art: Impressionism

ever since maya and i began working on our project i’ve been trying desperately to make sense of art. i have a very difficult time giving a proper opinion on works of art, because my sense of beauty is somewhat skewed. when it comes to music all i care about is whether or not the song is catchy–even classical music, if i cannot sing and dance along with the parts, i just don’t care for it. when i think of a scary encounter in a dark alley, i think of ella fitzgerald gliding towards me with violent scatting. when it comes to literature i cannot tell the good from the bad, especially contemporary poetry, which seems to me the ultimate foray back to innocence, and most writers i’ve met seem to work very hard to mask complete ineptitude and habitual good luck. (not that i know a good poem when i see one.) no, in all things, i want a throbbing passion to be amplified, anais nin, astor piazzolla, the interactions between nick and nora charles, truffaut’s jules et jim, the shape of your lips and heat and taste of your mouth, tu fu, françoise sagan, tagore, girls dressing up and dancing for each other, jacques brel, babe: pig in the city, the color of your eyes when you’re being true…if i’m not laughing and crying with joy and anguish, if i’m not breathless and dying to stay awake, then i just don’t care. i just don’t.

it’s how i choose my friends.

when it came to art, the only artists who really affected me were durer and rodin. there’s something of flaming self-confidence in each of them, you can see it in the way durer painted himself, so handsome and dandy, and in the way rodin sculpted balzac, so great but so monstrous. yes, self-confidence is sexy: last year i found myself falling in love with a girl merely because of her posture, i just Had to know her. recently i attended a play and could not, could not for life of me pay attention because of the way the stage-hand carried himself, the ecstatic arch in his back, the light and sureness of his stride, it contained infinitely more humanity than any of those characters on stage. confidence.

and finally i’m standing in the boston mfa, looking at works of impressionism and just not understanding. why were they condemned or disliked or mocked in their time? why should i be moved? why should i care? and then it struck me: i do care. i care because their subjects have no outlines, i care because they focus on light, i care because they emphasize substance over form. this is serious.

joseph and i got in many fights, generally because i had a difficult time being part of his way of life, which was based on two opposing theories. the first theory was “no expectations,” a result of the turbulence inherent to a poetic lifestyle. the second theory was “be prepared,” which he never stated in so many words, but implied it, mostly because he was an eagle scout. he was always torn between ideals and reality, and because i am nowhere in between, in my absent-mindedness, in my naivety, in my perpetual childhood, we never really got along, though we were usually together. usually sighing over girls who had slighted us. he wrote a story about me, and i kill myself in the end; he made it into my novel, and i sent a plague his way, but i didn’t kill him. we’re so sentimental–how does that concern confidence, applying idealized pasts to a trivial future?

i’ve learned these past weeks that many concepts and terms are false, implying a singular definition, when really there is a whole spectrum represented in each. it’s why i can’t get married. every day things are becoming less absolute to me. there is a gypsy word that means both “tomorrow,” and “yesterday.” “living in the moment” is not one thing–it is many ways of being, and it shouldn’t imply that one has no responsibilities. druids were fierce warriors because they believed that at the instant of one’s death one was reborn as something else. life was eternal, it was valued differently. the ancient greeks and vikings had no measure of time, measures of time were symbolic, these people built with wood. was this a measure of confidence, as opposed to the egyptians, as opposed to those who built new york? how does one’s confidence affect one’s perception of time, and by extension, one’s perception of responsibility? confidence can remove us from the present to the future, but too much confidence for too long, and we forget that there’s a difference between now and later. you’ve noticed the life-cycle of empires?

the idea of “no expectations” sounds delightful. without expectations there is no disappointment: this is the key to everlasting romantic love. it ties directly in with “living in the moment”–which i’ve been taught when i was ushered through the experience of taking ten minutes to eat a grape. nothing has ever tasted so sweet as that grape, never have my senses been so consciously consumed, elevated. tantric. i felt naked–and we held our eyes closed–if i dared try eating like that, breathing like that, with my eyes open, you would see my soul, you would never question love again. but living in the moment also means bowing to one’s present desires, means hurting the people who love you, means following divine instructions that make no sense until later, tumbling isolated into the desert to argue with fire. it means a life of impetuous solitude, means human contact is flickering and sensual, intellectual only on the remotest level–and if you’re fortunate enough to have a short life, then this is ideal. rimbaud continually comes to mind, who lived a poet’s life briefly, and then fled into the very opposite. keats comes to mind, who lived a poet’s life internally, but whose girlfriend wouldn’t sleep with him. jim morrison comes to mind, who grew very fat and repulsive and reminds us that death is lumbering and hideous. how does one possibly live in the moment and die contentedly–i don’t mean peacefully, because i also mean violently, i mean an explosion and the sweetest of kisses.

and that’s what i see when i look at monet and his cronies: everything they paint is a reflection of light, which doesn’t mean all life is superficial. like in shelley’s “mont blanc,” we’re dependent on our senses to reach the essence of things, so yes, light is quite enough, metaphor and personification redundancies. and the movement of light, the minimally three-fold image of a reflection on a lake, a life of colors, running and melding, and yet a perfect picture of what our eyes know to be true, there, that is life in the moment–so dangerous–yet, to me, somehow preferable to stability. a beautiful life–a storyteller’s dream–an explosion.

23 aug 07

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