Julie Heffernan and decay

I came across this image from Julie Heffernan’s new series, called Booty, in the new (very NSFW) blog of Trevor “don’t click it, mom” Brown:

Self Portrait as Post Script by Julie Heffernan

What is there to say, really? Trevor Brown writes the following:

while wasting countless hours and days lazily surfing the net (the cause of konomi’s beleaguering), stumbling upon amazing work like the above by julie heffernan only further reinforces feelings of inadequacy – while i’m “busy” right clicking and saving, konomi rants on, with incisive perception, artists must work like hell while they are young – skills improve until around the age of fifty – then, after building up momentum, it’s just blithely regurgitating the same old shit for the rest of your life – only craftsmen continue to improve in their old age – artists are too “me! me! me!” – smug

Last week, via Allison, I found a calculator that shows you Things Other People Accomplished When They Were Your Age. I tormented myself with this thing for a good 45 minutes: at 25, Orson Welles had coscripted, directed, and starred in Citizen Kane! T.S. Eliot wrote “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” when he was 23! Damn them, damn them all to hell.

Thinking that Julie Heffernan was another hot young artist who would only add to the complex about under-achievement ignited by the calculator, with Brown’s words fresh in my mind, I masochistically clicked on her bio to make an ecstatic discovery: Julie Heffernan, who completed the series above this year, was born in 1956! And then, of course, more research followed: Picasso completed his masterpiece, Guernica, when he was 55; Daniel Defoe wrote his first novel, “The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe,” when he was 59.

Every accomplished person has another accomplished person that makes them feel like a slacker; catching a glimpse of that is somehow inspiring.

13 Responses to “Julie Heffernan and decay”

  1. gooby Says:

    I just got the best boost from that accomplishment calculator!

    “Penniless and unemployed, Buckminster Fuller decided against suicide, resolving instead to live out the rest of his life as an experiment to see what one person could do to help humanity.”

    That and:
    “Don Simpson got hit in the eye by his karate instructor and bled all over the place.”

    Sounds like I got TWO resolutions this year!

    A good one I got from my roommate on a melancholic evening:
    “By the time James Kirk was my age, he was already the Captain of his own starship! What have I done with MY life?!!”

  2. Nadya Says:

    Gooby, HAHA! Nice. I like this one:

    At age 26: Thomas Pynchon published V., for which he won the William Faulkner First Novel Award.

    Angie Olson got so drunk on her 26th birthday, her friends were able to dress her up as a clown.

  3. Ben Morris Says:

    On the ‘you’ve still got time’ end of things:

    Composer Leoš Janáček’s music didn’t bring him much acclaim until he was in his sixties, and his music from the last 10-12 years of his life is still his best known.

    Mark Twain was 49 when he wrote the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

    Paul Cézanne’s most sought after and expensive paintings are the ones from the last 15 or so years of his life (he died at the age of 67).

    Frank Lloyd Wright made Fallingwater at the age of 70.

    And Thomas Pynchon at the age of 70 is still writing some of the most entertaining books out there.

  4. James Shearhart Says:

    Reminds me of a line that J Michael Straczynski dropped into a script for Babylon 5: Crusade –

    [paraphrase] “Whenever I get too cocky, I just remember that when Mozart was my age, he’d been dead for five years….”

    And for my next paraphrase trick, Ernest Hemingway:
    “There are no original stories – we are all just trying to beat dead men at their own game….”

    And _that’s_ how I start a new year!

  5. James Shearhart Says:

    And then I go to the evil Accomplishment Calculator of Dispare, type in my age (38) and it lashes out at me:

    Famous mathematician/songwriter Tom Lehrer recorded “An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer,” in which he commented that “By the time that Mozart was my age, he’d been dead three years.”

    At least I know where the quote came from now….

  6. Paul Komoda Says:

    There is a passage from Ted Morgan’s superb biography of William S. Burroughs,”Literary Outlaw” that had been steadily drumming ever louder every year in my head since I first read it in 1992….

    “On February 5,, 1954, Burroughs celebrated, if that was the right word, his fortieth birthday in Tangier. Forty, the halfway point of life, a time for taking stock, pausing, and asking hard questions: What have I accomplished? Have I met my goals? In what direction is my life going? For Burroughs, the answers were dissapointing. At an age when most men are solidly established in their careers, he was still being supported by his parents, like an eternal adolescent. His one published book had made no ripple on the literary waters. His future as a writer was uncertain. He himself had no idea whether he would write another book.”

    This was some time after his tragic incident in Mexico, and the publication of “Junky”.
    He, of course, went on to become fucking Willliam S. Burroughs.

    Nadya, that’s beautiful image by Hefferman. Among other things, she certainly knows how to paint a lovely dead giant squid.

  7. Ben Morris Says:

    After plugging random dates in the Accomplishment-taunter page my favorite is:

    At age 67: Poisson discovered the laws of probability after studying the likelihood of death from mule kicks in the French army.

  8. Ben Morris Says:

    I meant random ages not dates.

  9. Mer Says:

    My god she’s a wonder.

    As a perennial late-bloomer as well as someone with a lifelong reverence for wise old mystics, I personally find it defeatist and masochistic to incessantly compare my own timeline of accomplishments to those of others, particularly folks from other centuries. Context is key. :)

    Particularly in the west, we have this obsessive neurosis born of shame/rejection of growing old, or even of growing UP. It’s a sad example of rigid, competitive linear thinking being somewhat harmful to living a whole and happy life simply as a human being, let alone as an artist. (Although, arguably, making good art is all about being neurotic and miserable, hee hee.)

    I bring up Dawn a lot, but the lyrics of her song “Live Old” have been great comfort to me when I was getting all twisted up over age/accomplishment issues:

    Better not count on winning, for there may be no race.
    Better not scorn the old, wisdom may lead a slower pace.
    When the pressures of youth are gone, sing a vaster song.
    What mattered so much, time ceded with its touch.
    Something age brings with invisible things
    freed from broken dreams…

    Grow old, grow old, grow old.

    Better not kill it in youth, you might pass through that portal.
    Better not count on dying, for you just might be immortal.
    It seems on long wait for treasures beyond the gate.
    And your looks and prizes aren’t worth taking with you.
    The trumpet blares of youthly cares might obscure that view…

    There’s more, there’s more, there’s more.

  10. James Shearhart Says:

    And of course it was much easier to become accomplished Back Then, ’cause they didn’t have teh internets feeding upon their waking hours….

  11. DJ Velveteen Says:


    You’re the queen of today. It’s refreshing to hear your perspective both on growth and on art.

    I take it you’ve seen the Music & Life short?

  12. Mer Says:

    DJ V, no, I hadn’t seen/heard that. Thank you!

    Very, very well said, Mr Watts.

    (I’m tickled that embittered old Matt & Trey produced it.)

  13. Skerror Says:

    This blog is all sorts of inspiring :)