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Sunday, September 04, 2016



What determines an artist who makes works of art revered through the ages of time?

Success in their own time? 

One landmark is a CUT in Art History such as Picasso made more than once. Is it this? 

Leonardo took on great themes of mythology, of portrait painting, of landscape.

Michangelo's great theme was Christianity in the Sistine Chapel.

IMO the great theme now is the DEATH of Planet Earth as we know it, this hospitable place for our species and all those contemporaneous with us that took hundreds of millions of years to prepare.

What other artist has spent her life detailing this catastrophe we have made?

And why has she not been recognized as such? A prophet in her own country aphorism?

Well she has been traveling, teaching drawing/painting for 30 years, raising a family and working non stop in her studio, not schmoozing and PR ing with the rich and famous. Not a lifestyle to attract big time buyers around the world.

I first met Diane Burko quietly in the cafeteria at the University of Pennsylvania. I was doing research in psychology on Piaget's Conservation Concepts and she was beginning her MFA in preparation for teaching. There was nothing about her to suggest she had visions of greatness in her field. She was getting her credentials for teaching. And that's all I remember of her.

I would come across her work hanging in homes (John McCoubrey for one) and these early paintings were birds's eye views of landscapes. A green country farm, Philadelphia from the sky or up high somewhere. The kind of thing you see on google these days of places you know.

I would hear about her but never in terms of her being the next great thing. Her early large paintings of glaciers were elegant, austere, untouchable,  indifferent to us, our eyes looking at these objects. The brush strokes did not play erotically on the canvas, did not convey sensuousness. These fierce bitterly cold and indifferent glaciers were monstrously indifferent as Herzog would say, and Burko responded in kind. Her brushstrokes followed Nietsche's advice "Be more so than the subject, be WORSE!"

Then in the early 1990's Burko would get a grant to live and paint in Monet's Giverny. Here she painted the same scenes Monet painted and her brush was inspired by his, her strokes flowed and dripped and she became a different painter.  It was then I came to know her better through a mutual friend. And then I left Philadelphia. 

When I thought of her I began to think of her as a witness of Climate Change in the world. All her paintings became paintings of a lost world to me in my mind. Her life's work a chronicle of grief which she seemed not to acknowledge in any of her interviews online or in person. 

An example of Lacan and Zizek comes to mind for her. The unknown knowns that rule our lives, our destinies. I can think of nothing else that explains all the years she did this, flying in helicopters, airplanes, touring all these inaccessible unloving places. 

By 2006 the awareness of Climate Change, then labeled Global Warming, went more mainstream. Burko's paintings were then sought out to promote what scientists had been saying in their dry obtuse way with numbers and graphs. The paintings were irresistible for making their point and Burko responded with her great generosity of spirit. 

She no longer has to take her own photos because science has recorded these changes for her in their scientific photos. Places that she visited with exhilaration and desire, camera in hand, leaning out the opened door of a plane to get the shot she wanted, were now available to her as change by change took place. As Baudrillard would say what was conceived in the Symbolic Order as passion, living, sacred, death, love, seduction, challenge was entering the Order of Production. Science, measurement, survival, fascination, control began to take over and Burko began to paint the changes in those places of long ago that would never be the same again.

Here is where we get into the CUT in art history, the age old problem of representation. 
The more recent paintings of the glaciers, the mountains of ice encrusted snow over stone have melted, so what are we seeing. We are seeing representations of NOW? No longer the same as THEN. 

Burko has expressed her early abstract leanings as opposed to the landscape by jumping out of the dichotomy, the binary box art history had long confined them in, and soaring up high to Heaven, taking the object with a God's Eye perspective. Philip Guston also merged the figure/abstract concept he had struggled with. Art is eliminating contradictions, ideology, false dichotomies.

Now we can see a figure as abstract. We can google the Earth and its lands, sea, and air which now appear as abstract paintings. The artists gave us these images first in some way knowing what to reveal to us.

Where is the original? Is it the glacier now? Or is the one now the simulacrum. Maybe the simulacrum is the one Burko photographed and painted years and years ago? Is the original one 100 years ago? 1000000 ago? It is impossible to know. 

Each one in time is a simulacrum.
There cannot be anything to be called representational for it will become different in time. There will never be an original, only copies of copies.

The illusion of an original is an illusion.
There is no such thing.It has just been made up.Time will change anything
but maybe so slow you cannot notice.

Am I the same as the young woman who met Burko in 1966? Am I the simulacrum now? Or was I the simulacrum then?
I have no identity.Only multiple selves.
There is no linear time. No beginning. No end.

I am always someone different. I just change too slowly for myself to notice.

Now the glacier has changed in my lifetime so I can see the changes.
Glaciers used to change slowly so in one life their changes were not seen.
Now they change faster and faster so we can see. 
Will they speed up like a movie?

Now Burko photographs and paints volcanoes. The melting molten rivers of fire run down and around the volcano, twisting and flowing, burning all in its path then turning to hard, charcoal stony rock petrified lava gone cold. Stopped.

And here is the resonance with Houellebecq's Lanzarote.

Lanzarote - tourist attraction now

Once a cheap tourist destination until Houellebecq made it famous, these islands had endured volcanic explosions for over 100 years. The EFFECT on the people is detailed by Houellebecq in the Afterward of the novel. They are cautious, unfriendly, suspicious people.

So Burko has just destroyed representational art.
That is a fact. Did she intend to do it?
She has said her GOD'S EYE perspective on landscape is so she can keep abstraction.

Why do just idiots review her work, ask her stupid questions?

Does Burko cry at night for these lost glaciers and icy mountains?
I do. I cry at night. Someone ask her in an interview.

Does she love them? Petit still loved the World Trade Center Towers he walked across.
Gordon Levitt as Philippe Petit

The glaciers, mountains and the World Trade Center Towers
are Strange Attractors

These buildings are seductive.  And seduction is coupled with challenge. Always. Just like mountains, like Everest. They are objects beckoning the subject. They were Strange Attractors from Baudrillardian theory. Just as particles in a particle accelerator with opposite charges seek each other, play with each other, and when they collide....pouf!

These objects, these Strange Attractors, have been luring and seducing Burko all her life. They have wanted her to know, to speak for their voicelessness.

There is no original. Both are simulacra

LINK for multi images of Burko

Reviews - I include them so you can see that they can't see.