When you know who you are…

Excerpts from Dawns & Dusks, Louise Nevelson

TAPED CONVERSATIONS WITH DIANA MACKOWN

“My theory is that when we come to this earthy, many of us are ready-made. Some of use – most of us – have genes that are ready for certain performances. Nature gives you these gifts. There’s no denying that Caruso came with a voice, there’s no denying that Beethoven came with music in his soul. Picasso drew like an angel in the crib. You’re born with it.

I claim for myself that I was born this way. From earliest, earliest childhood I knew I was going to be an artist. I felt like an artist. You feel it – just like you feel you’re a singer if you have a voice. So I have that blessing, and there was never a time that I questioned it or doubted it.

Photo by Mo Ringey

Photo by Mo Ringey

Some people are here on earth and never knew what they wanted. I call them unfinished business. I had a blueprint all my life from childhood and I knew exactly what I demanded of this world. Now, some people may not demand as much as I did. But I wanted one thing that I thought belonged to me. I wanted the whole show. For me, that is living.

Photo by Mo Ringey

Photo by Mo Ringey

I don’t say life was easy. For forty years, I wanted to jump out of windows. But I did feel I had the strength and the creative ability. There was never any doubt about that. No one could move me till I got what I wanted – on my terms, on earth. And I do. And it did take, maybe not the greatest mind, but it did take courage. And it did take despair. And the hardship gave me total freedom.

Photo by Mo Ringey

Photo by Mo Ringey

People have said to me, “Aren’t you glad you were born?” Well, I had no choice. I didn’t ask to be born. Just think of the burdens we have at birth. We’re born to people. We have labels. And we have to carry them. all our lives without our choice.  It’s a hell of a thing to be born, and if you’re born, you’re at least entitled to yourself.

Photo by Mo Ringey

Photo by Mo Ringey

So I saw from the beginning how one exploits another. And I recognized that the most important thing in my life was to claim yourself totally. I was always independent. That I inherited. By the time I was nine, I had thoroughly decided I would never – in principle – work for anyone as long as I lived. I was gifted and I knew it, and I wasnt going to permit anyone on earth to take my true heritage. I felt I had the equipment to fulfill living life, and I don’t think I wanted less. I anted to fulfill life. An that’s exactly what I’m doing. I claimed what I have. I still clam what  have. And youknow, as long as we’re aware, we have a right to that.

Photo by Mo Ringey

Photo by Mo Ringey

Everyone is entitled to recognize their full being. Male or female, the human being is entitled to that total heritage, no matter what. There’s a corny expression that from an acorn a big oak tree grows. You can have that: that’s your inheritance. Less than that… if you really believe in a power beyond, then you’re cheating that power. They claim that we are created in the image and likeness of God. That takes my femininity away [laughing]. So anyway… if you do think like that, then you’re cheating and selling cheap who you are created in the image and likeness of.

Photo by Mo Ringey

Photo by Mo Ringey

We underestimate what humans are, you see. When I hear people say “the common man” … I hate that phrase. You know, we hear it, writers have used it, poets have used it. I think it’s a great mistake. There’s no such thing. There’s nobody that’s common. I think that in every human being there is greatness.

Photo by Mo Ringey

Photo by Mo Ringey

The tragedy on earth is that people are born into a certain environment. Think of this. When you’re born, you have two parents, usually. Now, those parents are in a position to control every move we make, so already we’ve got a ton of this on our heads. And then as we move on, we go to school; the teacher has pets, and for some reason she may not like a student and can destroy them. You see, the human relationships are deadly. Of course there’s the other side too – otherwise we couldn’t live. But what I’m bringing out is that from birth until you’re grown, you have superiors. you’re educated all along the line, not necessarily by your parents, but by your schools, academic training and all, in the strange way that you have to be subservient to religion, subservient to the older people, subservient… God knows… down the line.

Photo by Mo Ringey

Photo by Mo Ringey

You see, sometimes you have to turn about the things you are taught. You have to stand on your two feet and claim your true heritage. What does that mean? that means you belong to yourself. The fact that we can breathe is really kind of a miracle, and so if you see that and work for that, you finally find yourself claiming who you are, and you can be a total human being and be a human being to others when you know who you are… and you have every right to that.”

~Excerpts from Dawns & Dusks, Louise Nevelson

Photo by Mo Ringey

Photo by Mo Ringey

5 Responses to “When you know who you are…”

  1. diana mackown Says:

    I’m glad your so moved by her. Please spell my name correctly.
    DIANA MACKOWN

  2. Dear Diana MacKown-
    Having gone through 44 years of people putting an L in my last name and thus making it an even more laughable burden, conjuring up images of barnums and circuses, imagine my complete HORROR at having mistyped your name. I have fixed it immediately upon waking and hope that you will accept my apology. I tend to pay far more attention than the average person to the spelling and pronunciation of names and this was not a misspelling but rather a typo by a person typing in a homemade fashion and wearing wrist braces. I hope that having fixed it in less than 24 hours after it was posted shall assuage your understandable chagrin. I read passages on my radio show the other day and got amazing feedback. People were entranced by these words. If you would ever like to call in and be a guest on my arts radio show please email me at moringey[at]gmail[dot]com. I’d be so honored to have you and it would surely be a fascinating show.

    I was delighted to share this post with my readers who are mostly artists, curators, gallery directors and the like.
    sheepishly, Mo Ringey

    P.S. There is even a facebook group which I found only yesterday – the day of my typo, coincidentally – called “There is no L in Ringey” and so my namesakes share that pain. I grew up during the Laugh-In years and was taunted mercilessly by people chanting “One Ringey Dingey, two Ringey Dingeys…” and so I try to never make another person’s name into something it is not. Still scarred by those years… Apologies all aroud
    ;-)

  3. Gee, everybody makes typos, and it seems like this post of Mo’s was pretty loose in that regard, which gives it a kind of charming, lilting quality. Even Diana had a typo in her response — your instead of you’re.

  4. Is it full of typos? Spellcheck must be on vacation. I tried to type the text exactly from the book. Hopefully soon spellcheck will be back. maybe it feld due to my fruit flies, mice, skunks, and Brown Recluse spiders.

  5. In the French language the name Dwight is an acrobatic mouthful few can pull off without losing their balance. More often it is a pained expression on the face of the person just being introduced and I know that I can either keep silent and perversely take delight in their linguistic torments or I can aid and abet by saying things like: C’est comme la mot ‘light’ avec un D. It usually confuses them even more. My friend Pol when he first met me over two decades ago when his English was not at all what it is today and he was applying for a job in a studio I managed and not wanting to get my name wrong on the telephone, he wrote it out phonetically so as to aid him once he was on the line: Can I speak wit Douwaight? Actually I don’t have the original spelling. His version was twice as long and much funnier. When I was a kid in vicious repartees with other kids it came out as Dwit! I prefer the French! All that to say, I understand Mo Ringey!

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