Saturday, July 2, 2011

"The 'stream' is merely going on ... by any number of means --- continuously": Kate Davy

Many years ago, (Spring 1978, actually), Twentieth Century Literature published a "Gertrude Stein Issue," which included essays by Edward Burns and Leon Katz (both among the dominant Stein scholars, I believe). But the piece that I am really enjoying now is by Kate Davy, "Richard Foreman's Ontological-Hysteric theater: the Influence of Gertrude Stein" (Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 108-126).  I have mentioned Richard Foreman before, often in connection with Stein (see May 4, 16, 31, and also check out Foreman's site,  His work, like Stein's, stands alone. Davy works through conversations with and writings by Foreman and also explains Stein's own progress, starting with her teacher, William James.

Davy tells us that Stein is "not a 'stream-of-consciousness' writer as the phrase is popularly understood" but is interested, as James is, in "'introspective observation'" and the fact that, "'within each personal consciousness, thought is sensibly continuous'" and any "interruptions or time gaps" do not break that contiunuity. Davy says that "The 'stream' is merely going on -- intentionally or unintentionally, and by any number of means -- continuously" (110).  Stein, and then Foreman, would make use of this view of the ways we perceive, she in her poems, portraits and plays and he in his plays and notebooks.  What we each "see" in our minds, however quickly the images and ideas pass through, however dis-continuous it might seem to someone else, if they could see it, makes sense to each of us because it is our own unbroken set of perceptions. We are not sifting, remembering, worried about audience when we are most ourselves as creative beings ... we are following this continuous stream ... in the present moment.  Stein, Davy continues, "conceived the static or 'landscape play.' In a landscape composition each element has equal weight and is as significant as the whole .... [she was] eliminating progression" (116).

One of my ways of approaching painting has been to imagine myself moving through a landscape, my argument being that many painters assume a static position, tightly bound to one-point perspective, if they are painting en plein-aire.  But if we walk through a field, or along a road leading into a cluster of trees, we can turn and focus on anything that surrounds us, and whatever we do not choose to "see" is blurred. We are not stuck walking the path that Constable has suggested; we can move anywhere.

But I hadn't really taken into account what Davy reminded me about ... the walking-through that we all do in our minds.  Can this "stream" of perceptions of mine -- or anyone's -- be caught in a drawing or a painting? Perhaps one can only catch one image?  I tried to draw a series of images today at the shore, and sails, osprey, the jetty, a swimmer, the sparkles on the water's surface, the rocks that appear at low tide, the washed sands, the patterns of bathing suits all came onto the page:

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