Friday, May 22, 2009

Arty Farty Friday ~ Celebrity Art


In the past, I've twice started to write about William S. Burroughs, but abandoned the task because I found him uninspiring. It's hard to devote time and effort to an uninspiring subject. This, my third try, may or may not amount to something! Burroughs was one of three writers from what's become known as The Beat Generation, Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsberg were others of this ilk.

It might help to start with his natal chart.

Born 5 February 1914 in St. Louis, Missouri at 7.40am (Astrodatabank)

Wowee!! 5 planets and ascendant in Aquarius (including Aquarius' ruler, Uranus); 3 planets in Gemini, two in Cancer. So much Air (Aquarius and Gemini) cannot be good for a body - or a mind! Here's another instance of "too much of a good thing". I've seen it before, but never quite as extreme an example as this. Too much Air blows away anything of substance, literally and metaphorically.

This guy had potential to spare, yet he squandered it. It seems to me almost as though he was born drugged and drunk - from the overdose of Air in his chart. Oh, the literary elite coo over his books with exaggerated praise. Does the average reader, though, see anything praiseworthy, or just a case of the emperor and his new clothes?

From Astrodatabank (linked above)
"Searching for identity, Burroughs moved to New York when he was in his early 30’s, where he joined the city’s gangster underworld. Buying stolen goods and drugs, he intentionally became a heroin addict in the early ’40s after initially experimenting with morphine. In 1943, he met Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, two writers who later became principal figures in the "Beat" movement. The three became close friends, and Kerouac once described Burroughs as "tall, 6' 1", strange, inscrutable because ordinary looking, like a shy bank clerk with a patrician thin-lipped cold blue-lipped face." They were impressed by his obvious intelligence and worldly cynicism, and were interested in his underworld experimentation.

A strong emphasis on personal freedom is evident in his life and his writing, and he moved to East Texas, joined by Herbert Huncke and Joan Vollmer Adams, where he became a farmer, growing oranges, cotton and marijuana. The threesome lived in squalor on the farm, addled by the drugs they took. Burroughs’ life during that period was later used as fodder for Kerouac’s book "On the Road." "

William S. Burroughs is best known for his very avant garde, nay, peculiar novels, such as "Naked Lunch". That, by the way, was the last major book to be the subject of prosecution for obscenity in the United States.

Bearing in mind his writing style, it comes as no surprise to find that his art is similarly abstract and fairly unintelligible to the average looker on.





He spent his later years in Kansas and there developed a strange painting technique, creating abstract compositions by placing spray paint cans in front of, and some distance from, blank canvasses, and then shooting at the paint cans with a shot gun. Some of these creations were shown in a New York City gallery in the early 1990s.
From an interview HERE
Burroughs: When I am painting, I see with my hands. When you write, you can’t help but see what is right in front of you. This is not true with painting — your hands do all sorts of things. For example, I read a book called Bad Medicine by C.Q. Yarbro, and in it someone had overdosed on anticoagulants, so that blood was coming out of his nose, through his skin, everywhere. And the drug was disguised in orange juice, because it had an acidic taste. Well, in one of my paintings, you can see the guy drinking the orange juice, which is odd because I wasn’t necessarily thinking about that at the time. In other words, what I am doing is automatic painting.

Ellis: When did you recognize it?

Burroughs: As soon as I painted it, I looked at it and said, this is that scene. I have had several experiences like that, recognizing events in my paintings after they have been completed.

Ellis: Do you think symbols come out of your unconscious mind onto the paper through your hands?

Burroughs: I would never use the term “unconscious,” because if it were completely unconscious, no one would be aware of it. Usually it is partially conscious.

Compare Jane Seymour's art (here, last Friday). She also has Sun in Aquarius, by the way. The two characters could well be from different galaxies.


anyjazz said...

I read "Interzone" some years ago just so I could say that I had read some Burroughs. In the end that's all I can now say: I read some Burroughs. It was in the neighborhood of worthless.

Twilight said...

Anyjazz ~~~ So you didn't see "the emperor's new clothes" then.

Shawn Carson said...

Interesting article, Twilight,
I am ignorant about this guy, buy ZOWIE! what a chart!
From what I gather here, he was some sort of conduit for unconscious images. What a 12th house! I noticed that one of his works was called, Out of the Closet. Very fitting. My son has that MO/SA conjunction and he has a lot of depth to him. He is somewhat melancholic and very scientific. Some folks would say that if you aren't melancholic, then you aren't a true artist.

Wisewebwoman said...

I always look forward to Fridays on your blog, T.
I tried to read "Naked Lunch" years ago and couldn't and his art reminds me of something indigestible. Sorry.
He is best forgotten in my book but thanks for trying!!!

anthonynorth said...

I don't know why but I could never get into the Beat Generation writers. I've tried - I've read Naked Lunch, and several by Kerouac, but they just didn't do anything for me.

Twilight said...

Shawn ~~~ It was the chart that decided me to write about burroughs - 'cos I really don't admire him, but it's such an unusual line-up he had. In future I'll be watching for anything similar, to compare personalities.

Melancholia and art do tend to go together, I agree. MO/SA, in your son's case could be lightened by other facets, and generational flavour too. Do you have an artist on your hands? :-)

Twilight said...

WWW ~~~ I wouldn't have bothered, but for that fascinating chart.
Yes, the man is best forgotten, I agree.

Twilight said...

AN ~~~ Same here. The whole Beat thing is a blind spot for me. I guess it's one of those instances where "you had to be there" :-)

R J Adams said...

I'm not surprised you found him uninspiring. Anyone who has to shoot and kill their wife to gain sufficient inspiration to write is hardly worthy of comment. At least, not in my book.

Twilight said...

RJ Adams ~~~ He was a nasty piece of work, no doubt about it. It's hard to understand how anyone can admire him and his work.

All that talk of "being free", so beloved of the "Beats" - complete balderdash. I like freedom myself, but not at the expense of others.