Sean Scully and the Art of Everything

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Really enjoyable documentary about the painter, Sean Scully, shown recently on the BBC: Unstoppable: Sean Scully and the Art of Everything.

On what got him interested in art:

“I can’t really explain why I got hypnotised by art. I don’t really know how I managed to get there from where I was. It’s sort of inexplicable to me, but I used to look at books. I loved these books and they had almost this kind of religious importance to me. And the ones that were the most approachable were these books by Thames & Hudson called The World of Art.”

How Van Gogh’s Chair got him into art school:

“When I was trying to get into art school I had to find something that I could do, that I could teach myself, because I was self-taught. And, some of these things, I can see, are a bit too complicated, but I thought this painting looked as if anybody could have painted it. It seemed as if it was something I could do myself. So I made all these little Van Gogh’s and I got my portfolio together and I got turned down by eleven art schools. All of them. And it was unbelievably discouraging. And finally I came upon an art school that had a little vocational course – not a degree course – in Croydon. So I applied and I miraculously got in. And that’s the beginning.”

On doubt:

“I don’t have self-doubt. I don’t have doubt and I don’t think that doubt is useful, or constructive. It doesn’t create anything. You have to have faith and commitment and belief to do something that hasn’t been done before or to create something extraordinary. It’s already difficult enough without you putting roadblocks in your own way.”

On America:

“People like to pretend that America is the Land of the Free, but it’s not. It’s the Land of Weapons is what it is.”



You Just Got Out of Prison. Now What?

Carlos and Roby are two ex-convicts with a simple mission: picking up inmates on the day they’re released from prison and guiding them through a changed world:

Eventually, Dale Hammock appeared. Hammock was 65, white, his head shaved completely bald, both arms wrapped in black tattoos. He wore sweat shorts, a white T-shirt, canvas slip-ons and white socks pulled up near his knees. All his clothes were bright and brand-new. As he approached Carlos and Roby, he thrust his chest toward them as far as it would go. Inside, this might have signaled strength and authority, but out here, it looked bizarre, as if he had some kind of back deformity.

You can’t help but feel for the ex-convicts, suddenly cast adrift in the outside world. Having lived a life on the inside for decades, this new reality seems overwhelming, confusing and terrifying:

Roby took a picture on his phone, showed it to Hammock, then zapped it off to the team at Stanford. Hammock was amazed. ‘‘Everything now, you just touch it, and it shows you things?’’ he asked. It was like having breakfast with a time traveler. Was he correct in noticing that men didn’t wear their hair long anymore? Was it true that everyone had stopped using cash? Later, in the restroom, he wrenched the front of the automatic soap dispenser off its base instead of waving his hand under it.

The accompanying New York Times Magazine article is here.