The motivation of this pdf is to collate and consolidate what I deem to be the cream of the Philly Free School’s artistic achievement. I have taken into consideration what I have not taken into consideration— that this judgment is mine alone. If other artists would like to argue for other placements/arrangements, they are welcome to. Nevertheless, for me: what do Abby’s “Nine Paintings” and my “Apparition Poems” have in common? I have been stunned by the parallels (and parallelism) between the two— I’ve already addressed many of the key motifs. They include: a certain approach to depth and complexity involving multiple and multiplying themes and potential meanings; a sense of “queerness” or oddity which is intermittently sexualized (for Abby, the application is more literal); an urban, rather than suburban or pastoral orientation, which is often site-specific to early twenty-first century Philadelphia (which, by not being New York, builds another level of queerness into the construct); a lack of indigenous American aesthetic influence, and a mistrust of twentieth century art in general (bloodlines running from Abby to nineteenth-century France, Ingres and David; from me to nineteenth-century England, Keats and Wordsworth), while the work does thematically engage contemporary America; and a generalized ambience of darkness, moodiness, the eerie and the haunted.
The difference between Philadelphia-via-England and Philadelphia-via-France (and the twentieth century largely being passed over) is rather pronounced; my approach has in it many levels of directness and earnestness which could comfortably be called English levels, and an adjunct to English Romanticism; Abby’s lateral sense of perversity and absurdism, her inability (thematically) to be morally or ethically earnest, is quintessentially French, while the French sense of darkness has a perception of absurdity built into it, and English gloom can be just plain gloomy. To bring the male/female dichotomy to bear on “Nine Paintings” and “Apparition Poems” is even trickier, and more lateral; Abby’s approach has some feral energy and some tenderness to it; it is as androgynous as the highest art tends to be. About “Apparition Poems,” it would probably be inappropriate for me to comment on. I will remark that I call these two collections together "Rising in Scorpio" specifically because, in this context and in 2013 America, it seems to me that the darkness, depth, and complexity of the two collections will be experienced in many contexts as more feral than not, with many “stings” built into it, for lazy post-modernists and semi-comatose centrists. Good art has always been capable of stinging mediocrity to death, if properly placed and contextualized at the correct moment; for the Philly Free School, the time is now.
It is also my idea (and, honestly, it could be called a pretense) that, if the Philly Free School plants the right seeds, the twenty-first century might be more germane for serious art than the twentieth was; even as our politics, sexual and otherwise, import the best of what the twentieth century had to offer. The higher connotations of the Scorpio archetype have to do with depth, complexity, and the darkness of unsparing truthfulness— the imperative towards unsparing truthfulness (against “eerie” effects which are easily generated and can be superficial), primitive though it is, was important for Abby and I. Even more than myself, Abby suffered in her life from a desire for absolute purity on all levels. “Nine Paintings” and “Apparition Poems” show Abby and I at a point of maximum and precarious balance— able to be truthful and artful on profound levels at once. To do so was, for both of us, in the America we inherited, an act of almost foolhardy bravery; but we did it anyway.