To stand before a series of paintings one day. After a significant interlude since one was last similarly exposed. It is to feel words begin to form in the mind like light precipitation on a cloudlessly sunny day. Some people store memory in sight - memory which comes rushing back like old friends through the association of that which has made itself manifest, that which is the X of whichever landmark, gnarled tree, outlandish boulder, that is enough of a sign to reveal all of the treasure scintillating underground, having waited, so patiently, for its rediscovery.
Canvases with titles like Street, Liana, Hallway. One is called Boffola, and is the height of incongruity - a high wire, harpsichord, mother's shoes from back when she wore lipstick. To distill life into as many postcards of the soul, with cryptic greetings like, wish you were here yesterday, greetings from sunny doubtfulness, toxic workplace by night, the city of inchoate dreams. I invent these paintings, these are the canvases I paint in response.
It is such a gift to see an expression of a systematic inner landscape no matter how pedestrian. An attempt has been made, a conversation started. The hair-shirt of one's difference may be removed in like company: in good art, we are all guests. And yet to say that is to approach the bohème, that French anti-bourgeouis idealistic art movement drawing on the metaphor of the tzigane, the bourgeois bohème, or bobo, a response to technocratic, industrial society, described by Balzac in Un Prince of the same: "Ce mot de Bohème vous dit tout. La Bohème n’a rien et vit de tout ce qu’elle a. L’espérance est sa religion, la foi en soi-même est son code, la charité passe pour être son budget. Tous ces jeunes gens sont plus grands que leur malheur, au-dessous de la fortune mais au-dessus du destin."
But to be somewhere in between destiny and fortune, half way between the life that is to be read and the compositions we make of the words of our wishes, this is man, regardless of background. The ancient struggle of the heart divided against itself: its basest passions so easily ceded to; its noble, cultivated side of moderate self-restraint.
But where the modern man has romanticism, of which la bohème is part, the ancients had tragedy, arguably more complex. In a wonderful paper called "Romantic Movements in Antiquity," Marbury B. Ogle writes of the "centering of interest on love" which gave to tragedy "a new and independent power" which claims the right "to compete with established forces of the moral world with the voice of law, and with the positive deities." Euripides and Aristophanes focus on the individual and depicts men and women as they are. Aristophanes is charged with making men think there are no gods; Aeschylus makes the muse his own. Indeed the gods, where they appear, act like men. Hellenistic poets long for a return to nature: Callimachus' Hecale as much as Goethe's Hermann and Dorothea. Ideal lands (The Birds!) are projected into the future, instead of seeing them, as did Plato, in the past.
Ogle sees the dreaming individual as attempting escape from moral decay emerging from decline in tradition. The dreamer poet takes freely from "esoteric Oriental philosophy which had no serious relation to the conditions confronting them." Bobo, tzigane.
There is a need to accomplish spiritual feats. Ideally, to merely recognise the need to sing is not enough. Aristophanes explains this need to sing, or at least to cry O Athens, Athens!: ὅσα δὴ δέδηγμαι τὴν ἐμαυτοῦ καρδίαν, ἥσθην δὲ βαιά, πάνυ δὲ βαιά, τέτταρα: ἃ δ᾽ ὠδυνήθην, ψαμμακοσιογάργαρα (via) translated as: What cares have not gnawed at my heart and how few have been the pleasures in my life! Four, to be exact, while my troubles have been as countless as the grains of sand on the shore! There is a need to overcome the sandmoundoftroubles, ψαμμακοσιογάργαρα.
Except I read once - I think it was Ron Padgett who said (here somewhere) that creators are but to create, critics are those who sort things out, back into their respective categories. This must be true in the same way it is true that if a person is speaking emotionally, they are right - for them. They are not wrong! Perhaps not objective, but not wrong. One of the paintings I saw today was entitled Coterie, and around a table interspersed with the people was a bust and a statue.
How grateful must one be to have so many mirrors, interlocutors; beneath those surface images are the other ones, those of memory and dream and aspiration thirsting for an audience, hungry for an interlocutor in frame. I have seen many people, once they discover the Ideal forget this and lose a vital part of themselves. Perhaps not as smart, but the poor soul is like a creature in-the-moment, wishing to discover itself anew - to counteract the in-sand-hundred-heaps that are themselves produced anew, again and again, without warning. It has been said time and again, but meaning is also a process, a creation: never enough to merely repeat it.