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Jim Dine's "Poet Singing (The Flowering Sheets)": a documentary

Video transcript
Jim: I think all artists work at self-portrait. My whole intention of working with the antique, was to make a connection between me and this anonymous sculptor. (quiet guitar music) To meditate on a guy carving. To meditate on the marks. To leap across these generations. Thousand generations. To be one with art. (quiet guitar music) When it was proposed to me that I could make an installation here, I toured the collection and found a poet, from the Cult of Orpheus and two sirens behind him. Female muse. It spoke a lot to me. I thought this would be great to use them, as the beginning of something that I could abstract from. I'm not really interested in the myth of Orpheus. I was inspired by the poet singing with the sirens behind him, in the Villas Collection. It's so much like the way art is made. An artist and the muse. (quiet guitar music) When I saw those three figures at the Getty, I knew this was for me. I didn't question why it was for me. It's just something I felt in my stomach. That's what I do. That's the way I work. That's my method. We've just put these two pieces in. There'll be other sculptures, but these are the two that have been carved so far. We're putting them in the space. The space we made exactly like the room at the Villa. Even though we're in Walla Walla, Washington. I wanted to see how the figures worked with my handwriting and my poem. I'm quite pleased. (quiet guitar music) You see, when I paint it with the white, it reveals itself to me. The painting on wood is really quite interesting thing for me to do. The wood receives the paint in a very sensitive way. I paint them as though they're paintings. Even though it's 3 dimensional. (quiet guitar music) I didn't know what I was going to do, how to interpret the main figure. The main head. Until I just thought, what the hell? I'm the poet. Why not make it really personal? (machinery sounds) Man: That's cool. (grinding sounds) Jim: What you do is about your comment on the human condition, and being part of it. There's nothing else. (quiet guitar music) I'm thinking two more figures like these. Variations on these, plus the big head. So it'll be five. When I saw the head and the two figures, I felt the room needed two more. (paper ripping) While the original piece is only two sirens and the Orphic poet, I felt I could take as many liberties as I wanted, so I needed two more sirens, two more muses. I didn't want to put the same figure in. I wanted a dance in there but of the four women. I took and am doing this. (paper rustling) I'm altering the statues so that the heads are different, so that it has a movement of its own now, I believe. It's a movement of mine rather than a mimicking, of what the original sculpture was. It will make for livelier dance in the room. (scraping sound) (man talking in background) The paint was abandoned, because it was covering up too many imperfections, that were coming through and it was a little bit like lying. I sandblasted them and left just the barest hint of the paint. And got an effect, I felt, that was appropriate for the antique. A way of speaking across the centuries. Try it on that one. Man: Yeah, I can push it out. Jim: All right, wait a minute. Hang on. Man: Yeah, no actually that worked just fine. Jim: Okay, drop it. Watch your feet. I'd like to move her back there, into the corner onto that thing. Can you do it by hand? Could you move this one to that? Man in brown hat: To that? Jim: Yeah. Man in brown hat: Yeah. Jim: Stop. Back this way a little bit. This one. Man in brown hair: Uh huh? Jim: Spin it just a little bit counter clockwise. (banging sound) Man: Okay, now lean it towards me. Jim: Okay. Man in brown hat: Okay? Jim: Yeah. Man in brown hat: That's it? Jim: That's it. (laughing) For the time being. Woman: Yeah, wait until he gets down there. Man in brown hat: I know. I know. (quiet guitar music) (man talking in background) Jim: I forgot how ugly the floor is. In an institutional way, it's fine. For me, it's the kind of floor I'd like to really mess up. Okay, so here's the deal. We can start putting on this kind of patina. On the wall. Over the whole wall. I'll show you how to do it. Man in black shirt: Okay. Jim: Okay. How I want it. This is a little dark. There's too much of a grid on yours. Then I'll start to write. When I start to write then eventually, you all, including Diana, can write. I'll come in and correct. That'll be the strategy. I correct and by correct I mean, I'll make it my way. But you try and make it my way. (writing sounds) My left arm, look, you see? Is much longer than that. It's from working with your hands. There are some artists now and many artists now, who don't use their hands at all. It's all about the concept and having it executed. Which I understand. I use that myself sometimes, but there's nothing as pleasurable for me, as making marks. You know, of drawing. Using your hand. The hand has some kind of memory. (plastic rustling) Man: Pull it off, around there. (plastic ripping) (quiet piano music) Jim: If you stand right here you can inspect it there. You know, if you look over here ... Woman: I don't know, it's pretty [unintelligible]. Jim: It's pretty (laughs). Woman: And look it, come over here. Pretend you're coming in this door. (quiet piano music)