle? They are just cannibals up there, cannibals! I am referring to the art world of course. Although perhaps they are in other ways too." Then she did something that I had never had happen to me, she looked at me and asked me what I was looking for. I replied jackets and she nodded sagely. They she asked what size I was and I said I don't know. She held up one finger and declared that she had something perfect, but it was in the back. She returned with a suit on a couple hangers, a canary or pale lemon colored suit of a very light wool. And I said something like, it's very nice. She demanded that I try it on, to at least take off my jacket and try on the yellow jacket and I did. She said, "see, I knew it would be perfect, just your size." And it was, or at least it fit just the way that I like blazers to fit, slightly tight across the chest and shoulders, buttoned high up, narrow lapels, sleeves a little too short. Again, like some of my favorite things in life, it was as it sprang from my imagination and my obsessions and into the world just for me. Like Deerhoof or The Happiness of the Katakuris, it was perfect, almost too perfect. The suit was 100 dollars which at that time and place seemed a little too rich for my blood, too much for an old suit, even if it was in perfect condition, even if it was vintage and nearly glowing with rightness. Even if, when I put it on there was a sensation of a CLICK like putting a round peg through a round hole after you been trying to fit it through the star-shaped hole. I told her no, a little bit sadly. She raised her dramatic eyebrows slowly and paused as if to give me another chance before hanging the yellow suit up behind the counter.
I told myself I would think about it and if I still wanted it as I knew I did I would come back before we went back to cannabalistic Seattle and buy it. I didn't, of course. It is sort of funny, there are few things that I've done that I really regret, especially regarding things but it really felt like this suit was supposed to be mine. It, the object of the suit is lodged in my head as a regret. A little sadness that I didn't collect that object.
When I painted the white linen suit yellow, it was a sort of apology to the other suit out there, an acknowledgement that I was wrong in not collecting it and taking care of it. There are other issues at stake. I have always been fascinated with the idea that clothing or other objects that we habitually use are somehow an extension of one's body. And conversely that our body is just another object that we use, something that is very close to the thing that is US at the core, but is ultimately a tool that we have attached much value to (with good cause, obviously). But all objects can be modified to clarify purpose. And I have been thinking alot about the desire or indeed need, to modify clothing. That driving force behind marking a thing-- what else is fashion but accumulating a series of marked objects to construct an identity or great object that is more that what the body is by itself? And why not make that construction more explicit, more outrageously there? I think also about some artworks by artists that I admire most: Tapies, or Kiefer, or Fontana, and the idea that those canvases are sort of bodies by extension to transform, mark, harm and to make explicit the fact that they CAN be transformed. The idea that an object of one's own creation is possessed by the spirit of its maker, and belongs (totally) to its owner, to be made better, modified or destroyed, like the myth of the Golem. The objects also take on indpendent lives.
So even with all my jokes about conceptual art. The Yellow Linen Suit was really a conceptual piece. I needed to bring that suit back from the dead. So I did.
2 years ago