Monday, January 07, 2013

Edna St. Vincent Millay Can Shove It

I refer, as you've probably guessed, to her poem "Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare." ...

Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare.
Let all who prate of Beauty hold their peace,
And lay them prone upon the earth and cease
To ponder on themselves, the while they stare
At nothing, intricately drawn nowhere
In shapes of shifting lineage; let geese
Gabble and hiss, but heroes seek release
From dusty bondage into luminous air.
O blinding hour, O holy, terrible day,
When first the shaft into his vision shone
Of light anatomized!  Euclid alone
Has looked on Beauty bare.  Fortunate they
Who, though once only and then but far away,
Have heard her massive sandal set on stone..

Ms. Millay had obviously never seen "Enron Falls" when she wrote that bit of clunky presumptuousness; had never heard the massive sandal of one of my hanging scrolls set on stone. Even from afar.

This, virtually finished, is, in fact, 'Enron Falls" ...

A bit of non-Euclidean, raggedy-assed, wooly wonderfulness if ever I saw it, weighing in at roughly 30" by 84" -- two and a half feet by seven, let's say.  Maybe eight pounds, as if that's in any way important.

Me?  My heart soars like an eagle.  I spent a fair amount of time standing in the studio last night with a finger of Evan Williams in my left hand, running my right across the surface of the painting, listening to "Spring 1990" (a new Grateful Dead concert album that is certainly worth the ten or fifteen bucks required).

If you look closely (or look back in the blog) you can see the scroll is painted on hanging canvas that's been covered with newspaper.  What's fun is that as you apply the paint the newspaper itself reacts to the moisture in unusual, random ways: contracts, wrinkles, tears away, etc.  Honestly, the whole painting's a wreck.  Jackie Kennedy once said that her son John's then-girlfriend Daryl Hannah always looked like an unmade bed.  Same with this -- I'm extremely pleased.

I particularly love that little curlique of painted canvas trying to escape off the edge, about half way up the left side.   It reminds me of the goober of paint coming out of the side of Hank Paulson.

As for Edna St. Vincent Millay, she was prolly gaga over stuff like this:

A little anal for me.  I'm reminded of the joke that goes Raccoons are clever, but they don't have a head for figures.  I feel the same, in a different sort of way, about Mondrian.  Interesting -- historically significant, certainly -- but his stuff doesn't really move me.

I remember, as a young boy, visiting my Aunt Mary and Uncle Jim at their home in Chappaqua.  Mary was my mother's sister and, like all the Vincent girls, had a ferocious mind.  My Aunt Betty used to demolish -- demolish! -- me in Scrabble, and I was a smart kid.  I knew some words.

I was always very quiet when I visited that house.  Aunt Mary, I remember thinking, felt like the closest I was every going to come to meeting Gertrude Stein.  She scared me to death.  And Uncle Jim.  Every once in a while I would find myself in what I took to be his library.  I was told he collected first editions, which impressed me quite a bit.  And that I was not to touch anything.  But there was something about that room that made me think, Man, this is the life.  It made an impression.  Validated my bookish ways.  Today, years later, I die a little death every time I buy an electronic book for my Kindle.  I feel like I'm betraying the memory of my dad and my uncle and all the other people who hold books in a special category.

Brief personal aside:  I wish I'd known them better, but I was too young and they were too old.

Somewhere in the back of my head I remember, or I think I remember, that he owned a first edition signed by Edna St. Vincent Millay.  So every time I think of her, I think of him.  And the reverse.  Thus this rambling post.

I wonder what the word is for reliving childhood memories with an adult's mindset.  Some distant cousin of anthropomorphism.  Because I can promise you that when I was visiting Chappaqua I had no idea who Gertrude Stein was.  Nor that she once owned this ...

All that came later.


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