A pair of self-righteous assholes in matching tee-shirts, bearing the message “JUST STOP OIL,” strolled into London’s National Gallery today and tossed the condensed liquid contents of two cans of Heinz Cream of Tomato Soup over the glass-covered painting of “Sunflowers;” a work of art by 19th century Dutch Post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh, thereby drawing more attention to the painting than it was given during the notoriously tortured artist’s lifetime.
Were they possessed by the spirit of pop art dandy Andy Warhol when they chose to use soup cans as weapons? Beats me.
Artistic suffering is what’s on the palette today and van Gogh was not only the epitome of a tortured artist, he’s the template for all tortured artists that post-date him.
Consider his iconic self-portrait showing the aftermath of his self-mutilation, painted after Vincent took a razor to his ear and presented it (or perhaps just the ear lobe) to a French prostitute. That is most certainly an act by a committed torturer (or the act of one that should be committed) and it’s a stunt I imagine may have inspired film director Quentin Tarantino in 1992 in a scene from Reservoir Dogs.
Some years ago, I read somewhere that it’s possible van Gogh didn’t cut off his ear and it was instead removed by fellow artist Paul Gauguin during a quarrel that led to a sword being drawn and used to do the deed. That story sparks my imagination and I want to believe it but, even it it was true, I still stand by my assertion that Vincent van Gogh is the original tortured artist.
But, I digress, and pull the focus away from the misguided and impotent act of vandalizism perpetrated by the smug and entitled assholes that also glued themselves to the gallery wall and excused their behavior by claiming to be climate change activists protesting fossil fuel extraction.
Both assholes were arrested by London’s Metropolitan Police “on suspicion of criminal damage and aggravated trespass.”
I’m totally fried and the last three days are a blur. Met a punk rock gal from Portland that came down to Eugene on Friday to see Hüsker Dü. Two shows in a row. A groupie to the core. Walked in while I was working the day shift and flirted with me fiercely. Her name is Buffy, believe it or not. Buffy the Punk Rocker. That’s how she introduced herself—like Attila the Hun or Mott the Hoople. Super cute, short-statured, pixie cut, improbably sweet, and sporting the customary punk paraphernalia.
She hung around after finishing her mint chip ice cream cone and stole glances at me which I shyly returned, attempting and failing to be cool because being nonchalant with girls is impossible for me. I’m an open book. Rudolph has a red nose, I have a blushing tomato for a face. I gave her free coffee and a veggie bagel to keep her from leaving. Smooth. She left the sprouts and tomato on the plate and said, “Thanks for the Jewish cucumber sandwich!” I laughed and she asked me what time I got off work, saying, “Maybe I’ll see you later at the show.”
After she left I was pretty much glowing throughout my shift and kicking myself for not asking her to meet up with me later. To my delight, she was back when I got off work, and she had scored another ticket to Hüsker Dü at some point, before or after napping somewhere on campus, and she invited me to go with her. Of course I said yes, blushing profusely, and we hung out for the rest of the day, and night, and she stayed at my place for the entire weekend, until the moment when she kissed me goodbye and pressed a piece of paper into my hand and boarded the bus bound for Portland. It was a simple note: A phone number with the words “Call Me,” and signed, “Buffy the Punk Rocker,” with a heart and xoxo.
~ Eugene, Oregon (1985)
I’m just out of the shower when I hear a knock knock knock rapping at the sliding glass door to the kitchen. Through a gap in the curtain I spy a pair of old ladies that appear to have been plucked from a suburban landscape of the 1950s and delivered to my doorstep by a time machine. Perhaps they are schoolmarms on a field trip to recapture truant youth. They stand so quietly and patiently. They knock again. Realization dawns. Honey, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are here!
I quickly analyze the circumstances.
Fortunately, while I’ve seen them I doubt they’ve seen me. I’m disinclined to religious conversion so I’d make a lousy host. The timing is not ideal to receive this type of visitors as my hair is dripping wet and I’m clutching a towel around my waist much too small to remain fastened if I make any sudden moves. I could easily duck out of sight and pretend I didn’t hear the knocking. But, I’m in a mood to be scandalous.
I open the door anyway.
When they see me their eyes dart rapidly, scanning my half naked teenage boy flesh through cat-eye glasses in a flash before their peepers zero in and settle on my face. Their devout gaze remains locked for several awkward moments of mostly one-sided conversation. I’m embarrassed and annoyed they’ve turned the tables on me. I play the only card I have left and let go of the towel.
Bracing for their shrieks at the sight of my full frontal assault on their virginal eyes, I stand before them in triumph. I expect them to beat the dirt with their sensible shoes. But, they just stare at me with expressions that reveal nothing, eyes fixed on my face as they soldier on with Jesus in their hearts. I am undone as my plan to scandalize them has backfired monumentally.
I withdraw in shame, mumbling a lame apology for accidentally flashing them, and close the door on their inscrutable faces.
~ Eugene, Oregon (1980)