I rip up -- or paint over -- a huge percentage of what I paint. I destroy anything in a series that doesn't shape up to the strongest piece. As I have worked on this Odalisque Series, I keep looking in my storage room to see if there are any "incomplete" older works that I can play with now and use for the foundational canvases. There was a painting from this summer, a very pretty thing, a triptych, that was very fine in its way but ... it was a Joan Mitchell. So I have taken it and re-worked it into this new world of mine.
I was reading Louis Menand in The New Yorker a few weeks ago; he had reviewed an edition of Eliot's letters (the article: "Practical Cat: How Eliot Became Eliot," September 19, 2011). He said that "to modernize is not to make a brand-new thing; it's to bring an old thing up to date .... ["The Wasteland," for example, was] something primitive .... recast in a contemporary idiom .... the bones of the old are legible (or visible or audible) under the contemporary skin. That's what produces modernist dissonance" (p. 80). So maybe I am immersing myself in modernist dissonance (or, as one of the characters said, in the end of Breaker Morant, "then I'm a Pagan, too"). Here are the "old bones," my unintentional Mitchell:
Eliot wrote (in a preface to a book of Harry Crosby's poems in 1931): "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." Well, here we go.