Downtown Art

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July 25, 2005 // UPDATED 1:56 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Anna Pratt
Anna Pratt

Dear diary

I'm writing this because I've run out of ideas and I don't know what else to write. Usually, I write when I'm upset about something. I use your blank pages to say the same hopeless things over and over again. Apparently, I never get any wiser because I fill up lots of different pages with the same hopeless drivel.

I've always heard that it's good to keep a diary - that an older version of myself will thank me for it later. It's a real testimony to who I was or what I was thinking back then, right? Writers ought to keep a journal! I've heard that exactly 1 million times. Well, what will the more mature me think of the countless pages that I've wasted on dazed and/or confused meanderings?

Sometimes I do feel inspired and buy blank books just to jot down all of my brilliant innermost thoughts or emotions. When I open the stark white pages, though, it becomes very obvious that I didn't really have much to say to myself.

However, because I did buy the blank book, I must write something. So I tell myself to start simple. Maybe just describe the room. But I just won't listen to myself. My inspiration goes poof! And then it's business as usual. The blank book becomes a decoration in my room that lends the illusion that I'm more thoughtful than I actually am, which is as thoughtful as someone whose pages are actually blank.

Of course, I'd die if someone discovered my diary, this page even. Not because my diary contains racy confessions or strange-but-true tales about me (it doesn't because I don't feel at liberty to write those kinds of experiences down in a diary, even if I were to have them).

OK, fine, I'm kind of paranoid. I mean, everybody knows about famous writers' personal notebooks, and I don't intend this to be one of them. Can you blame me? Isn't it natural to feel cramped by the possibility of discovery? Do I really want the public knowing about how long it takes me to get through small crises?

One of the reasons I think the exercise just makes me dizzy is because a diary isn't really an entity. I've never really been able to talk to "you," or say something new because I'm painfully aware of the fact that you already know everything that I do.

I think if someone just looked over my shoulder a little, that would draw out more significant material. I recently came across a one-day writing workshop that gives me hope. Called "The Writer's Journal: Harnessing the Material," led by Morgan Grayce Willow, it may intervene on behalf of my lackluster conversations with myself - turning the stiflingly solitary activity into a more interactive one.

Willow promises to demonstrate how May Sarton, Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield's journals aided their writing processes. Some of the true details or events they wrote about made their fictional ones seem credible. As a bonus, it helped them just to get into the state of mind to write.

Willow also touches on indexing and retrieval systems. In preparation I'm supposed to acquire a copy of "The Hidden Writer: Diaries and the Creative Life," by Alexandra Johnson. Maybe I'll bring a fresh journal, too.

• Sa July 30, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Loft Literary Center, 1011 Washington Ave. S. $33. 215-2575, www.loft.org.

Up Close and personal

An iconic self-portrait by artist Chuck Close emphasizes every hair, mole, blemish and pore in sight. The micro details are so startlingly accurate that it seems like a photo and a gross fantasy simultaneously bringing new meaning to the idea of "in your face."

Obviously, it's not a very flattering perspective. Close defies cosmetic conventions and airbrushed perfectionism in a preemptive strike against a culture obsessed with Glamour Shots (and spin-offs). Talk about "before" and "after" - Close's 80 self-portraits reveal a string of pre- and post-self-examination from 1967-2005.

There's no "wonder product" placement here, except for his face on its own. Touting objectivity, his works also turn features into objects. Even the hairs on his face seem like props. His face becomes a vast terrain like that of a landscape, with a stylized texture usually reserved for amazing vistas.

But who'd pull over to the side of the road just to catch a glimpse of someone's face? When they appear with such magnitude, faces can't help but capture a viewer's interest. These aren't works you'd typically find hanging in someone's living room, especially because they're so monumental.

These self-portraits come packaged in various mediums, including painting, drawing, photography, collage and printmaking. That's not the limit though. There are also pieces constructed entirely out of pieces of paper pulp, etchings, woodcuts, linoleum block printing, screenprinting, photos, collages and 19th-century daguerrotype.

Many of these works have never been available for public view in this exhibit co-presented by San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Walker Art Center. (The Walker was also the first museum to house a Chuck Close work.)

• Tu-Su thru Oct. 16; Tu-W & Sa-Su 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Th-F 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave. S. $5-$8. 375-7600, www.walkerart.org.