Text written by Benjamin Stafford
Heart of a Dog
(with apologies to Laurie Anderson)
I love her.
And I know she loves me too. There are others of course, there always are – some of them are around so often! - but it doesn’t worry me. We have been through so much together, and there is a specialconnection that we share. OK, there is a caregiving element to our relationship that perhaps means it’s not always completely equal, but what relationship is? Someone’s always leaning in, leaning out. It’s all give and take, as far as I can tell.
My view of the world and - I don’t think it’s too vain to say – my cuteness(!) means that I usually have a superficial relationship with most people. They think I’m fun and nice to have around, but they don’t really know me. That’s what’s different with her, she knows me. She has a beautiful way of looking at other beings, at the world. It’s not looking at obvious beauty (those babes from TV!), but more of a sideways glance. There’s a kind of generosity there, to suggest that the making and looking and being together is more important than waiting until something is perfect. The improvised provision of a free beauty – light, cats (though personally I don’t like them) plants, a kiss. Kisses and cats are a bit obvious though (not that there’s anything wrong with being obvious). There are other less immediately apparent beauteous
forms too: a wall, a weed, the dirty back end of a truck looking like a Twombly painting with its tender marks [that’s something for a more analytical mind than mine to parse – a painting of a thing that looks like a painting by another artist] Good to have a bit of dirt in there – I’m not discriminatory in that way.
It’s a warm and secure feeling to be part of that way of looking at the world. Sure life is hard but everyone can have five minutes looking at the light coming through a window, or an oil slick rainbow in a puddle and realise that it’s not all bad all the time, sometimes it’s pretty good. It’s these little things that we can take pleasure in – eating, sleeping, taking a shit, running around in the park.
I was so used to it being us for so long and now there are others (different to how there were others before). I’m not really a jealous guy, but the way she looks at this other being sometimes gives me the worried feeling that maybe I’m not enough. What should be enough? If you get some love, some shelter, isn’t that enough, and isn’t it enough to share? Perhaps there’s always the worry that love is a kind of
competition, something to work at (though I’m not a fan of work either), but some people would ask, is that really love? Should it be effortless? Interesting that she is so in love with this person born of pain and (I presume) a certain amount of confusion.
But I’ve got to say he seems different. So innocent, pure – and he really needs her, which I know she likes. He’s cute, silent (how often silence is taken for depth, mysteriousness when often it’s just mindlessness) and I guess he shares my love of those essential pleasures – eating, sleeping, shitting, playing. It will be interesting, at least, to see how it works out.
And it's good to see different forms of life make their way into her paintings; babies, horses, monkeys, in addition to the usual depictions of me. I’m used to being shown in a glancing way, making my way out of frame, on my way to sniff something else. This sense of kinship, but also separation, is something that she brings to her depiction of non-human, or perhaps non-adult human species. I suppose because we exist outside specious human concepts of time our relationship to desires, activities, sleep, death are all different, and when you lay your hand gently on the head of a horse, or watch a monkey stare into the distance like he’s missing someone, you realise both the distance and closeness between you and us.
I do think this time thing is silly – she does a painting of a cherry blossom every year and yes you can embrace ideas of beauty coming out of precarity and brevity, but they come back every year! Time is just a wheel turning slowly on the same axis of essential activities, new baby is no different to truck passing by, blossoms falling, sunbeam moving across floor, love starting or ending, it’s all happening all at once,
and that’s maybe not how it should be, but it’s how it is.