new children’s art

by Donald Kuspit

the child is not
                     the greatest imaginer,
as kandinsky thought,        
                            ever searching
for a new beginning
                         as his imagination aged,
finally fading into clichés
                           of consciousness.
nor is genius childhood
                              recollected in tranquility,
as baudelaire thought,
                             for there is no tranquility
in life,
           genius being restlessness made ruthless
by woe,
         constant as the blackness
beyond the stars,
                    unfathomable futility
in its endlessness.

                     lacking velazquez’s mature vision
and mastery,
                  picasso toyed with las meninas,
cheapening it into child’s play,
                                            crudely tore it apart,
a malicious boy cutting
                              the wings off a butterfly,
envious of their splendor
                                 and the mystery of its flight.
retreating to childhood
                               in expectation of rejuvenation,
he found only false innocence,
                                       unfresh feeling
and reckless indifference,
                                     the malice of incomprehension.

there are no new beginnings,
                                    only old stories
retold in memory,
                           mastery of memory the truth of art.
art is excavation
                   of the forgotten,
seized in spurts of recognition
                                     buried in myth.

the sensation of the new
                           is an illusion obscuring
the old eternity.
                  unable to lighten
the weight of time,
                      undo the limit of fate,
the new
        is a phantom promise
of infinite possibility.
                          wandering the crowded cemeteries
of consciousness,
                    the task of art
is to scoop the marrow
                              out of the bones of memory,
rob the graves
                    of the past.

the child has no memory,
                            which is why his newness
is futile.
         he is mindless which is why he lives
moment to moment.
                              he has no past,
which is why his being
                              is incomplete.
nothing yet has died in him,
                                        which is why he seems timeless.
unable to imagine the past,
                                  he is charismatically empty.

to be modern
                    is to be without memory,
to be as callously new
                               as a child,
deliberately obliterate memory
                                                to liberate innocent creativity.
but creativity is always guilty,
                                          accumulating feelings
in excruciating suffering,
                                 the wisdom of wonder
seasoning its sadness,
                             ripening it into reflection,
the raw gods remembered
                                     in its refinements,
carrying out the will of fate
                                in its designs. 
ripeness is the secret of suffering,
                                                  suffering ripens
into creativity,
                    creativity takes the measure
of memory,
                  which is why the art of the Old Masters
is memorable,
                         why the artfully new
is ephemeral,
                    suddenly spoils,
            of spoiled children.