Monday, October 01, 2007

Scott MacLeod Drawings 1960-1962:
Part 8: The Existential & The Familial

Line of Cars 1962

Just a blue car driving through a red-car state. A heavily-polluting blue car at that. The red cars seem to be running clean. And is that Al Gore’s large-carbon-footprint house spewing out the spiralling cloud of wood-smoke? Isn’t that Michael Moore skulking behind the tree? I know it looks like I was a Republican when I drew this, but I swear I wasn’t.

I’d been a Democrat since age of 4, since 1960 when I walked into the den in Caracas where my Dad was watching the Nixon-Kennedy debate on television. He said Nixon would win & I told him it was obvious that the Kennedy guy would win - he just looked better. My dad laughed at me & bet me $10.

I was a decent gambler when I was young. My mom is claustrophobic so when we traveled to Dad’s embassy postings in Caracas, Djakarta & Paris, we had to take ships because Mom won’t get into an airplane. (Or elevator or subway.) Most ships in those days were primarily means of getting from one place to another, especially the freighters on which we often traveled. Even on passenger liners, there wasn’t the kind of total entertainment focus that there is now. We were quite content to sit in deck chairs and stare at the ocean in between chapters of whatever books we were reading. At night, though, the ocean is dark & casts its deep shadow deep into human souls: out come the distilled spirits, the dance bands, the talent contests and - the horse race films.

It was typical then for filmed horse races to be collected from tracks all over the country, cut apart & re-edited willy-nilly into a collection of a dozen races that no one could possibly remember ie gain a betting advantage. The films would be shown in the ballroom of the ship, win, place & show bets were taken in between races, gains paid out just like at Charlestown or Pimlico. These films featured the traditional parade to the starting block, so I would have a chance to look each horse over to gain some sense of its mettle. I would bet on any grey horse that showed up on the projection screen. That was one of the few true & useful things my dad ever taught me. Bet the grey horse. And the grey horse always does win. Lacking a grey horse, I would bet on a horse that showed spirit, a horse whose look I liked. Or that had a name that resonated in my relatively hollow 6-year-old brain. I’d have to place my bets through my dad. I always made $2 bets & I always walked away with at least $16 profit by the end of the night. And of course I won that $10 bet backing that Kennedy horse whose look I liked in 1960.

That was the beginning of an interesting decade, the Sixties. Godard made Weekend in 1967. Apparently you can watch the whole film for free on You Tube, or via - kind of a pointless way to watch it in my opinion - or - on second thought - maybe not. In any case, what I really wanted to mention here is that it’s pretty obvious to me that Godard got the idea for Weekend’s traffic jam from my drawing above.


Canoes & Lightning, 1961

This is fairly schizoid drawing. It disturbs me. The sun is shining pretty clearly above the random but quite powerful thunderclouds. Lightning strikes the water very close to smiling, seemingly unconcerned fishermen. The fish are drawn as both victims & predators. Numerous small islands feature both palm & evergreen trees: is this Maine or the tropics? Are these people vacationing in their cabins on the shores of a northern lake? Or are they shipwrecked on an atoll in the South Pacific, struggling grimly to survive? Are those fighters planes destroying or UFO’s? Or robotic bug-zappers frying malarial mosquitos with electrical discharges. Speaking of electrical discharges, the word “taser” has been popping up a lot lately. Have you seen the YouTube clip of Andrew Meyer being tasered at a John Kerry Q&A? It’s pretty frightening & disheartening & not an easy thing to watch. It disturbs me.

Biplane & Kraken, 1960

Is it a biplane or a plane with a domed cockpit, like a Mitsubishi A6M Zero-Sen or a P-38 Lightning? I think the former, if only because the drawing below clearly shows a biplane. But what is rising out of or falling into the ocean below the airplane? I used to draw a lot of Viking dragon ships, at least I did a couple years later. The movie Vikings (w/Kirk Douglas) came out in 1958, so maybe I’d seen it. But I think I’d’ve at least tried to draw the shields & mast. You never know; at this age sometimes I’d have to try drawing something several times - or more precisely I would have several mis-starts - the scale of something would be so totally off that I’d just flip the page of my drawing pad. This could be a sinking viking ship that wasn’t worth finishing. I used to prefer to think of it as a Kraken, but now that I’ve written out the viking ship theory, I think I like it better, I like it being a failed & incomplete viking ship. That’s the way it often is with stories; true or not, once you’ve made them up they kind of stick with you. In any case, even though it’s now a viking ship, I’m still going to call it a Kraken in the title. It’s my picture, my memory, my story & my blog, so I can pretty much do what I want with them.

Biplane Over Rowboat, 1960

This looks like a biplane flying above a guy in a rowboat. The guy in the boat doesn’t have a pole so maybe he’s not fishing. He’s facing backwards so maybe he’s having engine trouble. But there’s no engine. Maybe it broke free of its mount & sank to the muddy bottom of the lake. Maybe the guys in the biplane have been searching for the guy in the rowboat & have found him. So why isn’t the guy in the boat looking up, smiling, relieved? Maybe he’s noticed that the biplane doesn’t seem to have any engine either, so he’s lowered his head back down to stare at the surface of the lake despondently. The absence of any engines in this drawing raises some questions. How does everything move forward? How do things stay aloft? How do we all stay afloat?


Crashed Airplane, 1960

Well, the answer seems to be that we don’t all always stay afloat, or aloft. Here flight such-and-such of such-and-such airline (I believe that the dead passengers & crew are primarily Scandinavian) has crash-landed on an iceberg that recently calved from Arctic sea ice. Some few may have survived the initial landing trauma but they are surely dead by now - some 47 years later. Soon their ice floe, their floating tomb, will melt along with all the other sea ice on our planet and their aeroplane will sink to the bottom of the frigid deep.

Landing On Water, 1960

Another plane down. Maybe this one flew over Antarctica in October when the hole in the ozone layer is largest. Excess UV(b) radiation may have fried the controls, scrambled the wiring, impaired the pilots’ abilities; for whatever reason this plane also fell from the sky, this time into water, lessening the impact & allowing a handful of coach-class passengers to escape into a life raft just as the aeroplane begins to sink beneath the waves. A seaplane searches overhead fruitlessly. Or is that plane also diving out of control?

The Trouble I Had, 1960

A man in a beanie or watch cap is walking. Whether this Beckettian character is happy or sad, at ease or troubled, driven or contemplative, is unknown & unknowable. I think that these attributes might all be one in the same, or arbitrary & inconsequential scratches on a wide featureless continuum. I also think that this little man has callouses & is the better for that. I used this as the cover image for a book of the same name (ie The Trouble I Had), a compiliation of several text-image chapbooks I’d self-produced in the 1980s. The compilation was published by anabasis/xtant in 2004.


Splashing in Kiddie Pool, 1960

Here’s another drawing that may have been abandoned by a young artist who saw no future in continuing on with it, no eventual reward worth putting in any more work. I think this is a kid splashing in a kiddie pool. I had a kiddie pool in the back yard in Virginia & one in the front yard in Venezuela. I think those were good times - in the kiddie pool at least. I like being in water. I am more relaxed & happy when I’m in water.

Three Men & Water Buckets, 1960
This predates the “Gatorade shower” it resembles by a couple of decades. This may just be a childs’s impression of a random collaborative human engineering solution in the third world.

Angry at Snowman, 1960

The image provides no real evidence validating my use of the work “Anger” in the title I’ve given it. I’ve given it that title nonetheless, for reasons which will remain private.


Family With Playpen, 1961

Everybody seems to be smiling here & why not? Isn’t that what family is all about? Good times & smiles? Loneliness abated or at least deferred or camouflaged? Helping each other stay afloat?

Christmas & Racecar # 4, 1960

Smiles all around at Christmas time too. Especially when you get the Matchbox racecar you wanted.

Christmas Tree, 1962