Years ago I was very fortunate to follow along with some friends who were visiting Moriarty's studio/apt. in NYC. Seeing his work and how he lived in his studio and hearing him talk about it was extraordinary. He also has an incredible collection of jazz records, colorful shirts, and colorful Chuck Taylors. It wasn't until I saw heard him talk about his work, much of it hanging right there on the brick wall, some of it freshly worked over, that I really saw what he was doing in these paintings (these were some of the paintings that were in the big Kramers).
He was painting memories from his own life, but changing them—painting his older self in place of his younger self, or changing himself into a girl instead of a boy, etc. Through this process, and through living every day in the same space with these large paintings, he wasn't just working on the paintings but also working on his own mind, his own life, drawing out and calling upon powerful forces—memories, especially of painful childhood moments, or of his parents who had passed on, and pivotal moments in his own life—and then sitting with them, living with them, the ghosts and echoes of them.
I was already an "artist," I guess, by this point in my life, and I was playing around with comics a bit, but I'm a slow learner. It wasn't until this moment that I really in my bones understood that making art can be a technology for actually magically affecting reality, working with your life, through the transformation of memories and suffering and whatever else needs new life, into new symbolic forms, into meaningful objects, that we can sit with and look at and live with.
There's that line from a Robert Penn Warren poem that David Milch is always quoting:
is the process whereby pain of the past in its pastness
May be converted into the present tense