#218 v15,11:124

20th anniversay issue #4
NORMAN J. OLSON : thoughts about art and Las Vegas August 2015
NORMAN J. OLSON : Las Vegas August 2015

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NORMAN J. OLSON thoughts about art and Las Vegas August 2015


I just got back last night from three days in Las Vegas… this is our last trip before Mary retires... and so, we wanted to do something cheap and easy… we had two free nights at the Orleans Hotel and so Sunday afternoon, we caught a flight to LAS from MSP… we got to Vegas about 7 p.m. and since cars were pretty cheap, we got a car for the trip… we stopped in the LAS terminal to book a room that I had found in our favorite downtown hotel, Main Street Station, for $67 that included a ten dollar buffet voucher…

I have written many times about how beautiful Main Street Station is to one like myself who enjoys the eclectic conglomeration of antiques and just plain old stuff, reassembled and repurposed to make this lovely building which is seriously, the most interesting, authentic and beautiful casino in Vegas… from the Victorian wrought iron and stained glass to the bronze boar on the bar (that was once a piece of public art in Nice, France) to the bronze doors from the old Royal Bank of Kuwait, this place is just plain a treat for the eyes… and the buffet is good… it is not gourmet, but then, neither am I, and the food is very good and plentiful with a most entertaining omelet maker named Manny… who jokes with the customers, calls everybody “movie star” and deftly flips the omelets ten feet in the air with his frying pan…

so, after the buffet on Monday morning, we decided to see how the other half live and drove over to Cesare’s Palace, still one of the more expensive and fancy places on the strip… frankly, the casino was not nearly as interesting to see as the one downtown at Main Street Station… and I had to laugh at the mixture of poorly rendered copies of Greek, Roman and Renaissance statues that they have scattered around to try and create the ambiance of Imperial Rome… or sort of a Disneyesque cartoon of Imperial Rome… we toured the casinos in that area and then for the afternoon went to the Orleans and checked in… it was a bit over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celcius)… and the pool was still open so I spent some cool refreshing time dipping into the pool and then sitting in the shade reading… I had two very good books along and I finished one and got a good start on the other over this visit… I will write more about the books in a bit…

the next day, we had breakfast at the Orleans… they make a really really good chicken gumbo that they serve for about five bucks for a huge bowl… so, I had gumbo for breakfast… no wonder my digestion is somewhat ruined! then for lunch we visited the buffet at a nice Casino out on Rancho Drive called Texas Station… Mary likes to play blackjack and the machines there… as we were leaving, I stopped to watch a crap table where a very entertaining dealer was jawing with one of the customers, and everybody was laughing and having a good time… a woman next to where I was standing took the dice and started making passes, so I put a few dollars into the game and eventually came out a bout $8 ahead… while this woman was shooting, a big heavyset guy with a beard and a shirt that said “thug” came up to the table and started tossing $100 chips on the hard ways and making other long shot bets with hundred dollar (black) chips… he did not say much but was raking in the stacks of hundreds as he hit his hard ways (pay 8 to 1 or 10 to 1) with hundred dollar bets… I left the table to go cash in my $8 and was just walking back from the cashier’s cage when I saw this big guy jump up in the air pumping his fist shouting “that’s what I’m talking about”… this from a guy who had hardly said a word since walking up to the crap table except instructions for his bets… I walked over to the table and the woman who had been shooting told me that the guy had just made something like $7000 on one roll of the dice on one of his one roll long shot bets… it was fun to watch the dealers count up the stacks of black chips and hand them over… too often, the money is going the other way!!! so, the guy walked away from the table nearly ten thousand dollars up… for about 15 minutes of playing the game… a time when I won $8!!! lol

so, we had another nice night at the Orleans and after another day sitting by the pool, we caught the late afternoon flight back to MSP and got back to Maplewood about one this morning…

really, I spent a lot of time sitting by the pool in the shade reading… my first book was called Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling… I have read this before and it is a lovely entertaining bit of history and biography that is so so well written that I am sure that even those only marginally interested in Renaissance art would enjoy it… the second was a biography of Marcel Duchamp… an erratic genius and brilliant painter who quit painting for good in 1918 when he was in his late 20s… his King and Queen Surrounded by Swift Nudes is one of my very favorite paintings and one of the finest works of art from the twentieth or any other century…

doing all this reading about great, brilliant and successful artists got me thinking about my own art, what it is and why I keep doing it… Michelangelo was a busy professional artist who earned a living, indeed supported his father and several brothers painting and sculpting masterworks for the Catholic church and a few other patrons… Duchamp gave away his few paintings, or sold them for a pittance… and made his living doing other things than making art… finally, he threw a monkey wrench in the whole mechanism of making art in any traditional way by basically inventing conceptional art where art is whatever the aristocratic artist deems art to be…

I do not sell art although, unlike Michelangelo, this is a decision that is as much imposed upon me as chosen by me due to the fact that nobody is calling my art important or clambering to buy it or hire me for a fat purse of gold to make more… if the pope was calling me up to paint a church ceiling for the kind of money Michelangelo was paid, I would probably take a shot at it… where, I am confident that Duchamp would not have… in fact, he turned down many requests for him to make art works… and as a famous art insider and confidant of the wealthy and powerful art elite, (not to mention as a painter with a rare and wonderful gift) he certainly could have made a lot of money at it… instead, he spent his time playing chess… so, he was more of a noncommercial artist than I am…

I have been working all summer on two small paintings… I am still not satisfied completely with either of them… and mostly making art that seems to satisfy me is such a struggle that I think that most of what I do with paintings is splash paint around and hope something interesting happens… back when I could hardly draw at all, I thought I was an immensely talented person, destined to make amazing magical art… now that I can actually (through years and years of practice) draw pretty well, I think I am a person with no talent whatsoever and that what is of interest in my art is mostly a result of accidents and the only thing I have a talent for is messing up canvasses and finding dead ends… so, if I were hired to paint a church ceiling, it would probably take me years and wind up a miserable mess that I would have to chisel off the ceiling after all…

but I do admire those creators of immense natural gift, like Michelangelo and Duchamp, and they certainly have set a high bar for any of us who dares to pick up a paint brush and attempt to make art… I guess I do not know much about art, about why I make it, or about what any of this means…



POETRYREPAIRS #218 v15,11:124





NORMAN J. OLSON
Las Vegas August 2015

I saw the desert spread out beneath the wings of a 737… vast and golden, red in the sun… then stuck in traffic on the North I-15… later a fat old man in flowered shorts, I was reading about Michelangelo and Marcel Duchamp… sitting by the pool… watching the sledge hammer desert sunlight being deftly flicked away from the curve of tiny waves on the tiptoeing surface of aqua-green chlorinated crystal water…

POETRYREPAIRS #218 v15,11:124




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norman j. olson is a 64 year old small press poet and artist... who published my first poem in 1984 after many years of regular submission and rejection and has now published hundreds of poems and art works in 15 countries and all over the usa... current work can be seen in Lummox, Sketchbook http://poetrywriting.org , and Poetryrepairs



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