Notes On Performance and Narrative Art

oil painting by lenore goodell, placitas, new mexico, early 70's


Art is a return to normal, a sliding back of the scale to economy and wise decisions, decisions made in the heat of passion never remembered in tranquility.

It is vinegar and soda mixed and when the froth is over the limp dry aftermath that results.

That’s why performance is so interesting. There they pay the performer, you pay at the gate and you go in to be detained for an hour or so. What a relief from the tedium of life to go somewhere and have the intensification of tedium to deal with. The pretense that life is alright and that the froth at the top of the fishbowl means that the fish are having a good time.

While underneath it is murky and reptilian presidents glue jaws on each other and suck each other’s last remaining death instincts out.

It is the small presidents that matter that are young these days. Those that get away with creating romance and giving us in the club something to laugh about. We can only start locally unless we’re rich and here we are rubbing shoulders with art that makes no noise, pictures that rot in the gardens of the brain vacuums of the artists, noisome pretenses of “what’s going on” when most of it is bad painting, sexless cowboy sculpture or decorative purses turned inside out and parading as breasts.

The only return is the strength of the instincts where the quality of remorse is pure and life gets caught in the action. Careful pure draftsmanship with the heart-head in every particle of ink. The flow of pure art is a rare line with wash of meaning connecting or filling. Over a period of time the story builds up until it takes time to “listen,” which hardly any of us have. Thus the intense loneliness of the real artists and the terrifying wall-breaking going on, whether you hear it or not.

Narration is all that remains of our personal stories whether anyone listens or not. No drinking bars anymore to string yourself out on somebody else’s line. Only the closed bars of a penitentiary culture with the individual raging going on.


Art is living spaces void of contact. Holistic Europa. You rape a rope a Naropa pope. To elucidate is pure luxury. There can never be going back over and defining except in lawyers’ offices and therapy. Art therapy is going back over what you’ve seen. It’s healthy, hilarious and holistic. All the holes are present. You are constantly beginning anew whether you like it or not. Art notes. Art notes 2. Too much raging gets boring. Ranting and raving is a cliche and raging turns into song. Curiously delirious song comes up over the walls where you turn and look out the window. Suddenly all is pure. You may define.

Number 1. Performance brings contact back into art. There is the poet’s living breath. There is the sense of where the body has been in dance. Your eyes follow the dancer or the movement in the gallery space. But this only happens a little, not a lot. There’s always a place for curious static art to borrow the walls and take up space. The register of what is pure for centuries, but it is pure and golden that some few people have better knowing eyes than others. In a city of a quarter-million you may rub shoulders with other artists all the time but the league of the spirit that maximizes strength dissipates when there are so few sure eyes—and exact hands. Hands that are eyes, for instance. When hands are eyes.

The walls take up the space and throw it out the windows. A curiously pure day. Pure New Mexico fall space. We live so few to know. The sun bright and warm through the large windows. The cherry trees red leaves. Yellow brown cottonwoods down in the arroyos. Living here above the town and in the village. The village contours shape the mind. The mind throws out the town and becomes rural. We must be democratic if we are to have any friends. There are too few spaces that are capitalized by greatness. We feed it back into the furrow—bone meal, blood meal, manure. As if I was a plant. My mind is mated to plants. We are crossbreeds. And out of that comes a shape that gives art season. Arts grouped by season. Calendars of art. Poetry, the pushing up of song, the small painting more than the large one, the minuscule defining growing, growing, getting so big it’s almost a yard long and a foot wide, her painting. His sculpture a long board with a shoe on it saying Fuck off! Wood grows. Paper grew. Paints came out of the earth on paper. Canvas a weaving you could wear if you were stiff.

A Story

Europa was made whole by Zeus who made love to her under the plane tree. He carried her off in the form of a beautiful bull over the waters to Crete. Zeus was made whole by all the holes he plugged. Beautiful holy Zeus. Beautiful Europa, holistic Europa, and all the holes are singing they are plugged. The plugged holes sing and the gods are born. Out of them they come, one by one, and sometimes two by two. Heaven and earth give birth. The straining and the lurch. Europe is named. A beautiful bull is blamed. Over the waters to Crete. The white bull’s feet tripping over the crests of the waves, Europa on his back flowers falling from his horns and there under the plane tree in Crete made love, leaves bright red overhead. You can see them right now framed against the sky, the bolt blue sky that brings the crisp edge to things.

The imagination pictures pictures before and after the pictures hanging on the wall. And that is narration, seeing pictures that aren’t on the wall. The happening between the frames that isn’t movies. Movie frames happen faster. Picture frames don’t exist in narration, verbal narration. I told or retold a story. You can see it. The crisp leaves of autumn. But in a painting frame after frame telling substance of a person’s life, the visualized essence, parade of essences, that is narrative visual art at its best. It is an imagined performance in a life scope caught in the drawing or painting, and you must have a group of them to get the different views of the visual life, superior eyes. Her world given in ecstatic pieces laid out in a pretense of calm color.

Best art is ecstatic, but nobody uses that term, it’s stated calm. But behind the calm is the canvas or paper hanging there, perpetually. That is, the counterpoints release the color in rhythms of tension. Tense taut, tense taut. That is its subtlety, the subtlety of Lenore Goodell’s painting/drawings. Tense, taut, the color rhythms out through tension, the tension within, hanging caught there, trapped to sing, which is not a raging but a singing, and the life story goes on between and through each picture hanging on the wall. This is not performance but implied performance.

Narrative art is implied performance of the artist going through life, each segment lopping over between each segment. Each “frame” lopping over between each “frame” — until a life is built, that is a vision of it. As complete as any key can be that fits and leads to something. Essence charged whole in parts that sing through tension out. That anyone can look, who likes to look and look — almost with 13 eyes, if you had them, or better yet, one good one, to see it out.

larry goodell / placitas, new mexico /written 30Oct80-1Nov80
& originally published in Exquisite Corpse, Vol.3/No.11-12/Nov-Dec 1985, page 8.
thank you Andrei Codrescu, Editor.


About larry goodell

Poet exploring his viable extensions - publisher, performer, playwright - hand to hand help in creating spaces for poetry to be live in - reading events, recordings, online and tangible publications in the vocal spirit of his New Mexico.
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