From Julianne Moore as Famous Works of Art by Marina Galperina:
Check out the shots taken by the famous fashion photographer Peter Linderbergh, side-by-side with their original inspirations, as spotted by Museum Nerd. What strikes us isn’t just the meticulous styling, strategically echoing the visuals of the original artwork with couture. Moore is doing a splendid job channeling the subjects, beaming with vigor of a glamorous “cripple” by John Currin, as if she was a Currin model frozen in a frame. You be the judge. Do these do it for you?
Click here for the rest of this fascinating story -- and side-by-side illustrations of Julianne Moore posed artfully and photographed in the manner of the models painted (or sculpted) by Schiele, Klimt, Modigliani (shown on the left), Sargent, Degas, and John Currin (shown on the right).
Poetry is a serious subject. But I am not a serious poet. I am not a poet at all. I am a reader of poetry. Don’t get me wrong: I studied poetry and wrote poetry. Alan Shapiro was once my mentor, and he wrote on a poem, “Brian, this is a foolish piece of work; you have the attention span of a hyperkinetic three year old.” I have cobbled this assessment into a career.
But what I lack in seriousness, I make up for with enthusiasm, and this is what my blog intends to address. We must, all of us, as writers, attend to the form we’ve learned and also try to surpass it, break it. We must try to surprise and delight. I talk with other writers about all the rules, grammatical, structural, and legal. The rule of 3’s, Robert’s Rules of Order, the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition. About the gun on the stage and how it has to go off, about splitting infinitives, about how too much enjambment will only look like free verse. Avoid—or embrace—the subjunctive mood. A sem icolon is as ugly as a tick on a dog’s belly. Eat your beets. Don't feed wild animals marshmallows the way birds feed their young.
Santayana once said, “A great work of art must strive toward perfection.” And then he wrote, “And it must fail.” Perhaps you’ll be appalled to know that I want to speak about poetry in this way. Victorian writer John Ruskin, in his six tenets of good architecture, interpreted this striving as “Savageness”—a love of rudeness and imperfection.
“The demand for perfection is always a sign of a misunderstanding of the ends of art.” Ruskin believed very much in the exploratory and playful aspects of art. He believed in something we cannot quantify or map, really, in writing: Enthusiasm. Which is weird, because every time I see a picture of him, he looks like he just said, “You kids get off my lawn.”
“Enthusiasm” derives from the Greek “enthousiasmos”, that state of inspiration, of being filled or possessed by the god, for which artists might be praised or chastised. In a more secular application we can still speak of enthusiasm as the condition which combines an artist’s concentration, preoccupation, attentiveness, and excitability. In social life it is usually called “intensity”, as in, “Damn, he’s so intense.” It’s a vaguely accusatory description of an artist’s extreme and discomforting alertness. Ruskin was intense.
Enthusiasm does not excuse lack of talent and craft. But it has to be present in great writing. E.M. Forster had something to say about enthusiasm, or rather, his characters had something to say, the one who waltz happily, then sadly, through Italy in Where Angels Fear to Tread. One evening, the British tourists of that novel decide to go to an amateur opera in the fictional town of Monteriano. “There was a drop scene, wherein sported many a lady lightly clad, and two more ladies lay along the top of the proscenium to steady a large and pallid clock. So rich and so appalling was the effect… There is something majestic in the bad taste of Italy; it is not the bad taste of a country which knows no better; it has not the nervous vulgarity of England, or the blinded vulgarity of Germany. It observes beauty, and chooses to pass it by. But it attains to beauty’s confidence. This tiny theater spraddled and swaggered with the best of them, and these ladies with their clock would have nodded to the young men on the ceiling of the Sistine."
This is just the sort of enthusiasm and confidence that seem out of favor in this day and age. "Enthusiasm", like "amateur" and "fail", is a four-letter word. But maybe that's because I am shackled in the ivory tower, where amateur is hard to assess or quantify. So follow me to Ruskin's and Forster's Sistine Chapel with me, which, if not beautiful, attains to beauty's cofidence. Also, we can look at wild animal attacks and boobies and suchwhat. In church. I'll explain later (but look over there. BOOBIES. In church. And I think that's the chick from Starbuck's.)
In dealing with the State, we ought to remember that its institutions are not aboriginal, though they existed before we were born: that they are not superior to the citizen: that every one of them was once the act of a single man: every law and usage was a man’s expedient to meet a particular case: that they all are imitable, all alterable; we may make as good; we may make better.
Tattoos, unlike smoking, remain pretty cool. They’re also here to stay (and in keeping with the loose Persian connections, please allow the pun). I thought of introducing a brief collage of poetry tattooed on strangers and friends. Of course I suspected something like this had been done before, but I had no idea of the quality nor the extent of such projects.
Before briefly exploring some Persian connections and implications of this topic, I want to thank writer Facebook friends for introducing me to a couple of great publications: Editors Kim Addonizio and Cheryl Dumesnil have created an anthology of fantastic writers that capture the art of tattooing in various ways in Dorothy Parker's Elbow: Tattoos on Writers, Writers on Tattoos. Also of interest is Eva Talmadge and Justin Taylor’s The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos for Bookworms Worldwide, a great coffee table book featuring great photographs of literary excerpts tattooed on various body parts.
I also want to mention too that my Queens College Early Americanist colleague Sian Roberts advises researching into “moko,” which,” she says, “is deeply integrated into Maori and Polynesian culture (fun fact: ‘tattoo’ originated as a Polynesian word.)”
In thinking about this topic in relation to things Persian (my commitment for my week of blogging), I also got to know those already in my life by various poetry on their skin. I didn’t know, prior to this entry, that my friend Jason Tougaw, a Comp. Rhetoric specialist (also at Queens College) has a Cocteau drawing of Orpheus, which explains in part why he seems to embody a kind of poetry. Stefanie Simons, who I got to know at Pen America, has tattooed part of an Aracelis Girmay poem on her body (yet another significant reason Stefanie is such a cool young writer). Getting more serious with things—and hopefully I can put a few pics up of what I’m seeing—Claire Van Winkle, poet and translator (and new MFA student at Queens) has this on her arm from Jorie Graham “The longing is to be pure. What you get is to be changed. ~JG” Always, or usually, the arms of these writers carry the words of writers, as if literally connecting to some key influence.
By way of transition to the Persian, Tara Mokhtari, an Iranian-Australian poet and critic who I recently met during her visit to NYC, has the following lines in Perisan on her arm from the modern Iranian poet Sohrab Sepehri (about whom I hope to blog soon). She offers the following loose translation: "Live large, and alone, and modest, and unyielding.” Most people, she notes, get a little disappointed when she explains the “alone” part. Writers, however, would surely understand.
I offer these tattooed lines as a greater transition to the well-known early trendsetting images of Iranian artist Shirin Neshat, who radically politicized the female body with words from poetry as well as other sources. Like Neshat’s work, Mokhtari’s words both attract and subvert attention, as the latter explained how men during her trip to NYC hit on her by using the foreign lines as an entry into the conversation (making the message of valuing aloneness all the more significant).
Those unfamiliar with Neshat's postmodern treatment of the feminine post-Islamic Revolution—especially following her visit to her country of origin in the 1990’s—might find it worthwhile to check out her Women of Allah series. She co-opts a kind of communal or group definition of the Persian woman in the context of the Islamic Republic of Iran, reproducing a seeming empowerment with guns, for example, though also rendering the women with little individuality (re-imposing the mystique of the veil, so to speak).
There are far too many things to say and theorize upon as one considers the implications of these seminal images. In a pithy blog entry, it’s perhaps best to let the art speak for and against itself, so I’ll refrain from what will only become a reductive analysis. One overriding question that Neshat’s work continues to brilliantly bring to the surface relates to appropriation and issues of Orientalism.
Obviously the Persian script on female bodies (the artist used her own body in much of this work), like Tara’s tattoo, means something different to Iranians than to those, say, in the English speaking world. The latter can’t help but find another layer in their resistance to understanding, and I read that some have mistakenly assumed they must be lines of the Qu’ran. What does it mean to know, or to not know, that often this amazing calligraphy are the words of the first modern feminist poet Forugh Farrokhzad?
A prodigious amount of tension derives from the dichotomous reception of eastern vs. western audience. Insofar as Robert Frost famously claimed “Poetry is what gets lost in translation,” he was pulling a fast one, and his elusive irony gets aptly demonstrated here. The meta-statement itself is poetry, an epigram of sorts, meaning in locating the dislocation Frost paradoxically finds poetry. In her own way, through the resistance of translation and the resulting loss of meaning, Neshat too makes poetry in the English speaking world by allowing the loss.
Of course there is a lot more going on in Neshat’s earlier work here (not to mention her more current projects with video and film). To a certain extent interjecting the images in the framework of poetry tattoos might seem like forcing a comparison. However, when considering these indelible impressions as well as a kind of permanence through the use of impermanent artistic media, they remain another kind of tattoo pictured on the artist.
Did you know that there’s a theater on the second floor of the Apple Store in Soho? I confess that I did not. In fact, I’m not sure I’d ever been on the second floor of said store until this past Monday (August 8) when I walked up the pale lucite steps (or whatever kind of steps they are) to take my place with the sixty or seventy other people who had come out for “Looking for Dragons,” the latest installment of the store’s Meet the Artist series. This night, the artist was my friend Bill Hayward, a passionate and relentlessly innovative photographer, painter, filmmaker, and choreographer.
Hayward began by showing his portraits of musicians, politicians, artists, and actors—images first published in magazines such as Rolling Stone, Interview, and GQ. Ronald Reagan, Bob Dylan, and Robert Duvall all made appearances. “He was a lot like the characters he played,” Hayward said of Duvall. Sonny Rollins popped onscreen, grinning and looking toward the ceiling, his sax cradled in one arm at his side. Later, a close-up of a cruel-eyed man who did not smile. “Anyone know who that is?” Hayward asked. “Anyone?” It was Roy Cohn, whose baleful legacy was cemented during the Army-McCarthy hearings in the 1950s.
Despite his success, Hayward told us he’d grown restive as a portrait photographer. “I can tell you how to sit and I can light you and dress you and make an image….but in the end it's not so much about you as what I did to you, and in the end I found the process hollow and unfulfilling.” He described how his focus expanded from the face to include the whole body, in motion or at rest. He showed photographs he’d manipulated in the dark room, or developed into prints and painted on, waxed, or changed by some other means. One particularly powerful piece (top) had begun life as a black and white close-up of a woman’s face that Hayward had shellacked directly onto a specially designed raw wood frame then driven through with screws and covered with in beeswax.
Hayward shared several clips and stills from his current film project, Asphalt, Muscle and Bone, as well as a generous selection of images from his ongoing series “Portraits of the Collaborative Self,” for which Hayward reverses the usual relationship between the photographer and subject. Hayward’s subjects
I've been slack in my letter writing because of work, which is, at the moment, attending to the sentences of others. I'm sweeping clean the muddiness of poor word choices and useless repetition, employing the foot soldiers of concise writing: grammar and punctuation. It's tedious, but I also kind of dig it. It's a lot easier to fix someone else's mistakes.
But when the work seems insurmountable, I think about what else I'd rather be doing, or, to put it another way, what might be my own kind of Ithaka, "...the island of them all" - something that I greatly desire and whose attainment is continually delayed. The promise of it keeps me going.
One of my Ithakas is riding my bicycle, a pearly white Raleigh that my husband gave me before we were married. I love it so much that I instantly named it Pegasus, and soon after bought a bike bell, which I mostly ring just to hear its thick trill. It is searing hot in South Florida at the moment, the norm in late July, but when I'm on my bicycle the temperatures seem less oppressive, as does everything else, and I get to fly around town smelling the ocean and checking out the poincianas and palms and the little green parrots that like to nest and screech in both. I feel like the me that was once a 10 year old, skinny-legged girl explorer. And I suppose she too is another kind of Ithaka.
What I'm getting at is that even though I haven't been writing you, I have still been reading and thinking. Books IV-VI are my favorites so far. I like how the mundane tasks of servants are described in painterly fashion:
And also here:
I also admire the simple, fairytale connotations of these books' titles, such as "Sweet Nymph and Open Sea," although I don't recall Kalypso being so accomodating in other prose versions I've read of this same story. Perhaps I'm mixing it up with The Iliad? Somehow I remember Kalypso as a dangerous and seductive foil, and when I came across these lines describing her lair, I could see how Odysseus might be lulled into contentment, if even for a short while.
Now I'm sitting here looking out the window, writing you, thinking about New Orleans and ignoring The Odyssey, and that poem by Donald Justice comes to mind, the one about how art casts its own light and how it can comfort us in our mortal, and thus temporary, sorrows.
Didi Menendez's portrait project is designed for poets as well as visual artists. She has selected and posted photogaphic portraits to serve as models Here are some of the particlars centerting on a Star Black photograph from February 2011. There are five other photographs at the moment and Didi may add to that number. For full details, click here.
Render a portrait using this image and send a jpg of your portrait to didimenendez at hotmail.com. Place on subject line PORTRAIT STUDY #2. You may render the portrait in your preferred medium. Specify with your submission the size and medium of your entry along with your name and web site/online portfolio address. Everyone is welcomed to submit a portrait. All entries following the guidelines will be placed on this blog post. Once all entries have been submitted by the deadline, the best will be featured in PoetsArtists (www.poetsandartists.com) web site.
Submit a poem inspired from this image to didimenendez at hotmail.com. Place on subject line Portrait Study #2. Send poem attached to a word document along with your web site address and short bio. If the poem is well received by our editor (me), it will be published on this post. The best poem will be published in the PoetsArtists web site along with the best portrait submitted by a visual artist.
Since I am not a word, but am curious about the experience of being a word, I asked author Shelley Jackson if I could photograph some of her words from the novel SKIN. She agreed and gave me the email addresses for the following words:
the internal food table,
lungs lineaments law,
The novel SKIN exists in tattoos. In order to read the novel, one has to participate in the text by applying to become a word, and if you get chosen, the word must be inked on your skin in book font. Once the author receives a photograph proving the word is tattooed on your skin along with the signed disclaimer stating that you will never share the story with anyone else who is not a word, only then can you read the coveted story.
When the words came to my studio to be photographed for this article I asked each of them what they did and why they wanted to become a word. Two worked in publishing, another two were writers, one was a Freudian scholar, and the others didn’t mention their professions but said that they “wanted to be part of something greater than themselves.”
-- Kate Hagerman
For more, click here.
Alice Quinn of the Poetry Society of America brilliantly organized the group reading Tuesday February 8th honoring the 100th anniversary of Elizabeth Bishop's birth. At Cooper Union's Great Hall, nineteen poets read a favorite Bishop poem. The reading of poems in chronological order of publication was interspersed with snippets of correspondence between Bishop and New Yorker editors Katharine White, William Maxwell, and Howard Moss -- with Maria Tucci as the voice of Elizabeth Bishop, Alice Quinn as that of Katharine White, and current New Yorker poetry editor Paul Muldoon speaking for Messrs. Maxwell and Moss. We learned that the magazine turned down the Bishop poem that John Ashbery had wished to read, "Over 2,000 Illustrations and a Complete Concordance." Longtime poetry editor Howard Moss in one of his letters to Elizabeth Bishop confided that he was up to his ears in poems.Two hundred had appeared in the last two days, "in addition to the usual million." What Moss could use, he added, was a grant to open a hamburger stand in New Jersey.
Richard Howard (L)and James Fenton (c)Lawrence Schwartwald
(Note, if you squint hard enough at the photo of Mark Strand, you can make out Vijay Seshadri, Kimiko Hahn, Elizabeth Alexander, David Lehman, and Jean Valentine in the background; we were seated at cafe tables on the stage. -- DL
Just prior to the reading in honor of Elizabeth Bishop's 100th birthday last evening at the Great Hall of Cooper Union, the nineteen poets taking part milled in the green room, with ace photographer Lawrence Schwartzwald snapping away. Here's a shot of Frank Bidart and David Lehman.
photo credit: (c) Lawrence Schwartzwald (2011)
Is the audience for dance engaged in a kind of group voyeurism? What is really going on when we watch young and highly trained thoroughbreds push their bodies to unnatural extremes for our entertainment? Is the effect titilating? Listen to the audience as a dancer executes an especially challenging passage, say, the thirty-two fouettes of the Black Swan. And when a dancer falls, is there an element of pleasure in the audiences’ collective gasp?
These questions swirled around me after watching the most recent performance in the continuing Bill Hayward / Miranov Dance / Redress Films The Intimacies Project. Eight of us gathered in Hayward’s studio where he had constructed a mock window out of a plastic sheet and rigged it with an irrigation system to simulate the look and sound of falling rain. We were instructed to stand in front of the barrier to watch the performance on the other side, as if we were looking into a stranger’s apartment. The only props in the “apartment” were a long low steel bench with a moss-covered sphere at one end.
As the house lights dim, we hear a plaintive harmonica and heavy breathing. From behind us, a man (Jason Nowak) carries a limp woman (Jordan Marinov) upside down – his arms are wrapped around her calves. It’s as if he’s carrying a lifeless sack. He places her on the bench, where her hands drop toward the floor. After he leaves, she rouses herself and begins to move about. The music changes from Charlie Chaplin's haunting "Smile" to the driving beat and percussive lyrics of The Roots' "Walk Alone." It was during the next fifteen minutes of solo dance that my comfort level was pushed to its extreme.
Jordan Marinov (pictured above) is a compelling dancer. With her mile-long legs, angular features, and intense expression, it’s tough to take your eyes off her when she’s performing. Even when she’s still, she radiates energy. Watching her through a window felt illicit, yet it is impossible to look away. She makes full use of the space, by turns cowering, uncoiling, reaching, crawling, stretching. Now she’s a frightened animal, now an angry aggressor, a supplicant, a lover. She moves the bench across the floor to below the window, climbs upon and continues to move. She looks out the window, but over, not at, us. We’re eye level with her thighs and torso and her dance is an invitation to examine her bare skin. She’s that close. Yet there’s a barrier, we can’t touch. Then, in a brilliant stroke, we're shaken out of our reverie by Marinov's voice. "I knew a guy once," she says. So rare is the sound of a dancer's voice that the effect is unsettling.
In previous performances in the series, Marinov danced with a partner. Together they animated the push-and-pull of two individuals at once yearning for and repelled by true intimacy. This time, she was alone for most of the performance and drew the audience into her evolving emotions. Without the usual comfort of a theater seat – we stood throughout – or the distance that typically separates the audience from the stage, we felt exposed, vulnerable, perhaps even more so than the dancer before us. I have a feeling that this is exactly the response Hayward / Marinov were hoping to arouse.
The New Year is coming. We take stock of the last 365 days, weigh up the disappointments - always so many, both personal and communal - and relish the triumphs - thankfully, always one or two. We resolve to do better, so that next December, the scales tip less toward sorrow and more toward joy.
Of course, this is hard. It is hard to lose that last ten pounds or quit smoking, to organize the bills or keep the house neater, much less make the world a better, kinder place. But it is important to keep trying.
Probably many of you have seen this photograph before. It's more than twenty years old. But as the year winds down, it might be helpful to take another look, to be reminded of our smallness in the scope of the universe, our fragility, and our consequent responsibility to take care of each other.
This picture was taken in 1990 by the Voyager 1 spacecraft. It shows the Earth as it appears from 4 billion miles away.
"Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every 'superstar,' every 'supreme leader,' every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam." - Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot
Read more about this photograph here.
Despite the puzzled face of the young fellow
In scarecrow overalls reading a comic book,
It’s all there, the bell peppers, the radishes,
Local blueberries and blackberries
That will stain our lips and tongue
As if we were freezing to death in the snow.
The kid is bored, or pretends to be,
While watching the woman pick up a melon
And press its rough skin against her cheek.
What makes people happy is a mystery,
He concludes as he busies himself
Straightening crumpled bills in a cigar box.
-- Charles Simic
Ever since David and I traveled to China and Mongolia in 2008 as guests of the American embassy, I’ve paid particular attention to all things Mongolian-related that might happen in New York City. When an item about Hamid Sardar’s photography exhibit at the Tibet House appeared on Manhattan Users Guide (scroll down), I invited my friend Leigh Wells to see it with me. Leigh lived in Mongolia for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer and is herself a talented photographer. She’s just back from a month-long visit to her old stomping grounds.
As so often happens in New York, our signals got crossed and I ended up going solo but I’m hoping to return with Leigh to get an insider’s take on the photographs from both a cultural and artistic perspective.
Sardar’s images are breathtaking. If you live in New York City or are planning a visit, put this show on your agenda. It’s on view through August 20.
Beginning in 2000, Sardar traveled to Outer Mongolia to make a record of the country’s remaining nomad tribes. He followed horse-breeders, bear-hunters, wolf-tamers, eagle-masters, and reindeer riders on their seasonal migrations. His intention was to capture a nomadic culture on the brink of the great and irreversible change brought on by a fledgling democracy and encroaching technology.
The 25 pictures on display are large – 18 ½" x 27 ½" -- and in addition to depicting the brutal conditions facing nomads traversing the mountains during the harshest weather imaginable (to this city dweller), they include intimate portraits of family life: a young girl performs the morning milk dance, a grandmother pacifies her grandchildren on a wolf pelt (above). “Kazak Mother Wolf”, is particularly memorable for both its subject matter and its composition. A Rembrandt portrait comes to mind, where the central figure appears to glow from an interior light.
Each photograph is accompanied by Sardar’s helpful description. Some explain the lore behind a particular ritual captured by the image; others are suspense-filled tales of man facing the elements. A series taken over a period of days in 2006 shows hunters struggling over a mountain during an especially brutal snow storm. Sardar can hear avalanches “crashing down the mountain slopes.” The visibility is so poor that he can “barely see ten feet ahead.” At one point the fresh snow gives way under his feet and he plummets down a twenty-foot funnel. From behind, he hears the voice of a hunter: “Isn’t this wonderful,” the hunter says, urging Sardar to “push ahead until we reach the bottom of the bowl.”
Leigh and I did manage to catch up this afternoon over ice-tea and coffee at City Bakery on 18th Street. Leigh handed over a gift bag of aaruul (right), the popular Mongolian snack made of dried milk curd. I had sampled it during our 2008 stay and have been haunted by its flavor ever since. It looks like nuggets of dried toothpaste and starts with the funky flavor of a strong cheese but has a sweet finish. (Some varieties are not sweet.) After chewing a few pieces Leigh and I agreed that it would enliven a salad of bitter greens and dried cherries tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette. You heard it here first! Mongolian aaruul, the next big thing!
I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark
from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman
THE RULE OF THUMB
Ringfinger was nervous
when they learned
that Hand might succumb
to the rule of Thumb.