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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Breakdown, parts 1406 - 1409

1406. All of this was correct except for the last part, which was a complete lie. The entire problem was that the museum never told Agnes she had no money due to her, or tax forms either. It was a bold faced lie, told by the secretary simply to cover herself because she had never bothered to return the long suffering teacher's calls. 

1407. This was a tragic and frightening moment for Mrs. Festini. Ultimately for her, it had nothing to do with tax forms, was unrelated to payment, it was not even about simple respect and consideration, it was a situation where her integrity as a rational person and as an artist was being called into question.

1408. Accidental circumstances, put in motion by her insensitive and disinterested husband created a situation where she was being perceived as someone not quite in her right mind. For several seconds she stood in front of the secretary saying nothing, then suddenly she slapped the secretary in the face, then she passed out. Later she woke up in the hospital.

 1409. She was kept in the hospital overnight and then released to the care of her husband. Her husband had her committed to a very expensive convalescent home where she recuperated for a month. Then she returned home, a very angry, completely different sort of Agnes Festini.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Breakdown, parts 1402 - 1405

1402. This was not the first time the lawyer had been asked to politely intervene in the record-keeping of the museum. He had received other requests just like Mrs. Festini's, but more often from artists who had been unable to retrieve their paintings after an exhibit. Those artists, he knew, could go off the deep end if their calls to the museum were not returned. What was it with those artists? You would think their precious paintings were going to change the world or something.

1403. The next day Agnes and her lawyer showed up, unannounced at the museum. At first they acted like they were just visiting to have a look at the new installation of the Mesopotamian artifacts, but after a while Agnes asked if they could please speak to the director if he had a moment. The director, having absolutely no idea what was coming, or what Agnes wanted, was happy to have them come into his office, expecting simply some idle chit-chat.

1404. What happened next you can well imagine. Agnes said not a word, and the lawyer gave the secretary and the director one of those convoluted legal dissertations full of "fill in the blank," threatening types of phrases, interrupted by long significant pauses. All along the lawyer had assumed Agnes had an obvious legitimate complaint, and a specific document to get from the office, he had no idea the extent to which Mrs. Festini was naive and in the dark about the entire matter.

1405. The director had no clue as usual what was going on and never did figure it out. The secretary answered the lawyer thus: "Mrs. Festini has made no money at the museum, she has been working for free this past few years. If her enrollment would go up we would be happy to pay her but as it is, she never has more than just a few students. Her contract states clearly that she receives no payment. We have told her so repeatedly. What do you suggest we do with her?"

Friday, March 29, 2013

Mrs.Festini's Breakdown, parts 1398 - 1401

1398. Sometimes a person is wronged, neglected, and ignored and nevertheless places all of the blame on themselves and tries their very best to be patient and understand.  But then a sudden explosion of emotion takes place somewhere in the mind of such a sufferer, and in a flash arises a very vengeful mood, a mood that will brook no interference, a mood leading to confrontation. That is what now happened to Mrs. Festini. 

1399. Come what may she was going to have it out with the museum director, with the secretary and, yes, her husband, and his insufferable accountant also. She did not go off half-cocked either. She got out the phone book, opened it to "attorney," and made a phone call. That afternoon she went to a meeting with a man she had known since grade school, a very competent and sympathetic lawyer.

1400. At her meeting with the lawyer she said. "I don't want to sue anyone, and there is no need even for small claims court, but my husband has to file his taxes, I need the correct forms, and the Museum refuses to comply and will not return my calls. All I ask is that you come with me to the museum and speak for me, so that I will not have to say anything at all. I just want them to see that I am serious professional artist.

1401. The lawyer knew in an instant exactly what the problem was; as a matter of fact he had seen it coming for two years now. He had been a member of the board of the museum for a long time, and he had seen the gradual deterioration of the director. He knew that the secretary had gradually taken over the running of the museum. All the board members knew the director was going to have to retire, but as of yet not one of them had the courage to confront the situation.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Breakdown, parts 1394 - 1397

1394. I wish I could say that was the end of her difficulties with the old museum director and his secretary, but it was just the beginning. Agnes, -Mrs. Festini's first name was Agnes- returned home with her check and reported it to her husband. Later the doctor passed the information on to his accountant; then about two weeks went by. At the end of that time the accountant called the doctor and asked about the specific amount, and if there would be a 1099 tax form to file.

1395. Dr. Festini, just like most doctors never concerned himself with the details of financial arrangements, so he asked Agnes to call the museum and to find out if there would be a tax form they would issue recording her payments for tax purposes. Neither Agnes, the accountant, or the doctor was aware that there had been no actual payment, and therefore no tax form would be issued. And so again no response was forthcoming from the museum.

1396. In the meantime both the doctor and the accountant continued to badger Agnes about the tax forms. Poor Mrs. Festini; she felt a distinct, embarrassment about the previous altercation; she blamed it on herself, and yet she was unable to get the necessary information out of the museum office. The date for the tax filing was fast approaching, and the doctor was almost rude several times to his wife about the matter in the morning over breakfast. 

1397. The secretary was out sick for twelve days with the flu, and the director knew nothing about anything in the first place, and besides he was obsessed at that time with the arrival of some antiquities from Mesopotamia, with missing requisition forms.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Breakdown, parts 1390 - 1393

1390. This year alone the accountant had deducted 40,000 dollars for additions to his wife's art studio. "Is this a hobby," asked the accountant, "or can she show at least some income to offset against these expenses?" 

1391. But she could not be paid anything according to the museum rules.  At the time the director had been so unnerved by her sudden angry behavior that he paid her a hundred dollars out of his own pocket, just to get her out of the office. She was in such a nervous distraught state that he was temped to call for assistance, and even suggested she might need to be taken to the hospital.

 1392. It was the secretary who was responsible for sending out the payments, and she had neglected to inform Mrs. Festini, and never answered her calls inquiring about the lack of payment. Later she tried to portray Mrs. Festini in a bad light, implying that she was just a crazy lady ranting about something in the director's office and "accosting" everybody, it was really an obvious attempt to deflect from the fact that she herself was entirely to blame for the whole situation.

1393. From that fact alone you can see what the problem really was. Mrs. Festini had the simple habit of referring to herself as "an artist." When she said, "I am an artist," it did not come across as when someone else might for example say, "I am a carpenter," or "I am a dentist." What her description of herself seemed to suggest was that the secretary was not an artist, and therefore a nobody.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Breakdown, parts 1386 - 1389

1386.The director of the museum looked into it, and found that the class had only seven students in it. The first seven students paid their tuition and that went for the rental of the museum space; anything over seven was the amount paid to the instructor. This information was printed clearly in the contract she had signed when she started working at the museum, but she had never bothered to look at it. 

1387. By this system if she had eight students then she made one hundred dollars, but if she had seven she received nothing.  If she had twenty students then she made twelve- hundred dollars. It was an odd system but no one complained, least of all Mrs. Festini because she had no need or interest in money since her husband was a prominent brain surgeon. Here is what they all said about the great husband, "He is the best in the mid-west."  Such was Dr. Festini's title.

 1388. It is not surprising that she never read the contract she signed, she had no idea how much she would make, and she didn't care. You can be sure the contract was in among the papers in her hatbox, and had never been looked at, much less read. She would have happily taught her class for free, so the altercation that took place in the museum directors office was not  exactly about money: it was about simple respect and consideration. 

1389. The argument was prompted by the fact that a month had gone by and no one from the museum returned her calls asking about her payment. She would not even have called at all except that her husband's accountant demanded a receipt for payment in anticipation of doing the great doctor's taxes. "Was there going to be a 1099 tax form, and for how much?" The accountant left no stone unturned making sure that no person at the IRS would ever question Dr. Festini's tax returns. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Breakdown, parts 1382 - 1385

1382. He was the sort of man who assumed that anyone would have the same degree of interest in his pet subject as he himself possessed, and if not, he was doing you a great favor to enlighten you about the value of his judgments. Perhaps you might one day collect stamps: his observations could prove invaluable.

1383. This then was the sort of man he was.  He was a man who had been completely ruined by a profession. A profession that has filled his mind with millions of opinions that he mistook for facts; a profession that has rendered him incapable of conducting a reasonable conversation in the real world. He was like a religious fanatic who sees every aspect of reality through their distorting mirror.

 1384. They take their aesthetic opinions for the obvious truth. One must suffer through their conversation trying not to look at ones watch too many times or to obviously. Also, he was losing his mind; that was obvious. You could see it in an instant when he ask you two times in a row if you liked the Lincoln Memorial Stamp more that the Washington Memorial stamp.

 1385. There was an argument about money: the Museum had neglected to send her payment for her class. She asked for her payment many times and finally she became angry and in desperation stormed into the old director's office and told him she was going to make a claim in small claims court if they did not pay her that very afternoon. 

Mrs. Festini's breakdown, parts 1378 - 1381

1378. This was a good situation for Mrs. Festini and myself because the class had to have a minimum of seven students to be launched, and those men always made up the number, without which there would have been no sessions. After my discovery of the old photograph in Mrs. Festini's hatbox, I stayed late until after Bob the policeman finally left. That was the afternoon she told me the story of her argument with the old museum director, ten years ago. 

1379. I am going to tell you her version of it, as I don't know the other side of the story. It happened long ago, but the telling of it still put a wrathful look into her face just as in that old photograph from her youth. I had known both the old Director and his secretary just because of my job at the post office, and so I was inclined to accept Mrs. Festini's account of the affair.

1380. About that old museum director: this is what I remember. He would come into the post office to purchase stamps for the correspondence of the museum. Here it was lunch time, that time of day when all the locals are trying to get things sent out before they go back to work, and in comes Mr. Aesthetics Superior-To-You, to pick out his stamps. He wants to see everything that we have on hand and proceeds to take out a magnifying glass to have a careful look.

1381. In the line people begin to grumble and to complain, but it couldn't bother him in the least because what he is doing is so important, and besides, he is hard of hearing and doesn't notice anyway. If he would just make his selection, no matter how long it took, and go away that would have been alright, but once having made his selection I would be subjected to a lecture about why he chose thus and so engraved image, as opposed to the color offset reproduction. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Breakdown, parts 1374 - 1377

1374. I had heard that some time ago there had been a big argument between the director of the museum and Mrs. Festini. This  happened quite a while ago when the museum still had the old director practically from the time when the institution was founded. He and his secretary had run the place as if it was their own private collection for fifty years. 

1375. When I was taking classes he had retired and been replaced by a much younger man just out of college. It was the old director and his secretary that Mrs. Festini got into an altercation with. It was an argument about the number of students in her class. What was a policeman doing in the sculpture class? That needs an explanation, and has a direct bearing the argument.  In our class we had seven students, three firemen, two policemen, myself and a high school girl interested in casting molds of horses.

1376. The state had offered the firemen and policemen modest pay increases if they enrolled in continuing education classes at our community college. Many of them signed up, and their greatest interest was in the art classes because they noticed that it was unnecessary to attend in order to get a passing grade. The community college passed these classes on to the museum, so as not to be bothered with them, and many of these men were in our classes.

1377. Mrs. Festini, being the kind of woman she was, would not give them a passing grade unless they attended all the sessions and turned in their work. Surprisingly they became very engrossed in the class, they were all hunters and fisherman, and produced endless images of trout, deer, and other animals created with practically the same devotion as Dennis Bezanowitz that Buboni told us about.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Breakdown, parts 1370 - 1373

1370. That was the kind of picture that had been riding around in Mrs. Festini's hatbox these many years, and I was holding it in my hand as she finished her lecture about Brunelleschi and his dome. When she asked if any of us had any questions I said, "Yes, can you tell me whom this is a photograph of?"

1371. Even as I asked this inappropriate question I realized the answer, it was Mrs. Festini herself, as a young woman, probably at the end of high school, or starting college. My question startled her, and for a moment she did not answer, but then she stated the obvious, saying, “It is a picture of me, home from college at Christmas my first semester, a painting was to be made from it, but it didn't work out.”

1372. Then Bob, a policeman in our class blurted out, "What was the matter you get stood up for the prom?"  This was the same man who some time before had often stood behind me at night asking questions when I was casting those manhole covers into plaster.  She ignored Bob's remark, and I put the picture back in the pile by the hatbox.

 1373. I felt nervous and stirred; I had been forced to see my teacher in a different light. For the first time I saw in her face the remains of her stunning beauty, and also a buried anger I had never noticed before. It reminded me of the rumor I had heard about the argument between the museum director and our teacher.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Breakdown, parts 1366 - 1369

1366. But I had started to tell you about the old black and white photograph I found that had such an effect on me. It was during the lecture Mrs. Festini gave about Brunelleschi. As usual she was projecting a picture of the cathedral she had taken out of her hatbox, and the other papers were scattered all over the table in a heap. Among them was a tattered portrait of a young girl, taken a long time ago, torn on the edges, and creased.

1367. The expression on the face was one of anger mingled with confusion. One could see that it was a serious formal portrait of the type that is taken for a graduation, and by a professional with the proper equipment. But it was clearly a woman who had refused to smile at the photographer's request, or a shot taken in that telling moment when the true mood of the sitter shows.

1368.  It was one of those best pictures that must be rejected because it has no place in a yearbook. There is too much anger in the face, almost rage. Why would anyone have kept such a portrait so long I wondered? What was going on in her mind at the time; what could she have been thinking?

1369. What is more beautiful than an angry woman? Especially at that moment when her injury is transformed into rage, and a vein throbs in her temple. The moment when the fur rises up as on a cat's back, she stiffens her legs and makes up her mind to attack no matter what, rather than stand her ground. The adversary's blood runs cold and they slink quickly away, and her beauty at that moment is of complete indifference to her.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Breakdown, parts 1362 - 1365

 1362. Nevertheless she loved perspective as a thing in and of itself, and, as I said before, she elevated the concept in her mind to almost a spiritual significance. As a rule she kept her feelings about perspective entirely to herself, because she realized that she was considered a little strange for giving it such importance, especially when no one else at the museum was interested in it in the least. 

1363. She had first offered to teach a class just in perspective, concentrating on one point in the spring term, going on to two point is the fall, and then following it up with a class for special problems of perspective for the advanced students. This never happened because not one single student signed up for her class, and she was forced to take on the sculpture class instead, for which she was not really prepared having never done any sculpture herself.

1364. The entire time she was telling us about the cathedral and its Dome, and how smart Filippo Brunelleschi was I couldn't help but feel that the real subject of the lecture was the treatment of Filippo by the council, and how he had become heated in the discussion and had to be thrown out of the meeting, and was later made fun of as a fool, even though he was the only one with the knowledge to solve the problem of how to build the dome.

1365. There was a rumor I had heard about Mrs. Festini having gotten into trouble with the museum director about something or other and her having made a scene in his office. I had no idea if this rumor was true or not, but the very fact that she chose to tell this story from Vasari made me think that something unpleasant had happened in the past, and she had a desire, even after several years, to justify herself.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Breakdown, parts 1358 - 1361

1358. So an egg was procured and the artists in turn tried to make it stand on end; but they were all unsuccessful. Then Filippo was asked to do so, and taking the egg graciously he cracked its bottom on the marble and made it stay upright. The others protested that they could have done as much, and laughing at them Filippo retorted that they would also have known how to vault the cupola if they had seen his model or his plans. 

1359. So they resolved that Filippo should be given the task of carrying out the work, and he was told to give more details to the councils and the wardens. (From the life of Filippo Brunelleschi, by Giorgio Vasari.) 

1360. Mrs. Festini was very fond of the renaissance artist and architect Filippo Brunelleschi, and I suppose the reason was because of her love of the science of perspective drawing which that artist was so instrumental in discovering. Festini was well aware that artists ever since the beginning of impressionism had tended to avoid the use of perspective. 

1361. She was even willing to admit that the paintings in museums done before perspective always tend to be more charming and imaginative. She herself pointed out that if you compare painting after the discovery of perspective to works done before, the latter tend to be dry and mathematical looking, lacking magic and curious inventiveness.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Breakdown, parts 1354 - 1357

1354. Filippo alone said it could be built without a great deal of woodwork, without piers or earth, at far less expense than arches would entail , and very easily without any framework. It seemed to those assembled that Filippo was talking nonsense. They mocked and laughed at him and turned away saying he should talk about something else as his ideas were as mad as he was. 

1355. Filippo grew more and more heated as he talked, and the more he tried to explain his concept so that they might understand and accept it the more skeptical their doubts about his proposal made them, until  they dismissed him as an ass and a babbler. Several times he was told to leave, but he absolutely refused to go, and then he was carried out bodily by the ushers, leaving all the people at the audience convinced he was deranged.

1356. This ignominious affair was the reason  why Filippo had later to admit that he dared not walk anywhere in the city for fear of hearing people call out: "There goes the madman."

1357. At a second meeting of the council Filippo was asked to explain his plan in detail and to also show his model. He was unwilling to do this, but he suggested to the other masters, both foreign and Florentine, that whoever could make an egg stand on end on a flat piece of marble should be the one to build the cupola, since this would show how intelligent each man was.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Breakdown, parts 1350 - 1353

1350. It was during one of Mrs. Festini's lectures: she was telling us about Brunelleschi, and his struggles to convince the Florentines to accept his plan for the building of the dome over the cathedral, a project left unfinished for 100 years for lack of an architect with an acceptable plan to build it. I can't now remember exactly what she said, but it is a famous little  story about...well here it is in short, I have it on my iPad, it is worth remembering so I will print it out so you can read it.

1351. Vasari: In the year 1420 were assembled all those experts from the north of the Alps and from Tuscany , along with all the most able Florentine designers; and Filippo Brunelleschi himself returned from Rome. They assembled in the Office of Works of Santa Maria del Fiore, to listen to each artists' suggestions and then reach a decision on how to vault the cupola of the Cathedral. 

 1352. It was wonderful to hear the strange and  diverse opinions on the subject: some said that piers should be constructed from ground-level; others said it would be well to make the cupola out of pumice stone so that it would be less heavy; many agreed that the cupola should be raised in the form of a groin vault , like that of San Giovanni at Florence. 

1353. There were even some who suggested that the best method would be to fill the void with a mixture of earth and coins so that when it was completed those who wanted to could be given permission to take away the earth and in that way it could all be removed quickly without expense.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Otis' Dream, parts 1346 - 1349

1346. These two ideas were the beginning of his analysis. He would have produced more variations if time allowed but he died before he finished this work. He died, but not before he completed his theory of the production of dreams. The idea that was missing was creeping around in his unconscious like the coming on of a migraine headache.

 1347. Finally if burst into the night of day in his brain. His brain all this time was not storing black and white photographs in hat boxes, it was storing clips of black and white silent films in tin cylinders. If he had lived just a few more years he would have been able to add sound to his theory, and it goes without saying that his followers would later add color.

1348. With this addition his theory of dream production was complete. Details continued to keep him awake at night. He could not reconcile his film clip archival assemblage concept with the idea that forms mutated in dreams from one thing to another. He could not imagine at that time that photo-shop and computer animation would arise to both complete and vindicate all of his theories.

1349. I was trying as best I could to pay attention to the Duck's lecture about Freud and the production of dreams, and although I understood the basic ideas and agreed with Freud's concepts, still the very subject was forcing me to continually remember an old faded black and white photograph I saw once, an old photo that I came across by accident and that altered the trajectory of my life at the time.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Otis' Dream, parts 1342 - 1345

1342. Now it was 1938 and Freud was finding that the scene of the struggle to get back in the shack teetering on the precipice was producing in him just a flood of tears, but not any laughter. "Why am I so obsessed with this film; why do I persist in returning to it again and again," he asked himself. In his usual way he subjected this question to analysis. Since it is an important part of his theory of dreams, I will explain his analysis in detail.

1343. From Freud's notes about "The Gold Rush": Big Jim?  Who does Big Jim represent in my unconscious? It has to be Carl Jung, who else could it be? And so the shack on the precipice must represent the state of the science of psychoanalyses during my conflict with Jung.

1344. Or the storm that has driven the shack to the edge of the precipice could possibly be the rise of Hitler and the coming of Nazi Germany in the 30s since we in Austria were poised on the edge of destruction

1345. My last minute escape to England, he thought, is completely described in the film, as I was forced to leave Austria without any of my art collection or antique furniture. This is the explanation of why viewing the film years ago moved me to laughter, and now provokes tears.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Otis' Dream, parts 1338 - 1341

1338. There were no good answers to these questions and after spending many days engrossed in deep reflection on all aspects of dream manufacture, he decided to take a break and go to see a movie. At that time Freud's favorite film star was the American Charlie Chaplin. He had seen all of his films many times. Although he had seen "The Gold Rush," twelve times already he decided to see it yet again.

1339. Perhaps you think that Freud would have been drawn to more serious fare, something like Fritz Lang or Von Sternberg seems like it would suit the tasted of the great man. But in his entertainments Freud liked to put aside all of the serious questions that preoccupied him, and give himself over to unbridled hysterical laughter.  Wiping tears from his eyes from laughing so hard he often found himself falling out of his seat onto the floor of the theater.

1340. There is a scene in the Gold Rush where the gold-miner's shack has been driven by a storm to the edge of a precipice. The little tramp's companion Big Jim falls out the door and is hanging by his fingernails from the doorjamb. Charlie falls out also. Hanging on to Big Jim's shoe he dangles over the abyss. Slowly he claws his way up the body of his partner and back into the cabin.

1341. That scene in the Gold Rush is one of utter desperation.  Everything has gone wrong, and only by impossible struggle can the little tramp save his life. That is the most comic episode in the film.  When the film first came out it was 1924 and at that time Freud would find himself laughing so hard at this scene his vision was blurred by his tears. Over the years he viewed this film over and over again like a child memorizing a Disney cartoon feature.