Guinevere Gets Sober

Recovery news, reviews and stories, by Jennifer Matesa.

Addiction and art: Niki de Saint Phalle’s “Shooting Pictures.”

Took the past few days off to roam London.

I love London more than most cities, and I am more familiar with it than any big city in the U.S.

But there were some things I hadn’t seen before. The Tate Modern, for instance. Hell, it’s only 10 years old…

Andy, at the Tate Modern.

 

Here’s a little discovery I made in London: Niki de Saint Phalle.

“Shooting Picture,” by Niki de Saint Phalle, 1961

Actually, the painting was “shot” by Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, using polythene bags filled with paint and enclosed with plaster, against a blockboard backing.

But Niki de Saint Phalle liked making these pictures herself. She liked making them so much that, two years after this picture was made, she had to stop making shooting pictures altogether. She explained,

I had become addicted to shooting, like one becomes addicted to a drug.

I know addicts who have become addicted to “shooting.” It’s just as difficult for them to stop “shooting” as it is for them to stop wanting the drug that gets them off. Maybe even more. They adore the needle at least as much as they love what’s in it.

I stood in front of this picture for a long time… I was with some artist friends of mine, and we looked at the craters the paint-bombs had made in the plaster, the bleeding of the paint against the bruised skin of plaster and wood, and we talked about how someone could have become “addicted” to making paintings such that she had to stop making them.

“What is it about the compulsion that’s so destructive?” I asked my friend. Because I have always thought of my own art as generative and constructive.

“Power,” my architect friend finally said:

Haven’t you ever SHOT anything? It’s power.

1 Comment

  1. Great photos. Interesting thoughts about having such a passion for something that one has to give it up–maybe blogging is a bit like that.

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