Monday, November 9, 2015

Contemplating Wishbones

 I went to an art show the other day.  It was held in an old barracks at what was once an airfield, now converted to artists' studios. Because my early training was in art, and because I like to make it myself, I have seen a lot of art in my life, and I continue to go to museum shows and galleries.  At the barracks, I saw the usual genres, painting, photography and some sculpture.  As is also usual, some of the work was well-executed and some was not.  Of the well-executed art, there were a few pieces that were pleasing. But "pleasing" is certainly damning with faint praise. Don't we want art that says something to us, other than "I am a pretty picture of the ocean"? So I was very happy to see an installation by Jessica Yoshiko Rasmussen that offered something more.
Murmur was set in a small room paved with green linoleum tiles, some missing, some paint-spattered.  A green radiator was visible. Light came from an unseen window to illuminate the white parachute material draped the length of the room to create a ceiling and a corridor.  At the end of the corridor was an old bird cage on a stand. On the green floor in varying sizes, were wishbone shapes, sharp angled, yet covered with a soft felt, as if, perhaps, they had soft down growing on them, an unsettling thought, but perhaps comforting, too.  The wishbone shapes led to, or were coming from, the direction of the bird cage.
I loved the quietness and the grace of the piece, but what was also important was that it did not tell me what to think. I am free to wonder: to whom do the wishbones belong? What is the connection between the bones and the cage? I can see humor; I can see dream; I can sense a pinch of the macabre, or  imagine a ritual. The symbol of cage, the meaning of wishbone, the soft light. The broken tiles left exposed, the radiator.
This is a place to contemplate in and about. It's a little like falling in love, to connect with art in this way. Because it's an installation, it's ephemeral. But what a space to return to, even in memory.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

J.M.W. Turner  The Burning of the Houses of Parliament  1834

"...the painter appeared to have lived life backwards, having 'possessed in youth all the dignity of age only to exchange it for the effervescence of youth.'"
   Painting Set Free, catalog for Turner Exhibition at De Young Museum, San Francisco, August 2015

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Anchor with Cow or Rabbit

                                                     by John William Dey, "Uncle Jack"

"'When I've finished a painting, I put a bright light on it and I go over the whole thing with a magnifying glass to see if anything's wrong. Sometimes a picture just doesn't look like it's level, and then I have to put something on to anchor it--something like a cow or a rabbit.' He points to a painting on the wall. 'It looked kind of lopsided. It's the inside of a living room, so I put a clock over the mantel to anchor it.'"                      
                                              from American Folk Artists, Elinor Lander Horwitz

A poem can be itself, just as it comes out of the brain and scrawls itself on the paper. But some poems die for lack of an anchor; an add-in to the process that's necessary to balance or anchor the poem. It's not a theme, not a trope, not the subject, not's a cow or a rabbit, something that surprises the writer or adds, subtracts, counters or reinterprets what comes before or after it. It can appear anywhere in the poem. It doesn't finish the poem, but more subtly, seals the poem as itself.