Reply to fellow Hawaiian artist Abby- 
January 21, 2005

 

Dear Abby,
 
I just ended a two day workshop on oral surgery.  Grinding away on plaster of paris model instead of real bone, slicing with a scalpel at synthetic rubbery gums, but using real human cadaver skin tissue ($150 for a half inch) and suturing different such simulated bodily oral assaults.  It was so much fun!  Why do I as wannabe full time artist mention the above?
 
'Cuz, my dear,  I think I'm going to miss dentistry too much to actually quit cold turkey.  After having bee ingrained with the dental care and responsibility of patients for over 29 years, I think my personal identity as to whom I am now has shifted from total rebel artist and conceptualist aesthetician to, well, er, a dentist.  God!  What a realization after self denial as probably to defend an identity all these decades to get out and be free to create, full time, any ol' time.  The left refuses to let go.  These hands can heal, it's a shame to handcuff them to a computer mouse.  This opportunity to plan an exit strategy has assisted me, pushing that landmark 6-0, to make a realistic assessment of who I am and what I want out of life the rest of the journey.
 
We were "fortunate."  Mom and Dad passed away relatively painlessly and fast. There never was the situation whereby us 5 siblings had to designate who would have to nurse and take the financial hits.  But it did get nasty when it came to sell the house. Another story not needed to be revealed.
 
OH yeah, guess way down in my juvenile psyche I felt I was wronged, both by the educational system, peers, and parental authority.  So I became rebellious towards anything mired in tradition or resistant to change.  With this neurotic bent and the creativity of a 'real artist,' I became the "Disco Dentist,"  the "Computer Artist," and now the "Webist"- all social outcast or several deviations from the norm.  I love a good fight. If not, I'd feel depressed and rejected.  So I built a idiosyncratic system of support, becoming a magnet for other so rejected by the status quo within art, becoming somewhat a political beast.  So came along an alternative "online virtual museum" and (you got it right) even the audacious attack on "painting" itself as the ultimate glorified made-by-hand crafted oriented precious commodity of worthy "art."  Can you contemplate the personal satisfaction of logically degrading painting merely because it's 'original' and therefore precious? Digital to oil repro for the sake of edition of repros as the "original" remains digital and in virtual space (Internet) - When the givens are defined as such, there is a basis of 'truth' to this interpretation of "reality" which I can legitimately adopt and act by as a practicing artist.  It feels good, thought somewhat lonely, to remain in this creative vacuum that I have imprisoned myself in - hey - also for the cause of moving art theory forward in this new high tech world and its society.  Have I done my little dirty deed of moving us towards the fearful cultural world of cybernetics with robots as artists? Maybe.  But I feel my life already has made a difference in art because of the time of my birth, being of age as a matured artist smack dab within the major cultural shift that is going on at the time.  I could have been satisfied with Warhol's "fifteen minutes of fame" as the Disco Dentist on national TV, dancing my tight butt off with a kinky afro and white tux. But it was merely the conceptual art project/installation/experiment-in-real-life (here, the dental clinic) of the moment in my growth process on how 'reality' could be changed from the standard perspective the other 99% are commanded to remain restrained within.  From such learning experiences, I could transfer attacking taken for granted custom and guestion through the providing of alternative modes of creating and living.  Like being the first here in digital art (1985 show).  But when decades later it is still criticized by so called experts (critics, arts media writers) as less than art, well then it gets my gander and I go to bat against prejudice and injustice towards the medium, not just for myself but for others less inclined to put up with the put down and harassment.  I never had to worry about throwing away my art career due to controversy because I made a living as a dentist.  I planned it this way at 19.  I can never stop my left but it has never ever meant compromising the right.  I have "just made art" the equivalent to full time and to meet this goal of "production" and acceleration of artistic growth within a medium, I made the digital choice to meet the criteria.  At the moment I have enough good work to fill that 8,000 sq foot Oregon building that I placed an offer for this morning (wish me luck).  The inventory now gathers dust, nicks, dents, tears (cyberpaintings on canvas rendered by artisans, 1987-97) in a dental supply warehouse in Aiea.  Do you know how much that hurts to see my 'babies' abandoned, shunned by the powers that be (the Honolulu Academy and Contemporary Art Museum refuse to give me shows, even deny that I even exist outside of being a local dentist!), only to probably end up in the dump or Goodwill after my passing if I stay here.  So the clock ticks, and my bio rhythm signals "hey buddy, shake a leg, make some changes, stop doing the same old thing (local after local after local, whether juried or solo) - give up on Hawaii.  Conservative, beautiful painting based on the environment, a mirroring or mimicking of sorts, reign supreme and will never share the crown with the likes of digital art.  Photography after 100+ years as a medium still is a step child in the formal arts and I don't want to go commercial to make a buck in digital art either.  So I choose to remain abstract, both in imagery and in person, take control of cultural contest (open my own gallery or museum), move up the peck order (curator or director of the museum sounds cool), write to document and teach critics something they know nothing about (my own derived process), do my eventual own autobiography - mind you not for the ego but to document this artist's innovative life experience that milked the art out that debacle- and of course, my all time favorite works clustered, bounded together as a catalog of works for posterity.  Now if I don't fight would any of these dreams materialize? Would my reality change staying here, pushing 60, 70, 80 God willing?  I don't think so!  I am not willing to let the world catch up to me.... I want to spread the gospel, sacrificed a little, let others less fortunate than I understand there are some elders who do understand how the art world is not fair, does continue to give them the shaft, yes, it may not be inferior work but corruption or simply supply and demand or it's who you know, afterall. Life is not fair.  So you either go with the flow like a school of fish - everybody agrees with the rules, way things are, and all compliment each others' works, or you drop out and disappear (until the world catches up with you) or you find the commitment, time and energy to rally outcry for aesthetic justice and reform.  Yes, the artists selected are always the same and even as the images and subject matter changes, the artistic philosophies remain consistent, with supportive media reviews and the ceremoniously blessing of those that own the walls (and grants and endowments), and therefore there is no hope of change.  I started out at the zoo fence at 19 and now at 59 realize shit, I can never conquer those flower, whales, dolphin, hula girls, ocean and mountain with banana and coconut tree landscape in my lifetime.  It's what we are conditioned to create, as if nature did not already do the ultimate masterpieces, it's what the tourist industry wants, it's what the world that comes to visit Waikiki Beach expects.  I leave in defeat, a life spent with a war that only provide a few little insignificant victories.  So I try to make my last stand, my Alamo, in Oregon, an air commute away from the big cities more with the tech times.  It has to be Oregon because that's all my life change budget can afford.  But even in a little quaint Oregonian town, there is more hope for change.  Big Island was to be my senior years recluse, a disappearance into the rain forest and "screw them all," I'm not playing their game anymore.  But guess I grew since you left, cuz now, yes, I depart (or hope so when ever the chicken skin subsides), because now I venture to continue my quest to change the art world but move on to the mainland where the odds are better for acceptance of my kind.  A Big Island lot just sold for cash, just as I needed bucks for a down in case my offer is accepted for that 1896 building.  Was it God's intervention to override my moments of doubt (financial fear), as the property sat as a listing with no offers for prior months?  Who knows? I like to think so, or say it was so to beef up my courage that I am not alone in this crusade to bring respect to a medium that is still suppressed, probably because it instills fear to the conventional appraisals of artistic financial worth of last centuries' artsy artifacts.  Through family support, guts, diversification of assets to take a big hit if it does happen, get that Oregon dental license in case the museum bombs out and my Hawaii practice is sold, I leap for the chance to change my reality from digital artist stranded on the beach to patron for global online art.  Sales? Probably not and I will have to maneuver through those initial straits of red ink hoping the cultural graft takes and my "Internet Art Museum" does become a distinguish new entity in the power plays of the 'art world.'  If I don't try, I would never know.  The time seems right, if not urgent, to force myself out of my financial comfort zone (and my family's) and leave a tropical paradise for 30F weather. Nice?  No pain, no gain.  There is nothing wrong about being convention in medium or approach. Whatever works, whatever feels right, I respect every artist who tries and contributes.  It's just that a black sheep in a flock of white is a mismatch and I seek to find my own kind.  Stirring things up as I do online is one way to get attention, like an SOS beacon, so other similar creative souls can find me, an as a crystallized aggregate, continue to find more until on a global bases, common in both media and artist philosophy, we are family.  I cannot be selfish and just do my thing and wait for others to catch up. Some of my kind have already died and their digital work vanish along with them from the living or historical scenes.  There are others approaching the edge (like me at 59) so the clock is ticking and it is apparent from my behavior, actions, and thoughts that I do indeed have a calling, a mission, and must, must continue to lead (even if at times I don't know where too, but that is the excitement of picking at the unknown that makes this creative life enjoyable), until someday we are free to have our own domain we can call our own.  Enough blathering bantering so I'll close.  Thanks for your ear.
 
Aloha,
Pygoya
 
 
 
 
 
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Friday, January 21, 2005 10:31 AM
 

Hi Py,
 
Many thanks for the new year salutations and empathy. In answer to your question about who is caring now for the parental units, I have two sisters and a brother taking care of her with the help of paid caregivers who work pretty much round the clock. I come from a large family and one would think that by sharing the responsibility, it should lessen the burden but that is not the case. Most of them run away from it and won't help.
 
The prospect of getting old and not having copious amounts of money is a big issue for me and my own future. My parents are a case in point. They are not poor but they aren't rich either so Medicare doesn't cover caregiving in the home. The gov. can't take care of them in a home for old people because they have too many assets, by the gov.'s standards. So consequently we have to help finance their care and it is draining our pocketbooks. But the worse part---and I hope you don't know what this is like--is fighting with the siblings regarding parents. It's horrible.
 
Oh dear, I have no idea what it is like to raise sons because I have two daughters. Your sons--their hormones are raging maybe that's the reason for the domestic unrest in your household.  
 
I'm completely surprised about your Oregon venture. You are a whirlwind of activity. What happened to your house in Volcano? I will read your various publications this weekend as they are always food for thought. Here is a question that I ask out of naivete and no formal art training: you do rail against the world; why not just do the art and let the world catch up with you? Your right brain creates your art and then your left brain, thoroughly exercised from multiple academic degrees, wants to sort it out for everybody who looks at your art. I suppose many artists feel their art is misunderstood. However in your case, it must be intimidating to be a critic who would venture an opinion about your art because I think you are a genius who stretches his brain to the utmost. Your background (notoriety?) probably precedes you in your art shows and scares many of the so-called art critics. So they retreat by attempting to relate your art to the conventional, rather than rising to the challenge of really looking at it with fresh eyes. I myself confess to being very conventional. I think of the tangible canvas hanging on the wall as being the end result of the creative process while you see it as a transitional phase or something otherwise. Anyway, if I'm all wrong, you can certainly tell me. And I hope my comments don't offend you. 
 
I saw the abstract show at the state art museum. It's called Inner Scapes. I just look at abstracts and don't know what to say. And the artists are all the same ones, always the same. Who voted them the best artists of Hawaii anyway?   
 
Enough blathering so I'll close. Have a good day!
 
Abby