Black Muddy River

For quite some time now, the topic I’ve wanted to write about has been the beauty found in waste, but it’s a hard thing to conceptualize. When we read “And Then She Owns You” in Blood Dazzler, I was struck by how genuine and real the writing was. It inspired me to endeavor to notice the beauty in something normally seen as worthless or ruined. At the same time, I wanted to know just what it was about this aesthetic that was so captivating. Lonnie Holley has done a better service to waste as art than I ever could.

His whole life has been the performance of his true self. He’s an actual human being with no pretense or mask. Just like Lonnie, waste can be nothing other than itself. There is no intentionally attractive or designed aspect to something that’s been discarded, and yet he’s able to collect various pieces of “junk” and combine or reform them into something that is no longer what is the sum of its parts, but so much more. He has used the real pain and emotion in his life to tell his story through whatever is available, and his art is some of the most uniquely affecting I’ve seen. It goes further than that, however.

Lonnie dresses how he dresses, and talks how he talks, and makes music packed with how he feels, much like Vincent Van Gogh, the notoriously pained and brilliant painter who put his feelings into his works. In this light, violence and hardship in retrospection have served to enable Lonnie Holley to make all these poignant and powerful works of his life and art. His memory of things evil and terrible has propelled his creative daemon to view them in a perspective that is, instead of petrifying, an inspiration and boon to those of us who might relate. The double-edged sword of prevailing negative experience at once enables and destroys different parts of the artist. As we’ve been discussing memory quite heavily in class, I thought I’d point out how well he transforms his into performance. I have immense respect for this man, for what he’s done with what’s been discarded and how he’s reinvented the aesthetic of waste. In fact, it is in describing beauty that language is most able to admit its insufficiency, and I have found somewhat of an explanation as to why Lonnie’s art affects me; reality often escapes description.

This is because art and emotion are unique concepts to people; my art is not the same as your art. It’s also evident in things that are seen as “cliche”, because giving something a name assumes the blanket significance of the name. Not all sadness is the same, and that cat is not this cat. Because of this, aesthetic and its subjectivity are impossible to nail down, and trying to just serves to point out how inadequate we may be for the task. I now think it doesn’t matter how Lonnie Holley’s performances affect me, just that they do. Maybe something is lost in trying to explain beauty and sadness. Maybe words fail to give thought its importance. In this way a violence is done to the memory by refusing to recognize its individuality and also pointing out how finite it is, the word is a blanket term to cover something after all. Is it for comfort that we do this? Is it for comfort that I say something I wish I could define is undefinable? Perhaps in the same way that memory is warped over time, an understanding of the concepts in this class reaches ever outward to eventually warp and become a blanket. Just as Beth is always warning me not to make kitchen sinks and slow down (Sorry, Beth, but this is a bit of a kitchen sink), the more I recognize all the nuance and many faces of something, the more that something lends itself to other somethings. This results in a sort of mental frustration or throwing up of the hands where I seem to recognize for an instant the connectivity of aspects to something which is at once miles away from itself and yet shares its name. After this point, it’s quite similar to recovering from taking a hallucinogen; your mind becomes empty and where there was once sloshing, there’s a calm understanding that can’t really be described. In addition, though, and more importantly, this is what it is. I write it as I feel it and can’t dress it anymore than how I see it, and that’s the true way to creating beauty to my perspective. It’s something that I’ve now learned about myself, and it will inform my ideas about being human.

No matter what violence is visited upon life by language inadequate to describe it, something must still be said. A blanket may lose some of the profundity it covers, but the blanket is necessary because, in the end, the event can’t be left blank.

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