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).
Humility, Concentration, and Gusto. Okay, Mostly Gusto.
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.
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
A Fantastic Cave Landscape, with Odysseus and Calypso (1568-1625), by Jan Brueghel the Elder
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:
Here a maid tipped out water for their hands
from a golden pitcher into a silver bowl,
and set a polished table near at hand;
the larder mnistress with her tray of loaves
and savories came, dispensing all her best...
And also here:
"...but Helen called the maids
and sent them to make beds, with purple rugs
piled up, and sheets outspread, and fleecy
coverlets, in the porch inside the gate.
The girls went out with torches in their hands..."
Whether cooking, doing laundry, or making beds, no chore seems too mundane for Homer to depict with color and physical touch. Even scent is not overlooked, as when Eidothea, daughter of the god Proteus (and a nereid), dabs ambrosia beneath three lads' noses to drown out the "bestial odor" of the seal skins in which they hide. The ambrosia is likened to perfume, and, to me, the moment hints at how man aligns himself with both the beautiful and the monstrous, how often the two can be experienced within breaths of one another.
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.
Upon her hearthstone a great fire blazing
scented the farthest shores with cedar smoke
and smoke of thyme, and singing high and low
in her sweet voice, before her loom a-weaving,
she passed her golden shuttle to and fro.
A deep wood grew outside, with summer leaves
of alder and black poplar, pungent cypress.
Ornate birds here rested their stretched wings --
horned owls falcons, cormorants -- long tongued
beach combing birds, and followers of the sea.
Around the smoothwalled cave a crooking vine
held purple clusters under ply of green;
and four springs, bubbling up near one another
shallow and clear, took channels here and there
through beds of violets and tender parsley.
When I think about escaping my keyboard, it's usually to a green place like this, which I imagine as lit by candles and mirrors and old lamps. Once when I was in New Orleans, I spent quite some time in a store that devoted itself to that kind of light. We had run in from the rain, and the contrast between the pale gray of the French Quarter and the jeweled glow of the shop was as precise as if invisible hands had placed each setting in its own frame, the former ensconced in a rectangle of simple pine and the latter in a baroque gold square.
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.
I've always been easily distracted, finishing projects or cleaning the house in no particular order. Look, there is a cup on the balcony that needs washing.... let me clean the grime from this leaf.... this shelf of rags needs folding.... No one thing is started and finished in a continual surge. And now I realize that I read that way too -- following a story, then drifting off into my own.
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.
<<< Deadline: August 15, 2011
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. >>>