Clemente’s Birthday

Allen Ginsberg and Francesco Clemente, October 1990, New York City, probably snapped by Julian Schnabel with Allen’s camera,  courtesy Stanford University Libraries / Allen Ginsberg Estate

It’s Francesco Clemente‘s birthday today, May 23. He is 69 years old. For previous postings on The Allen Ginsberg Project – see here – and here and here – and here 

Raymond Foye‘s informative personal essay, “Clemente in the Eighties – Fragments of A Faith Forgotten” was published just last month on his web-site (a must-read)  – see here

For his interview with Clemente (from May 2020, on the occasion of his recent Lévy Gorvy (NYC)  show of watercolors) – see here

and here is Clemente, in November,  interviewed by Judith Benhamou-Huet:

Here is Clemente from earlier in the summer – “Making Art is To Time-Travel”

Clemente under CoVid lockdown – Last year’s  exhibition at Levy-Gorvy,  Beauty Without Windows,  included a number of new watercolors, a series of dreamy evocative sea-shore works

and, later on, as he tells Benhamou-Huet, a series of works (pastels), drawing from his very  earliest interests – an examination of iconography from the Middle Ages, (the series shown this past September at the Maruani Mercier Gallery in Brussels) – a Bestiary

from his statement in Maryam Eisler’s extraordinary on-line exhibit, Confined Artists – Free Spirits – Photographs From Lockdown

Everything I knew on May 1st. 2020  [Editorial note – but it remains true, surely, on March 23, 2021]

“Our notion of self is delusional. Our identity is a fantasy. In our true nature we abide in eternal light and the world is perfect. Buddha Mind, Atman, God, the names are many, the experience of our true nature is one. At times we may get a glimpse of it through beauty and art. Truly we are only the Witness, pure, blissful, undefiled, of the fantasies of the self. These fantasies are neither good nor bad: they include joy, pain, fear, hope, they even include our own death. Whether we are aware of it or not, our true nature remains untouched, so all we need to do is to observe tenderly our skillfully woven delusions and enjoy the ride!
In this mystical view, refined through the ages by countless sages, even the pandemic is just another facet of the sufferings we encounter when we forget our fundamentally compassionate, ecstatic nature.
On the other end, if a big truck is going to run you over, will you sit and meditate or will you run for your life?
The pandemic is the dress rehearsal of the future. The pandemic is visible, the future is invisible but it is here, cleverly made invisible in plain view: twenty years of illegal wars for oil, the reckless destruction of biological and cultural diversity, the transformation of the American republican party into a suicide cult, the triumph of an economic order whose goal is to make lots of indifferent stuff and indifferently throw it away, man-made poverty, man-made tyranny, man-made refugees, at the root of it all man-made economy.
The economy is not a dogma dictated by God, the economy is an invention of men.
There are partisans of this economic order. To them, economy comes first and human life is just an afterthought, a hindrance to the aimless accumulation of wealth.
If the market could get rid of the human race it would. The partisans of our absurd economic order, which we all know is killing the earth, like to tell us: ‘this is life.’ Maybe what they mean is ‘death is life’. Or maybe what they mean is: ‘your death is my life’. Fighting to save ourselves would be inelegant. Fighting against the partisans of death would turn us into them. We have to change with them and not against them and this will require great imagination, more imagination than the most accomplished artist can ever offer.
It is an old story, playing one time too many: the lambs coming to the rescue of the wolves.
It is happening now, a few blocks from where I write: first responders, nurses, doctors, firemen, workers holding the city together, embracing the silent but eloquent simplicity of love and service. Light attracts darkness, but darkness breeds the light.

Allen Ginsberg and Francesco Clemente – Poetry Project Poster, 1989

Francesco Clemente in front of his portrait of Allen Ginsberg, NYC, February 1996 –  photo: Allen Ginsberg, courtesy Stanford University Libraries / Allen Ginsberg Estate

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