PRINT March 1975

Indecent Exposure

IT’S CLEAR BY NOW that pre-Liberation artists struggled under intolerably repressive psycho-socio conditions. Aged mothers swooned at abandoned stockbrokers’ careers, and ubiquitous narrow lapels hogtied the timid intimate organs of American daubers. Celebrations of visceral joy were sadly confined to canvas or torch while the most intense semiotic yearnings lingered unfulfilled. Today a new dawn is breaking. Freedom-swelled media winds sweep the fetters from esthetic libidos while dialectical fires put the burn to the musty cloak of Restraint. Vincents everywhere straddle, narrow, leap, forge, bridge, ford, erase, and short-circuit the mythic gap between Art and Life. Newly reborn, they stride naked and free into a virgin morning. Nevertheless the price is high; clinics are crowded with the scarred saints and post-Minimal martyrs of the New Sensibility. Of a few I have analyzed personally, some have been sequestered in institutions, but others manage to fashion lives of beauty and purpose under the constant threat of theatricality. As Professor Burnham himself states, “It’s better to know these things than not to know them” (Cambridge, 1970), and the following logs document the accomplishments of early diagnosis, sympathetic understanding, proper timing, and sufficient postage.

CASE HISTORY NO. 1, “Exposing the Mind,” or Swann’s Syndrome: Anxiety, like virus strains, grows immune to the usual panaceas. Grating esthetic worry pursued Martha R———— from post-graduate sinecure near L————, California to the Big Apple. Up against the dialectical wall, she quickly converted an affection for gourmand food to Beuystown politics:

The other cooks noticed and started to grumble. But why would they care? I’d see them whispering and catch their dirty looks. Finally a cook spoke to me in the john. The others thought I was wrong, she said, to act on my own.

Further stanzas from White Tower’s Stella Dallas are as equally wrenching, but structuring whole days around dropping postcards into mailboxes has proved distracting enough. Ms. R———— is doing her own dishes again.

CASE HISTORY NO. 2, “Exposing the Body,” or “Who’s Got the Maja”: Lynda B————, a former eurhythmics addict, flitted impulsively from coast to coast unable to decide on a permanent airline or hair color. Clutching a tattered Getaway Card, Ms. B———— took the leap of faith: flaunting her backside on a flyer. Healing rapidly, she then appeared in polaroid photographs, the published one showing her with bare ————s, oiled and glistening, clutching a huge plastic ———— to her ————. Ms. B———— now lives by the shore, the mother of a healthy baby controversy.

CASE HISTORY NO. 3, “Indulging the Body,” or Caufield’s Disease: Under the gallery floor lies Vito A————, a reformed poet. An early victim of cathode radiation, Mr. A————’s case was far advanced, and he shamelessly ———— himself to the beat of stiletto heels overhead, spotting the $2 per sq. ft. per mo. hardwood with ————, thereby propelling himself to the fore of Consciousness Five.

CASE HISTORY NO. 4, “Indulging the Mind,” or Gonzorrehea: Eleanor A———— resides in the respectable California village of S————. Not long ago she admitted to twinges of alienation regarding the formalist object (Klementkunst) and embarked upon a series of therapeutic confessions in obscure publications.

Domestic Peace [she says of one] was a transformation of myself into an alien image — “the good daughter” —as a device to accommodate my mother so she would leave me alone to freely pursue my real interests.

Today Ms. A———— is a successful black movie star.

CASE HISTORY NO. 5, “Hurting the Body,” or “No, Only When I Perform”: Christopher B———— began to exhibit (figuratively speaking) symptoms of Careerus Sensationalis after being cruelly wounded while attempting to shoot himself. Further aberrations (Schwarzkoglerkunst), were abated only by massive hype-odermic injections of media. Mr. B———— is now under intense loose-leaf binder therapy (an extreme methodology involving the transmutation of the Radical into the Official) and, in a partial sense, doing quite well.

CASE HISTORY NO. 6, “Hurting the Mind,” or The Bell-Jar Codicil: Too numerous to include here.

CASE HISTORY NO. 7, “Hurting the Other’s Body,” or “Stop It Some More”: Unsure of the early childhood of the English K———— brothers (or “Kids,” as they put it, knuckle-in-cheek), hardly anyone lays the blame on a nanny (or vice-versa). Not to be in-done, however, by the epicene likes of G———— and G————, the K————s have developed an autotherapy of belting each other around various lofts, Mickey Mouse art schools, and (art) institutions. Presently the K————s are researching the Guinness records held by St. Hieronymous.

CASE HISTORY NO. 8, “Hurting the Other’s Mind,” or Glick’s Gambit: Nowhere in the annals of Getting Ahead, however, has orbit been achieved in a single, blinding stroke of opportunism faster than in the episode of M.J. S———— of D————, Texas. Ms. S————, considerate enough to forward the complete text of her rise in the form of a “piece” entitled Where’s the P———— At? (a folder of semirandom photocopied sheets detailing her ———— dalliance with a local artist), narrates the breakthrough:

I have on my black velvet dress with copper glitter prickly pears on it — R———— loves that dress — he wears my favorite shirt — we are absolutely devine plus we we are ———— for each other — he keeps running his ———— inside my ———— telling me that he is really going to ———— when we get home. Back to the house — everyone splits — R———— and I are there alone — we are in the living room — just us two dancing to the stereo; the straps on my dress fall and I am ———— to the waist — he holds me closer ———— my neck — holding my ———— — What a Man — he says “What am I going to do with you M. J. S————?” The phone rings — he says not to answer it — he takes me off to the bedroom — lays me on the bed takes my shoes off and starts ———— my feet, my legs, shoving my skirt up — he says I just want to————; his ———— in between my ————, sticky slick, ———— me, driving me nuts. ———— pie, he loves it.

And so forth, in encounter-vendetta therapy until, mailed to 20 prospective boosters (including Willoughby S————, the editor of a rival self-help journal, who requested a sample), her lover’s teaching Case History No. 7. (Photo: Joyce Wisdom.) position and marriage were in sufficient jeopardy to guarantee success. “He acted beautifully, saying it was a figment of my imagination, threatening to get a lawyer, and everything,” said the delighted Ms. S———— in a barbed wire dialect, now returned to the community under her own recognizance. Ms S————, no ordinary vicious ————, however, denies planning several new pieces involving infiltrating the Rio Grande Valley Farmworkers Union and turning several over to the state police, or, publishing an illustrated version of her mother’s gynecological file. Thus, where the dubious entities of “art” had heretofore been chained to petite bourgeoise customs of thankless studio labor, the ongoing escalation in the art world’s Destruction Derby has now opened the Golden Door of Impact to everyone; all that remains is taking your first step through the threshold.

P. L. Plagens, B. F. A., M. F. A.