We spend a lot of time discussing and trying to articulate our culture. This seems especially true in Seattle, and we who are transplants might be expected to have an outsider’s objectivity, but in practice we often resort to superficial comparisons to other cities. I think Seattle may be best summarized as a perpetual pioneer town, but to fully grasp what that means one must look at how it relates to the heart of empire, without which the pioneer town cannot exist. This requires a broader understanding of national culture and history—an even more remote objective distance, without indictment.
It is often artists who bring these things into focus. Rather than generating propaganda reacting to policy and history, they work through symbols and ideas that may be pervasive—even monumental—but are otherwise obscured or overlooked. In the work of Tracy Boyd, familiar forms are re-envisioned in ways that can provoke a truly visceral revelation. Boyd’s work is not antagonistic, but it is aggressive, capturing despair and freedom, beauty and savagery within the same image. At a glance, her brushwork is reminiscent of de Kooning and Bacon, whom she deeply respects and who inspired her to develop her subject matter on the canvas without much sketching in advance. Her work may share their spontaneity, but there is nothing derivative about it. There is a flow that is distinctly Boyd. It can be an entropic flow that bends upon itself, bound for inertia despite its restlessness…or a combustive flow bound for exhaustion, the subject melting and bursting on the canvas. In some paintings, this flow presents an air of fatalism, but in others the exact opposite is achieved, as symbols of power—whether perverse or natural—are shown to have their own limits, to necessarily dissolve or implode, leaving a space for individuals to fashion their own narrative.
This freedom of intuition so intimately bound to freedom of expression is particularly potent through artists like Boyd—artists who choose to approach culture and history through a balance of intuition and observation, not a politically convenient narrative passively received, the nightmare from which one is trying to awaken. As an eminent example, William Blake did not abandon the master’s tools, but he invented his own mythology to avoid becoming a slave to another man’s as he spoke of metaphysical matters. Boyd confronts more secular power structures, but there is a gestalt to her work that touches what some might call the spiritual. She quotes from Harold Rosen to emphasize this need to forge one’s own tradition: “The aim of every authentic artist is not to conform to the history of art but to release himself from it in order to replace it with his own history.” In this, the work becomes timeless, universal even as it responds directly to its time and place.
Rendered in Boyd’s deep palette of blues, blacks and whites punctuated by hot splashes, the emotional and material complexity achieves an effect that may be best summed up by the classical sense of melancholia, which implied not a state of simple and passive despondency but a yearning, a seeking, an at times overwhelming interior struggle for something desired or lost—ultimately a form of stasis by mutually-cancelling forces, wherein revelation is unlikely to arrive. Tied to the sin of sloth or acedia, it was taken as a fixation on earthly woes that distracted from contemplation of god—a spiritual inertia. Sloth is now regarded as mere indolence and melancholy is a neutered depression, perhaps because “the world is too much with us”—all of us—and the classical concept of melancholia is effectively the default state of modernity, expressed variously as ennui and anomie. As such, what one may observe is not an individual experience of melancholy, but an empire of melancholy. Boyd’s work often captures this on an emotional level, not through sullen faces and dour scenes but through powerful forms halfway between being and oblivion, and it is ultimately up to the viewer to see them as either disintegrating or coalescing.
American culture, the world’s youngest empire, is deeply taken by melancholia as it, too, faces changes beyond its own formidable power. Older generations pine for a bygone, giddy age of unprecedented wealth (conveniently ignoring the imperialistic, racist, sexist elements that helped concentrate that wealth in particular pockets of the middle class) while younger generations suffer the hangover (and a hemorrhage of the middle class as a whole) despite being promised a world of limitless opportunities by their elders, a manifest destiny of western expansion, spilling into global occupations, but now checked by competing economies and cultural forces which (to the horror of many) threaten to turn the tide backwards, triggering a collapse.
There are many symbols of this rise, of American empire and exceptionalism, and many are relentlessly invoked in hymns and screeds: the businessman, the cowboy, the soldier, the politician. These figures and certain totemic animals—bulls, for example, totemic of the cattle drives of western expansion, the globalization of financial “bull” markets, even of Dionysiac excess and frenzy—are the primary figures in Boyd’s work. “My subjects are often humans and large animals used as symbols of domination of the upper class, or, prominent figures—often political.” Boyd succeeds in one of great feats an artist can accomplish with such loaded subjects. Rather than portraying one aspect of the figure—thus obscuring all other aspects of it, as is often the case with kitsch—she reveals the terrible, haunting ambiguity of it, giving us a more complete picture by showing where the edges blur and spill. It takes a fierce individuality and clarity to achieve this, and Boyd has these qualities in spades.
Charting new territory
In Boyd’s studio one finds a fascinating blend of order and chaos. Books form irregular but steady towers. Spatters and drips color every surface beneath the hanging canvases in various stage of completion—including some from her archive—turning the room into an extension of the canvas in progress. On a work table, her pigments are arranged beneath large glass jars filled with gumballs—sorted and separated by color. Years ago, I stood in this space for a photo shoot before the building became Inscape. It was part of a larger, unpartitioned room then, but large, high walls remain, covered with sprawling tarps and canvases. Boyd has truly filled the space with her energy and presence, a worthy sanctuary for an independent artist—and her gentle, old pug, Haley.
“I believe the personal solidarity and quiet of creative expression has always been what has drawn me to creating visual art,” Boyd explains. “As a young shy child, I was aware I had something others didn’t when it came to drawing and painting. I recall doing portraits of my friends in the fifth grade and seeing their expression when I captured their likeness. They were thrilled and I was proud. Then, in high school, I spent most of my time at home alone in my room painting and drawing. Artwork I created for my family ended up on the walls of our home and my talent became a topic of conversation when people visited. Although I wanted to attend a creative high school in New York, sadly, it never came to reality. Expectations of a more traditional path were presented and followed. Yet, creating was the first thing I felt I was good at, came naturally and made me feel I had something to offer the world.”
“I have individual, solo moments that led me to my creative process. These moments build a frame of mind I have to be in to really create. The need for this dedication of energy is why I ended up leaving the technology field. I was trying to paint after working in an office a full day and honestly there is not much left at the end of a day at an “office.” The moments truly last about 4 hours overall, where I often paint without music, interference or interaction with anyone. I typically focus on one main painting a day and I sit for ten to thirty minutes just staring at a painting in progress—as well as potentially an image I may be referring to—waiting for ‘the solution’ to come out.”
Boyd worked as a designer for many years, a profession that demands constant exchange between the creative side (the designer herself) and the customer. But creating art is not a democratic process, and being both independent and eager to please made it challenging for Boyd to filter suggestions on how to proceed with her artwork. This has led at times to distractions and doubts, but her personal vision has won out as it has matured and she has allowed herself to experiment and remain “adventurous.”
“I believe this adventurous side has often made it challenging for people to define me, and challenging for galleries to follow me. Compared to other artists I personally know and follow, I consider myself a ‘random’ artist, jumping between painting huge portraits of men or falling businessmen, to the latest—large bulls and horses falling to their death. In the midst of an evolving progression of concepts being built upon, I still see each new series as an opportunity to start fresh and challenge myself and I believe it is what I have accomplished.”
Increasing scale has been one aspect of Boyd’s changing style in recent years. From canvases 2’ by 2’, she has expanded to surfaces up to 5 yards wide—“white canvas, wood and, more recently, on weathered reclaimed tarps marked with dirt and holes.”
“To me, my distinct strong stroke and use of texture while painting is always consistent. I see art as an extension of myself, reflecting how I am feeling and what I am currently obsessing over in the world. I love having a separate art studio from my home for various reasons. Mostly it allows me to be surrounded with older work both in my studio and in the art building in general to ensure I am staying true to my core expression. I am able to see what I have created to appreciate it, learn from it and refresh my memory on what was successful to me and what wasn’t.”
She counts a recent life-size sculpture composed of wood from shipping palettes as one of her less successful forays into new media. Boyd says she also wasn’t terribly impressed with her small wire sculptures, some of which occupy the studio. We can be our own worst critics, and she demurs when people refer to them. They do in fact belong in her oeuvre, as their winding shapes recall the twisting pulsing figures in some of her portraiture, and the shadows they cast in the sunlight and their overall appearance are compelling. Yet, Boyd’s paintings convey a deeper dimensionality, a greater complexity than these figures. This assessment is intended and should be taken as an indication of Boyd’s brilliance with the brush, not an attack on these sculptures, which feel at the least like fine, conceptual maquettes of her spontaneous paintwork. Indeed, her paintings are so textured and layered and responsive to the underlying surface that Boyd is right to balk when others expect her work to remain “two-dimensional” and wonder at her forays into other media. But at such times she returns to that central lesson she learned over the years: To trust her own judgment and the process that her intuition and experience together have formed, even when she does confer with others.
“I now reach out to a select group of artists and collaborators I respect, whom I show my work and receive critique and inspiration,” Boyd states. “I have to be conscious to be true to myself and let nobody interfere with my vision. I know all exploration, experimentation and mostly failure will lend itself to future work, whether in sculpture format or in painting. I identify as a painter, but I do think about my subjects as living breathing beings even if on canvas.”
Breaking through layers
When asked when she feels her work began to mature—that is, when she marks the beginning of the evolution of themes and forms that she continues to develop today—Boyd answers, “Near 2003. At the time, I had finally begun to have an authentic voice that successfully combined strong visual impact, modern feel, confidence with my materials, large scale and most of all a distinct original style. My style became noticeable to viewers, which was interesting to me.”
“Although initially somewhat whimsical, through the years I continued to explore my personal style in relation to those who inspire me and what was outrageous to me in society. This led to a body of work I went on to create in 2008 titled ‘Silent Yell.’ The series depicted large androgynous heads (6 and 7 feet long), heavily painted with graphical elements, some of which crossed out the facial features. ‘Silent Yell’ led to my 2012 series, ‘Falling,’ which consisted of falling businessmen in completely helpless and powerless situations.”
These paintings marked Boyd’s conscious delving into the irony and futility of control, the politics and psychology of strength and power. By the end of 2012, Boyd was continuing to expand her scale and painting on reclaimed tarps. A friend who knew of her interest in political portrait work gave her some especially heavy Army tarps used to cover machinery, tools and engines—explicit power sources from war machines, the smoking, petrol-fueled heart of empire.
“It took some time and thought to decide how I would best honor it. Working with such weathered, heavy material would require me to use a different technique and skill than working with standard canvas. I wanted to be sure the symbolism was evident.”
Three 5’ by 5’ sections became portraits of Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and Ronald Reagan, icons from recent history who are emblematic to some of unchecked power, manipulation, venality and plutocracy. According to popular rhetoric, Cheney certainly might qualify as more war-machine than man at this point, making his placement on the tarp particularly germane. Reagan is more complex. He is beatified by many political conservatives, and he certainly represents an era of deregulation and peak aggression in financial markets and escalating military spending in the ongoing Cold War. He is vilified by others for the same reasons, in addition to his mishandling of domestic crises, including the AIDS epidemic and the Savings and Loan Crisis. As smeared as certain parts of these portraits may be, however, they do not smear their subject’s characters. Boyd’s political and social convictions may be strong, but she does not treat her subjects with cynicism or malice. She allows for moral complexity in villains and heroes alike, well knowing that one individual can be perceived as either, depending on whom you ask. These influential men are abstracted, made emblematic of power and major developments in our history for better or for worse. Their totemic status is reified when placed beside Boyd’s large, powerful animals, life-size to larger-than-life on surfaces twelve to fifteen feet across. To Boyd, the animal and political portraits were connected in that all the subjects were, “unpredictable, wild and untamed, wielding power without regard.”
“I definitely don’t consider myself a history expert,” Boyd confesses, “but I have always been drawn to documentaries, biographies and hearing facts direct from people about their personal experiences. I am moved by both the good and the bad in this world.”
“One of my idols, Eliot Spitzer, the Former Attorney General of New York who was taken down by a prostitution scandal, has the philosophy that his intelligence and luck to have grown up in a privileged environment comes with an obligation to speak for the little guy and make big business accountable. The scandal did not stop him. He keeps doing his work, which is inspiring. I feel incredibly similar and see myself the same. I am so fortunate to live the life I have and I see art as something I am giving back to the world. In doing so, I am hopefully moving people to open their eyes and not just live in their little bubble. I saw huge wealth in my life and realize people are innately good; they just need to realize people aren’t numbers and statistics. I also believe it is up to us to change things, bring things to each other’s attention and to take action.”
The movement in the work comes to mind again—the entropy and combustion dissolving emblems of brute power, at once self-serving and self-annihilating. All individual systems can be perceived this way—perhaps the entire universe—but we as individuals may reconcile to each other, to our larger world, to ourselves. Art is an essential part of process. When I mentioned this, Boyd agreed.
“Reconciliation is a perfect word to describe what I am trying to accomplish, for myself as well as others. I create such large-scale work, using fierce brush strokes and huge amounts of paint while trying to represent such emotional subject matter…you can’t just ignore it. I am looking to start a dialogue with or between people and am looking to create something that changes people.”
This process often begins in the artist as a reconciliation of logical and emotional drives—and in Boyd’s case it is not a reining in of one by the other, but the propulsion of one by the other.
“It is my philosophy that I have a logical side that I allow to be driven by emotion. I don’t sit down and decide to create something that will move others. I sit down open to what will come to me on the canvas. I don’t try to drive a painting. I’ve found it never works out well. I am truly engrossed in the painting and I consider the piece in its entirety, because the slightest stroke can change the overall mood and visual outcome. I choose colors and select brush strokes using gut feeling—a primal selection, essentially. I have realized what works on a painting very rarely makes logical sense, yet, in the end, it makes emotional sense.”
I have seen this philosophy in action in seeing Boyd at work painting. It is clear that the balance between logic and emotion is not a placid line in the sand for Boyd. It is a thing in constant dispute, shifting within her. I daresay there is a frightening intensity about it all, and though I faded into the background, I think that anyone sensitive to the other’s process and interior world would have felt as I did—as an intruder, or even a marauder.
We also talked a little about our interior worlds, and, unsurprisingly, Boyd describes her interior world in ways that parallel how her work might be described:
“My interior universe is wrought with multi-layered levels of thought and emotion. I imagine the movie Inception quite honestly—a place where as I finalize a thought in one area, it morphs into a new version or an altered direction, one concept building upon another. A situation where as I climb the stairs, the direction they’re leading changes and the result is I’m dropped into a different location than I anticipated. The way I move in this interior universe remains steadfast, cautiously optimistic and exploratory…The ever-changing environment feels natural.”
So it is with her artistic process, wherein “the slightest stroke can change the overall mood and visual outcome.”
“Every choice I make is deliberate. [There is] the scale, wherein I portray life-size or grander subjects, reminding us we are all small and vulnerable, but we can accomplish amazing things as a collective even against a powerful adversary. The weathered reclaimed tarps offer a unique canvas with valuable history—which I honor with brush strokes telling a new story—and the expressive abstract markings of paint made by hand, which appear to be torn from the animal and human subjects exhibiting the delicate balance of strength and weakness within power.”
“This particular study has taken me out of my comfort zone in various ways. It’s an incredibly intellectual and contemplative process, yet it is also physical. It requires me to paint with my entire body, using ladders and often breaking brushes. In the end, I believe it has allowed me to create my best work.”
The meaning of “authenticity” in art is frequently debated, let us define it here the quality of work that comes from a personal vision and narrative, not a regurgitation of inherited rhetoric and perceptions of history. For history is as much a matter of perception as of fact. It is prone to shifts and distortions, not nearly as fixed as we’d like it to be. And that brings us back to Seattle and the end of empire, and one larger cultural context for viewing Boyd’s work. This is a rapid survey of what defines that empire and Seattle’s place in it, and thus the place of art in it.
The ends of empire
What is empire? At its heart it is the density that prevents diffusion…and may also conceal corruption. It is at least a force of superficial unification if not of genuine reconciliation. It is a superorganism whose central organs rely on distinct limbs, determined by different physical and social climates. This creature’s imposing presence in the world is defined by its breadth, even if it is stretched thin in the middle.
To be the frontier, to be a pioneer town—especially a port town—is to be liminal in many ways. It is an extension of empire and its culture, but it lies in direct contact with others and “untamed” nature. To those closer to the heart, the border town may be regarded with disdain or suspicion—for even today we see how borders can generate paranoia throughout a country that spans the width of a continent. Borders connote that one’s empire is limited, that there remains the Other, and in the hands of certain politicians (even some already mentioned in this essay) that becomes a powerful instrument of fear. This may even be observed in how liminal figures (monsters, shamans and artists, to name a few) are still treated with a mixture of fascination and dread. The cowboy/outlaw would be another example. This may be why the southwest and that southern border remain a cultural sticking point for patriotism, for good and for ill.
There is little more “authentically American” in pop culture than the spaghetti western, the image of the lone cowboy against the flat expanses of the plains and desert regions—the human figure alone, made ageless in silhouette. Such imagery has been so often repeated in kitsch and camp (and still in earnest, too) that Boyd’s ability to find something new and interesting about it is a feat in itself. Those western landscapes devoid of figures are also symbolic—a phenomenology of distant vision, a sort of unobscured prophecy, stating “all this shall be yours.” (It didn’t matter that it already belonged to someone else.) When cinema came to the fore early in the last century, the symbolic power and ease of filming in flat, seemingly infinite terrain and the heroic, anti-heroic, villainous and “savage” figures within it became a narrative well without bottom.
Once you cross the mountains into the forests and to the ocean, trees obscure that infinite vision, the cattle drive ends, and so Seattle and other cities of the northwest did not enter much into this mythology of the west—but they were still very much a part of the frontier. This lack of awareness has, I think, has delayed Seattle in facing its own nature, which is as figuratively grey and muddy as it is literally. By incorporating these iconic figures of the wilderness among her politicians, pundits and profiteers, Boyd’s work offers a cohesive, expansive vision of American empire in our time that feels aesthetically true to the region, in spite of Seattle’s own uncertainty about itself at times.
Being coastal and green, there seems to have been a sense that Seattle was more like the eastern seaboard that is our economic and political capital…and geographically it certainly has more in common with Northern Europe (the not so-estranged mother of our own empire) than it does with the southwest. But Seattle had all the fringe lawlessness of any town of the unsettled plains, combining in a blue-green-grey soup the influence of charismatic circuit riders, scofflaws and pimps, and the rodeo towns just beyond the pass. There was true lawlessness, a fringe barbarism that occurs when density drops too low and minds are allowed to diffuse into the wilderness on their own. This is animal instinct. The horse, another sign of European encroachment, became a fierce, wild creature anew in the American plains. The urbane children of the Enlightenment, of the Age of Reason were still no match for the call of the wild, the moral grey.
If you think this past is long behind us in our part of the world, think again. Even into the 1970s, there were incidents of men being Shanghaied, disappearing from Portland and Seattle only to reappear (if they were lucky) in Asia, after months working as slaves aboard fishing and shipping vessels. We may be coastal, but we do not face the motherland. Rather, our west faces “the far East,” beyond the international dateline, where international superpowers grow. This is reflected in our population and local cultural color, but also in the way our region is regarded as an oddity. We aren’t like the rest of America. We know it, but we have a hard time explaining why—at least more than Texas, whose inhabitants still toy with the idea of secession, a return to independence. Those who can better explain Seattle’s uniqueness may be part of the Cascadian Secession movement, which for decades has argued that the whole Pacific Northwest should be an independent nation. In the early 20th century, the Northwest mystics (including Guy Anderson and Morris Graves, who as gay artists were liminal in two ways immediately) illustrated this region’s unique character and the psychological perils of the modern age intuitively, symbolically. This is a heritage that Boyd continues in a distinct way.
As I stated at the beginning of this essay, the artist’s mixture of intuition and individual clarity allows for works that transcend mere propaganda, instead educing a latent understanding of one’s place, time and culture. This goes for one’s region and one’s nation, especially in America, whose imperial roots are less acknowledged than they should be. Populated by debtors, religious fanatics and adventurers and migrants who were discontent with their situation at home, America was something of dumping ground from the start—a dumping ground for desperate people with unrealistic expectations, who are thus primed for the course of empire and its inevitable dissolution. This course of empire was famously painted by Thomas Cole, an early favorite of American art, but when Cole painted his series he imagined America still in a pastoral or Arcadian phase. The naïve populations settling the new world had no concept of the sophistication of the peoples of the First Nations, bellicose and peaceful alike. The settlers were bringing the light as they saw it—some of them bearing the odd, pseudo-Gnostic light of American cults, such as Cochranites and Mormons, who considered themselves a separate nation with a government independent of the US in the early years of their development. Perhaps these unrealistic expectations among religious sects is best observed through the Millerite sect, whose failed prophecy of Christ’s return in April of 1844 ended with what became known as The Great Disappointment.
In our age, America has convinced itself that it bears the torch of liberty and democracy for the world, that it bears the light beyond its borders. The disastrous campaigns in the middle east applied that very rhetoric…but to say that the result has been a great disappointment would be a most diplomatic understatement. So we return to an empire of melancholia, the moral and coastal greys of the region as well as the neutral, aridity of the plains and deserts and the idols of that wilderness—the cowboys and the businessmen, whose figures merge in the oilman and the politician at his side.
Hence, I do not think one can overstate the power of Boyd’s work, which deconstructs these symbols physically. Boyd’s work combines these icons of the heart of empire and its fringe that are so embedded in the psyche. She melts them, explodes them, throws them into the whirlpool with the coastal greys and blues that are also moral greys. These exhausted icons have been cranked out so much they are melting on their rustic substrate. They are icons of empire sold as individualism, despite the fact that the lone cowboy is largely a myth. The building and maintaining of community (of empire) is a collective effort. It is not undone by individualism, but by egoism—by a lack of humility and kindness, by hubris and insensitivity, by treating others as naïve without admitting to one’s own ignorance. Boyd’s work does not have to be didactic to speak to this. Rather, through her fierce individuality dissolves the false gods of egoism in a dynamic, explosive display. This is not a dour end. It may be the spark that ignites something better. Or worse.
Explore without ceasing
I have no doubt that Boyd’s subjects will continue to change and develop over time. She is anything but stagnant, as her work itself suggests, and she has too many inspirations yet to explore.
“In addition to finding inspiration through people and events,” she explains, “I also constantly collect materials and information that moves me to feel an emotion of some kind. I do enjoy pop culture and I believe ignoring it would be ridiculous. If you truly want to reflect the world around you and how we as a culture are driven by the good and bad hype, of media, politics, social injustice or religion, you have to allow pop culture in. I have huge scrapbooks, full of items I’ve collected from magazines and the Internet and I constantly use my iPad to grab images of inspiration.”
Boyd is less worried about posterity than she is about her immediate time. This stands to reason for one who is wary of how history is told and portrayed. Again, the quote from Harold Rosen comes to mind: “The aim of every authentic artist is not to conform to the history of art but to release himself from it in order to replace it with his own history.”
“This quote speaks to me because I am not worried about generations. I am focused on creating timeless work that on a visceral level speaks to me, and then I gradually introduce it to the world—galleries, collectors, other artists. I am also always less concerned with today’s painting and more concerned with the one I will create next year and the journey from today until then.”
“That said, I do hope my work does intersect with the past and present. I anticipate passion moving [through others] through my paintings…for those who wanted to feel it, see it, talk about it, express it, but could not for whatever reason. The intersection might be the exposed passion.”
Boyd may allow for moral greys in people, but she is passionately against destructive and corrupt institutions and the overall structure of empire as it stands.
“We live in a time of loss of hope with some struggling and starving in this world while others have billions. The rules are so far in favor of the rich that I want to puke. Perhaps I am puking on the canvas for my contemporaries…because painting with soft little brushes using happy pastels just seems, for me, like a waste of space on this planet. It wouldn’t express emotion and inequities enough.”
It would not be authentic for Boyd to operate this way, and is therefore impossible for her. But there is no telling where her work will lead her next. The frontier is still open in the mind of the artist—and in some ways creating and then selling art is still a cattle drive.
“It is interesting how I am positioned at the moment. I am making a living at my artwork and, you are correct, I do hustle for this by doing commissions, pressing the flesh, sending out emails and letters to galleries and other organizations. Yet, to be an artist in this day and age, I believe there are many ‘ways of doing it’—selling in the digital realm, as well as in a personal manner through a gallery. I have shipped paintings all over the country to people I have never personally met because of technology. I also know artists who are represented by galleries and don’t truly want one and vice versa.”
“It took time and courage, but I do have the confidence needed to be an artist. Over the years, I’ve realized I can create art I know will sell and I can create art that may require a more particular, discerning clientele. I am getting better at the marketing and business side of art but there is always room for improvement. Luckily, I enjoy both—painting and challenging myself.”
“Painting is now my sole career and I couldn’t be happier with my life and progression as an artist. The more I paint, the better and more authentic and confident I feel I become as an artist. I honestly don’t spend a lot of time wondering if I should really be an artist. Instead, I dedicate my energy toward being consciously aware of myself as an artist and what the hell I am trying to do here.”