(Shane Guffogg, "As Above, So Below," 2008)
By Coco Owen
What if Alan Ladd, starring in the movie Shane, outdrew bad guys with a horsehair
paintbrush he wielded like a Colt 45?
Is that what the artist Shane Guffogg might do, if he starred in a Western?
Shane could paint bad guys out of the frame, like they
did to characters in Looney Tunes. He could rub them out
with gun-slinging brush-work, using Ivory Black.
Shane the artist, playing “Shane” in the movie Shane, would knock back
a whiskey at the saloon, then paint the town Cadmium Red.
The marks he makes [the mark he’ll make] show that he’s no easy
mark, but a marksman working his Western experience into the picture.
I mean, he faces his painting like a sharpshooter on a Badlands street
wide as the girth of Old Man Matisse.
Then how comic if Shane (as “Shane”) would drawl, “There’s a new sheriff in town,
Old Man,” in a John Wayne accent!
That would be some stand-off, though Old Man Matisse croaked in his own good time,
after decades of slow-mo showdown with Picasso (that asshole).
This cartoon shoot-out goes down against a pretend high-desert backdrop, probably
near Palmdale. But this backdrop is
a continuous self-vibrating region of intensities. [Hear string theory in the thought
of Deleuze and Guattari?]. But it’s also a still of a life.
The mark-making man draws a line in the sand, starting a war with figure-drawing.
Shane loads his paintbrush with liquid bullets of Burnt Sienna.
He quick-draws, using the Master’s cut-outs for target practice. Matisse slumps to
ground painted the color of Transparent Earth. Matisse sees stars
in the Mars-Black sky, as he blanks out into the twilight of high noon.
Scribble, scribble; Rebel, rebel.
What a great scene! — [H]ow do we conceive the meaning of a line
that cannot be attached to anything we know, even to itself, to form a circle[?]
. . . of wagons, let’s say — but that train is the Shane-machine for emitting and receiving
gestures of non-sense language. It has already left this story.
BANG-BANG! “Every sign by itself seems dead,” Wittgenstein says, and Shane shoots
the saloon sign’s lights out.
The sign is pale-faced & hatchmarked with Golden Ochre. It’s nothing but brushstroke.
Squiggle, squiggle — Sheriff Shane
stands over an arse poetica that looks unconscious — the very picture
of the unconscious. I mean, all that’s glazed & glazed over in art history, & in Westerns.
- The first quote is from A Thousand Plateaus by G. Deleuze and F. Guattari, the second is Phillips Sollers, as quoted in Isola di Rifiuti, the blog of poet John Latta (July 15, 2011).
- “Rebel, rebel” is a phrase from the Billy Idol song “Rebel Yell.”
- The “scribble,” as used here, is Lacan’s “the line that is not reasonable” (see Robert Stein, Toward a Grammar of Abstraction: Modernity, Wittgenstin and the Painting of Jackson Pollock.)
Coco Owen is a stay-at-home poet in Los Angeles. She has published poems in the Antioch Review, 1913, CutBank, The Journal, Rio Grande Review and The Feminist Wire, among other venues. She was a finalist in the 2014 May Swenson Poetry Award and has chapbooks forthcoming from Tammy and dancing girl press. Owen serves on the board of Les Figues Press, and you can read more of her work at: www.cocoowenphd.com.
Shane Guffogg received his BFA from Cal Arts and lives in Los Angeles. Guffogg’s work is noted for the use of glazes in the tradition of the old masters, though his subject matter is abstraction. Guffogg got his start as a studio assistant for Ed Ruscha and later founded Pharmaka, a non-profit gallery, in L.A. Guffogg's work has been in over 100 exhibitions, and he recently had mid-career retrospectives in Naples, Italy, and St. Petersburg, Russia.