Chris Martin, meet Strong Bad

Artblog contributor Douglas Witmer sent us a link to a piece of writing by Chris Martin over at the Brooklyn Rail. Read. Martin is a New York artist whose paintings Libby and I both loved when we saw them in the group show “Field Questions” at Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery. Here’s my post and here’s Libby’s. And here’s an artnet gallery page with lots more Martin images. (image is Martin’s “The End of the Movie, 1980-2005”)

Now I know this will be old news to some of you who read the Brooklyn Rail and digested the piece when it came out in April, but Martin’s ramble, a nice bit of non-fiction in fictional clothing, is great writing about art. Not only does Martin comment on work by other artists but, in the parts I liked best, he creates a great, zany dialog between two old friends, Painting and Buddhism who argue the day away. Painting is an attitudinous frustrated kind of character always wondering why making art is so hard. And Buddhism is Painting’s foil, his speech a series of Zen-like aphorisms. (image is Martin’s “Untitled” 2004)

When I read Martin’s piece this morning I thought immediately of the also funny and argumentative dialogs between Strong Bad and his emailers in the animated world at homestarrunner. Here’s a Strong Bad email dialog about garage sales, for example.

I’d love to see Martin’s characters, Painting and Buddhism, animated by the homestarrunner repertory company. I think Strong Bad is a natural for Painting. Here’s one of the Painting and Buddhism dialogs. (two Strong Bad images, first SB answering his email and below, SB introducing himself as a character on homestarrunner.)

Painting and Buddhism are old friends. One day they went out for a walk together and Painting asked Buddhism why it took so long and so much effort to make a good painting. Buddhism says, “Exactly like this.” Painting says, “Don’t give me that enigmatic Buddhist shit—tell me why it’s so hard.” Buddhism says, “The effort is all in your mind—long or short is all in your mind.” Buddhism knows that great paintings are both serious and absurd. Buddhism understands that the only way towards the absolute is through the specific moment at hand. He knows that a real painter begins at the end and ends at the beginning. Buddhism knows that this is all true and all not true. But he doesn’t say a word. Painting says why don’t you ever give me a straight answer? Buddhism just smiles in that certain way that always irritates the hell out of painting.


Once Painting told Buddhism that he remembered visiting his grandmother as she lay in bed in a mansion with tall ceilings and dusty golden curtains. Painting was five years old watching his mother whispering and holding his grandmother’s hand. Painting was staring at the television image of a falling pine tree while his grandmother lay dying of stomach cancer in the elaborate golden bed. It was the first time Painting ever remembers watching a television and he can still see the tree fall to the forest floor over and over again. Buddhism smiles at Painting with glistening eyes and says, “Exactly like this.”