marlene mountain
october 1986

will i ever get myself explained? (a partial autobiography)

I was born wanting to wear jeans, catch insects, play ball, run and jump, fiddle with old cars, cut out images in magazines, and color. People thought I would never grow up. At seventeen all the courses in the local college catalog seemed too difficult, so I majored in Art. For me, art was drawing hands (like Durer) and gnarled trees; Gauguin looked awful--certainly not art. But Gauguin and modern art haunted me, and a couple of years later I was grabbed by abstract art. I got 'serious.' Perhaps, too serious.

Haiku--I took that seriously, too. (Haven't all Westerners?) The Japanese Spirit. Wordlessness. 'Nothing Special.' My feeble understanding of Zen. The Masters.

Eventually the notions of high art and pure images disturbed me. I guess I began to feel somewhat separated from what was going on in the real world, sheltered from it by art. The kinds of art that had interested me hadn't allowed for a response to the human condition. (After all, just surviving a hectic, demanding existence was enough in itself.) The Viet Nam war and the protest against it, Civil Rights issues and 'flower power' had given me a deeper perspective on humanity, but it all seemed separate from creativity. Art was one thing, and people and their struggles were another.

Then FINALLY the impact of what women were saying, both politically and esthetically--about politics and art, about humans and the environment, about injustices of all kinds--hit me. (As Eleanor Smeal has said, 'Women's issues are the issues of the world.') I didn't march or blow up patriarchal buildings, but I got more serious. Really serious.

But here I was in haiku. Haiku with all its 'dos and don'ts.' It seemed a stumbling block to expression of all these 'new' revelations about life. Often I would say that I've got to get out of haiku altogether; it's just too restrictive. But I was pulled by haiku; it had become such an meaningful experience for me. Yet there was also another pull that said haiku Can. It can encompass full realism, the rawness of everything that is life.

Have I gone beyond what haiku is--it's particular, perhaps peculiar, view of the world? Its quietness in the middle of a battlefield, its reverence of nature in the middle of irreverence, its simplicity in the middle of chaos? I don't think so. I've merely brought that 'other side' of life into haiku. (Perhaps, I've pushed.) The battlefield, the irreverence, the chaos are a part of us and, therefore (as I've come to see it), are haiku.

My concerns in both painting and writing are the positive and negative images of women; the negative images of the patriarchy (I've yet to find positive images of it); ancient goddess symbols and literature; autobiography; social and environmental issues. Often I'm merely a 'reporter'; often a biased reporter. Artists, I think, are like that--and have been so for eons.


Hiroaki Sato, HAIKU IN ENGLISH: A POETIC FORM EXPANDS, Simul Press, Tokyo, 1987; Brussels Sprout 6:1 1989.


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