Neo-Romanticism and the Individual

There is one central Neo-Romantic contradiction which animated the lives of all the Neo-Romantic artists in Philadelphia in the Aughts: we were all engaged with the world around us on as many levels as possible. Yet, to follow through on the quest and the aptitude to create innovative, provocative, and major high art consonant art, we all needed to maintain (sometimes) an extreme degree of solitude as well. I can’t speak for Abby, but for me, the tug between solitude and solitary creation on one side and social and/or sexual engagement on the other was a hard row to hoe. This contradiction is there for all serious artists, but we, all of us, were perhaps more baroque, labyrinthine, and apparitional then other artists at other times, as the smorgasbord we had before was so rich and so tricky. So, we had to flail around and attempt to find as much solidity as we could on as many levels as we could. What Abby gives us, in Frozen Warnings, is a sense of two things: total emotional entropy between two individuals, and a manifest formal/thematic triumph over the insipid Americana of Andrew Wyeth, on his own turf. Abby, in fact, has ways of triumphing over PAFA (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts) formalism simply by painting situations as emotionally charged (sometimes sexually also, sometimes not) as possible. The pursuit of passions and emotions in serious art is always solid. It also manages to bridge the gap between solitary worlds of creation and levels of social engagement. Takes us, solidly, to Apparition Poem 1341:

Secrets whispered behind us
have a cheapness to bind us
to liquors, but may blind us
to possibilities of what deep
secrets are lost in pursuit of
an ultimate drunkenness that
reflects off surfaces like dead
fishes at the bottom of filthy
rivers— what goes up most is
just the imperviousness gained
by walking down streets, tipsy,
which I did as I said this to her,
over the Schuylkill, two fishes.

Individuals who live in multiple worlds often do not find it easy to connect. All the Apparition Poems elements— the night, the city, sex, death, drunkenness— coalesce around the vagaries of trying to communicate the incommunicable, which may be incommunicable for practical or for psycho-spiritual reasons. The dry ice I-it here, is matched by Abby’s equivalent of the same in Frozen Warnings. From Center City Philadelphia in the Aughts, we all had to live through a certain amount of dry ice— the city is not a solitary place, even when you need it to be, and it was invasive and intrusive sometimes. Aughts Philly, in fact, had and was a kind of merry-go-round game, which meant that mastering the stops, when to get on and when to get off (so to speak), was a delicate art. Artists need space. Frozen Warnings is given by Abby here a suburban template, but involves urban issues too— what happens when hipster-ism and scenester-ism turn sour, and what sinks in is the gravitas of one’s own isolation? The Neo-Romantic obsession with multi-tiered living is also frustrated by the dynamics of balancing imperatives to join and imperatives to self-isolate as well. So that, our reaction to this dilemma could not be dictated to us by Philadelphia’s architecture; that could only lend rigor to the art we were creating. As to what should constitute the life, we were all more or less on our own, and it remains that way to this day.