The day before my birthday
I saw some art today. It was an impulse decision made as I got ready to leave the house for my first hair cut in months and months. I had cut my own fringe a week ago and been very pleased with the result. I am not sure why the last hair dresser I had told me to never do that again.. I suppose it was to make me feel like I had to go back there every time I needed a trim. They played the wrong woman. I have a history of cutting my own hair and clothes.
The exhibition is at Daine Singer gallery on Flinders Lane. I heard about the show on the radio. So I decide to go. The artist is a woman named Katherine Hattam who has been exhibiting since 1978. Her current exhibition is called Seeing Through. I love the works as soon as I step inside the gallery and see the bright vivid colours and feel the world of each painting pulling me towards it. I can only go to look at one at a time. There is so much intricacy and intertextuality within these art works. There is colour pallet that perfectly coincide with the colours of different genres in the Penguin Classics series. There are penguin classic excerpts and coveres and spines worked into the paintings. It is so amazing o me how very different a painting or collage of everyday mess and clutter, can look so beautiful, intellectually rich in meaning and whimsy when filtered through the mind and skill of a visual artist. It is like a wonderful form of magic to me. It makes me both sad and happy that I never went to art school. Happy because I like not knowing all the tricks and language. Sad because I hate not knowing all the tricks and language. The art work from the exhibition I have used for the feature image of this blog post is called Ring Of Bright Water, 2017 mixed media on linen 49 x 62 cm. It is my birthday so if you have 3000 dollars to spare and want my undying gratitude…
Before I left the house today, I listened to The Black Parade by My Chemical Romance. The songs had even more interesting meaning and contextual poignancy now than it did when I fell in love with it 11 years ago. I made my brother buy it for me for christmas. I had my first fit of depression that year. I was a husk. Who knows why an album that references death, cancer, blood, the futility of life in general, how scary teenagers can seem, could be such a comfort then and now. I know why. It is because it is a relief to know you are not the only one silently trying to stamp out that constant shiver of fear and sadness humming away constantly inside. As I pulled on my beloved dark green t shirt, I sang along to the song about joining the black parade,
I was called an emo before I even knew what one was. He was one of those middle class suburban boy punks who listened to Gutter Mouth and Drop Kick Murphys. Who was impressed when he found that I knew the meanings of the big words I used sometimes.
Now, here I am no longer 22 and feeling closer to death even though the closest I have been to death is actually being dead so… This current near death stance is more emotional and existential. There has been some great references and acknowledgements of the futility of life in the shows I have been binge watching on Netflix recently. The animated series about puberty Big Mouth has a brilliant song that all the characters sing while at The girl Jessie’s bar mitzva. There is something oddly life affirming in the way they sing the chorus:
Life is a fucked up mess! Life’s a fucked up mess. Yeah, its a shit show!
Its really hard not be feel cheered as you find yourself singing along to that morbid yet up tempo refrain.
The good place starring Ted Danson and Kristen Bell is another brilliant show that manages to mix moral ethics, psychology, death and the afterlife with humour and scathing wit. Ted Danson plays Michael who is a demi god type being that designs and builds worlds for the dead. Kristen Bell is a dead person who was not such a great human while alive, not evil, just a bit of an ass hole. When Michael finally comprehends the concept of him not existing anymore, when he suddenly understands that death is entirely possible, he freaks out and has an existential crises. He curls up on the couch and its all too much to even bare thinking about. Yet, as we all know who have had an existential crises, the thinking is hard to pull back or dial down. It is hard to be upbeat when you have ”eaten a huge bowl of enui” to quote Kristen Bell’s character Elinore.
For me getting a hair cut was a good way of attempting to distract myself, for a couple of hours, from the enui I was drowning in in relation to my birthday. I know I have things to look forward to: The Junket unconferencein Canberra on sunday till tuesday, A Besen fellowship with The Malthouse Theatre. This is my last day of being 34, I keep thinking.
In my desk drawer is a photo of my parents. They are lying together on a pier in the sunshine. My Dad is 22 and my mother is 23. On the back of the photo my mother has written Robert and I April 1981. My father proposed that afternoon. I love that photo.
At the age I am now, my mother had birthed 5 children while working on a farm with my father. Here I am excited about going to stay in a fancy hotel for free with free food and drinks for three days. I am excited that my writing was published in Meanjin ( on the blog, still exciting). I am proud that my leather jacket has lasted 11 years and I still love it. Surely there are parallels that can be drawn between child rearing and leather jacket up keep? I want to write a book. I feel it simmering away inside my bones and through my nervous system. You don’t need to be young and sexy to write a book. Theres still time for that.
At the hair dressers I am served chai tea and fake chicken salt pop corn. I get my hair washed and a head massage as the hairdresser and I talk about religion, politics and feminism. She asks me to read a story in a free press magazine. She wants me to read it as a writer and see if I understand. She cant figure it out and wants to know if ts because she is a ”ditzy hair dresser.” She is not that at all. I read the story and feel nothing for it. It is alright. There is a bike ride, some police brutality. I am told that the author of this story is my hair dressers boyfriend. He has out of the blue decided he wants to be a writer and makes her read his stuff after she has been working on her feet for over 12 hours. ”The last thing this world needs.” I tell her. ”Is another white guy trying to be a writer.” So, he shouldn’t give up his day job? She asks. I shake my head. I immediately feel awful. I have been too honest again. But the thought of him making her read his stuff every night and her feeling stupid for not ”getting” his writing, made me feel so sad for her. It made me hate this guy who I have never met. My opinion was not improved when I learned that he read lots of books at home but didn’t do any housework.
My hair is cut and blow dried. The beautiful and skilled hairdresser styles my hair so it has a bit of soft curl with a touch of mussed up rock goddess. She didnt even mind that I cut my own fringe. She loved it.