DREAM OF A CLEAN SLATE by John Haskell
Jackson Pollock had two irreconcilable hopes: to be appreciated for whom he was while trying to hold back the artistic inclination others appreciated. Hence he lived an uncomfortable life. Few understood why he felt the need to suffer in order to properly deal with problems, internal problems not apparent to the naked eye. What resulted was the loss of a finger, a punch in the gut, all ways to deal with a reality that he deemed unnecessarily cruel. Unfortunately as this was his perspective and no one else’s there was no one else to share his pain.
Haskell begins with a literal example of this: Pollock at the Cedar Tavern. He sees someone. Perhaps they are interesting. He is uncertain. Imbibing enough alcohol is impossible. Every drink brought him further away from her. Even in his dreams he grows further away. Things always appear to be drifting away from him, away from his control. In a way he is a controlling person. Despite his paintings outward appearance they are deeply controlled experiments. All he wants is to control his feelings, his emotions, and have others appreciate him as a person rather than an artistic outlier.
Acceptance is difficult for Pollock. He wants to earn it. The fact others accept him bothers him. He wants to prove himself to others. Yet these others, these Ruths, these Lees, and these people who pay him for the paintings take his word for it. It bothers him enormously. All he wants is a clean slate, the ability to start over without any pre-conceived notion of who he is. By proving himself he can earn his way in a way. Failing to do this bothers him, forces him to have a cleansing ritual. Picking fights with far less successful artists is one way to do it. Other ways is to yell at his wife Lee telling her to ‘Forget You’.
‘Oh’ is part of his secret language with Lee. Since he doesn’t enjoy speaking he prefers using the word ‘Oh’ to convey whatever meaning he wants. With this language he can avoid lengthy conversations. The meaning is implied. Once more the outside world infringes on a world that should just be his. He wants his own world with people he likes and cares about. There are all these intruders, various bums, lookers, and he wants them gone. What he wants is to suffer and have people pity him. This is terrible yet from childhood he wanted the same things, to have suffered and have others pity his suffering. They could see him from afar and shake his head.
Here it ends in a way where he has a clean slate. It ends with cleanliness. There is nothing more. Everything is over. He gets a relief after so much inner suffering of his life. Finally he’s at peace and nobody will misunderstand him again. He’s untouchable, unknowable, like he was in life only this time it is permanent. He controls the end.