Sunday, March 17, 2013
Robert Arneson (1930-1992) 1989 Wolf Head
About ten years ago I saw a large retrospective of Robert Arneson's at the San Francisco Museum of Art, and had been, to use the old cliche, "blown away". One of his pieces, a large bust of himself, done when he has being treated for bladder cancer with chemotherapy, was one of the most powerful works of art I've ever experienced. It did many things to me on many levels, not the least of which was to make me laugh. For the last few weeks I have been reading the new Arneson biography by Jonathan Fineberg, A Troublesome Subject. The biography has been a pure pleasure for me to read. I am finding that I adore this man and his work(well, not all of his work, but the ones that speak to me are truly inspiring).*
Last Sunday, I came down with a bad head cold. This is something that for most people shouldn't be a problem unless they are very old, very young, or, like me, someone whose cold(always) turns into a sinusitis. It's debilitating, but, will, eventually go away. By reading about Arneson and his struggle with his cancer, I'm able to put my own suffering(of course--nothing in comparison) into perspective, and at the same time honor this man for his tremendous courage in dealing with a fatal disease. He did with his life what we should all be doing: allowing the knowledge of our deaths to help us see clearly and honestly, with courage, and, like Arneson, with humor and grace.
*Arneson died at 62, just about the age I am now