January 17, 2007

My Boy Peter

He is often here in the evenings, brings books and his studies along. He comes for dinner, and we talk about the world - THE BUSH plan for Iraq (more of the same, it’s broke and can’t be fixed), local Palm Beach County issues (taxes and insurance are way out of line), his classes (Art History class requires way too much memorizing and there isn't time to thoroughly look at the artworks), but he will not talk about his mother and father. I don’t know what’s going on there - actually I do - I just can’t talk about it and keep Peter’s trust. So, I’ll let it drop there. It feels almost as though I’ve adopted a son, except that we have a connection that allows deeper intercourse (pun not intended) than father and son.

Our conversation is likely to wonder into art, literature, art theory, history or religion. For example, the other evening, the night of the Golden Globes, we discussed Kate Kretz’s painting of Angelina Jolie, Blessed Art Thou. That evening Angelina on the big rectangular box, looked cool, almost cold, reserved, as though she were somewhere other than the Golden Globe Awards. One of the co-hosts even made a half-snide remark that Angelina was too busy saving third world children to be interested in the mundane events at the awards. I showed Kate Kretz’s painting to Peter, and that sparked a conversation about Judith Butler’s feminist work, Bodies That Matter, 1993, and Gender Trouble, 1990, much of which I had discussed also in my December 20, 2006 entry, Charles Ray’s Art, Entrapment, Fear of Conversion, and the Palm Beach County “Social Disease” – Part II. In both books Butler discusses her notion of “performance,” as the way normative behaviors become socially encrypted, that is our behaviors are like recordings, molecules rearranged on the surface of our psyche by repeated socially accepted acts that are demonstrated to us by the adults around us when we are young. The rearranged molecules are built in stronger strands and layers by repeated performance until the behaviors we play back to others seem to be the way all human beings of our type should behave. Even feminine and masculine behaviors are learned at the feet of our parents, though I believe the child doesn’t choose which behaviors to encrypt based on the necessity dictated by his/her own genetic/biological makeup.

Be that as it may, Peter and my conversation returned to Kretz’s painting of Jolie, having decided that Jolie’s performance of “Mother” was perhaps based in part on an encrypted recording of a parent or other family member’s altruistic mothering behaviors. We also discussed the possibility that Jolie as a child literally believed the teachings of her religion that we are all of us God’s children. As an actress, she has trained herself through performance to be that which she was shown as a child, perhaps a modification of Butler’s idea of performance, but the proof is in the pudding as they say.

After dinner I sit and read on the porch, or I work on photographs I’ve taken recently, or write to you, dear journal. Peter is at the desk in my living room studying. It seems colleges and universities down here return to school immediately after the holidays as do the public schools in the North, not the third or fourth week of January as most colleges and universities do in Yankee land. There is no talking during study time. It is so quiet that even I can hear the tapping sound as Peter works on his laptop. Often I go to bed leaving Peter engrossed in his books, papers, and computer. When I get up in the morning, he has left for home, work, or school.

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