Friday, February 16, 2007

I Move In Two Weeks... But Tonight I Live My Final Time, In Santa Fe

A movie about Milli Vanilli is in the pipeline, according to reports emerging from Hollywood. The film will detail the rise and fall of the late-'80s duo, who became international stars only to be exposed as pop frauds.

Jeff Nathanson, writer of Catch Me If You Can, is understood to be behind the biopic, which has the backing of the group, claims the Daily Variety. Both Fabrice Morvan and the estate of Rob Pilatus, who died in 1998 of a drugs overdose, have apparently approved the project. Nathanson admitted to being "fascinated by the notion of fakes and frauds, and in this case, you have guys who pulled off the ultimate con." He describes Milli Vanilli, who sold 30 million singles and 11 million albums, as "the biggest laughing stocks of pop entertainment." The group was awarded a Best New Artist Grammy in 1990, only to be stripped of the award after it was revealed that they hadn't sung on their own recordings. – Yahoo News 2/15/2007 (Can be get more newsworthy than Yahoo?)

Everyone loves a good fraud story. Although my own idea of “how to become a master criminal” does not include dressing-up like a pop music flavor-of-the-month; I am intrigued by the concept of alter-egos. Over the past ten years, I’ve bleached my hair, gained and dropped substantial weight, worn only glasses, worn only contacts, worn my hair nearly shaved, and worn it past my shoulders. Inadvertently, these drastic physical changes have always coincided with relocation. Two weeks ago, I walked into the barber for the first time in two years. After some arguing, they were convinced that I was serious about ordering them to shave my full-beard and cut-off my curly eighteen inch locks in preparation for a return move to the south.

I don’t set-out to create these new personas, it just happens. Santa Fe is the type of place that encourages alternative styles and radical approaches; so it wasn’t long after moving here that I let myself “go with the flow” of the city. Is it fraudulent to look one way in a place such as the southern Midwest and like Grizzly Adams somewhere else? My paintings require a certain intimate knowledge of a region’s residents in order to recreate a visual impression of actual immersion in the area’s society. I search for those momentary opportunities to acquire the casual intimacy of everyday interactions with long-time residents. Being allowed into the comfort-zone of a society allows me to see the hidden gems of a landscape, as well as understand the reason why someone would spend a lifetime in only one place. In Santa Fe, I took the most radical approach yet to try and understand the people where I lived. This city contains the most drastic class differences, I have ever encountered. There is essentially no middle class, here. Everyone is either very wealthy or poor bordering on destitute. It is a trend that seems to be spreading across this country.

I reluctantly admit that with the rare occasional exception, I am preparing to move again and have primarily spent the last two years hobnobbing with the rich. It was with this realization that led me two months ago to take a minimum wage night job working the docks at FedEx. I wanted to understand why the “working poor” members of a community continue to stay within the region. I haven’t worked for minimum wage in G-d knows how many years (though sometimes, I believe teaching wasn’t too far a leap). The men I have worked with consist mostly of former military, are staunch Republican, and desperately in love with a place whose innocence they view only in memory. They live a daily fight with the illegals for work, while the wealthy outsiders (mostly transplants from LA and NY) decide their fate. Everyone has at least two jobs, though many have three. They utilize paid vacation time from one vocation to gain overtime in another. While on one hand I feel that I nearly missed the hidden truths of Santa Fe, I wonder if I had lived these interactions any sooner than I did – would I have been able to stomach the reality enough to stay on for two years? My affection for the high desert has been fickle and sporadic. I love the unending line of Chile-infused cuisine, but hate the soulless class-system. I adore the clear, cool night sky, but despise the constant fight for water rights among inhabitants of low-rising trees.

The following quote was passed on to me by my old friend, Gaelon:

The reason why so few good books are written is that so few people
who can write know anything.
Walter Bagehot
English economist & journalist (1826 - 1877

While I agree that it sums up the ongoing state of publishing, I dare say it encompasses all of creativity and the process of accurately representing life. I now know my recent crops of paintings searching for Utopia were directly inspired by these moments of harsh reality. Enduring freezing desert night temperatures in the open doorways with my fellow unionized dock workers, waiting for the seemingly endless line of trucks, unloading packages while discussing the loss of the city from their youth and the small joys they still garner from their family’s traditions and recipes.

Tonight is my last night of work, before the move. I believe I will miss the interactions I gathered from my minimum wage job, more than the collective whole of this state. The images it granted were of the true price of citizenship. This opportunity furthered my belief that it is essential for me to emulate the inhabitants of a place in order for my paintings to better present the mindset of the long-time resident. An action that is no more wrong than attempting to become like another man so that I may similarly comprehend the unique fight for love, hate and passion in that person. A painter, an actor, a fraud… all to become someone or something that can feel true? – DN

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