Zen Spot #51 -- Mindfulness, meditation and the dream of a motorcycle trip to Willem de Kooning’s studio February 19, 2018 00:05

A black, cloth-covered book

Tyler had a small library in 1980. Tyler School of Art. Full of big, cool art books, the library offered a quiet respite between classes. I’m not sure what drew me. The book was smaller and beaten up, with fraying edges. Perhaps because it was beaten up, worn from use and love.

Dedicated to Willem de Kooning’s Women series, I’d never seen anything like the work that called the book home. As a realist artist to that point in life, abstract art held little interest — until I met Willem.

Cracking the book, a door opened.

The toilet bowl entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel 

Another book was cracked when the island of Manhattan appeared for the first time. My bus eased through traffic, around the oval that drops into the tunnel's toll booths, just in front of the holes that swallow bus after bus after bus. The skyline. The awesome expanse. Forever into the distance. Still jaw-dropped at the sight of the twin towers, I couldn't wait to set foot in the new world.

I was eighteen. Willem was seventy-six. Just to find him. Electricity, youth, the natives and curiosity. A phone book. A five pound weapon with addresses that opened doors. Time to meet Willem.

East Hampton

He’d moved to Long Island permanently in 1971. A town so far away from where I was standing that it might as well have been in China. Reflected in my art and my heart, my world was small. I should have known he'd moved long before I arrived.

A ‘47 front-end with a ‘57 back-end

Tommy Dunwoody’s beard was a ten inch braid. Red hair fell to his shoulders, holding a bucket of grease.

He did crank. Lots of crank. So much that, while trying to simultaneously smoke and sleep for one hour every day, at lunch, he’d burn his chest when a smoldering butt would fall from a suspended hand while he laid down and dozed off. 

Dozens of burn marks stippled him. You don’t know Tommy, but if you know someone blessed with an infectious smile, you know Tommy’s smile. We worked together, during the summer, in shirtless heat, scraping boogers from the bottoms of elementary school desks. 

At 7:00 am, give or take, Tommy would arrive on his Harley Davidson. Loud, proud, smiling, high. His Hog had a ‘47 front-end and a ‘57 back-end . A bastard. That’s what he said. It was awesome.

Hogs and dreams

I’ve never ridden a motorcycle, but I’ve lived around plenty of Tommys. A Hog would be a dream. All riding is a dream. I'd prefer a bastard -- a motocross bike made street legal with a headlight and a Hail Mary.  Perfect for chasing ghosts across Long Island.

The dream of a dream of a three-and-a-half-hour motorcycle ride to East Hampton to meet de Kooning.

Red wine, discourse, silliness and fading into nothingness

Despite his studio being in a rural area, my mind’s eye projected sharing red wine in an open-air cafe on Bleecker Street. Listening to a master. Learning. Being given knowledge worth millions of dollars for the price of bottle. Perfectly saddle-sore from the ride.

The thrill of Bill

I know little of de Kooning’s temperament.  His voice remains a mystery. Video interviews have avoided me. Now, I avoid them. Perhaps he had an infectious smile like Tommy. I suspect he was quiet. Methodical. Serious.

Mind's eye

I’ve seen the maze of paintings in pictures of his studio. Because I never mounted that headlight or said that Rosary, my imagination is free to find respite among his artwork no matter where I find myself.

The maze is mine.



About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

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