Tuesday, January 21, 2020

ekphrastic desires

As I've been looking over the old poems from my ekphrasis class all those years ago, and working on the renaissance dog-girl project, which encompasses not just Antoinetta Gonzolez herself, but also the artist Lavinia Fontana, her portraitist, I've been thinking a bit about how I write about art, especially given how much of the time, I am always engaging the visual, even when the artist is just myself.  Or, the opposite when I am "arting about writing"  The two things being inextricably linked for me.

The urges were always there, as my earlier poems attest.  While I was hitting on a lot of subjects in that early work--history, mythology, fairytales, literature--I did early on write a poem about Degas dancers, variations of which I had hanging in various places during college and grad school.  While I will always love me an impressionist of any stripe, Degas was in those years my favorite.  What always intrigued me was not the dancers, but the men who watched them from the shadows. Whether the voyeur or the "despotic master."  I liked it enough that  was one of the few pre-2000 poems that wound up in The Archaeologists Daughter. 

During my first semester of my MFA program, Karen Volkman, who was a visiting writer teaching a craft class I've forgotten the name of,  took us specifically to see the Cornell boxes at the Art Institute and I was hooked. I started writing about them, sneaking over to see them occasionally on my writing days (ie the days I had only classes and no library shifts),  It was a time when the museum allowed pay what you can, and since I usually was there in the afternoon, I felt confident paying a couple bucks and wandering through the museum's wings, but mostly hanging out around the Cornell boxes. Years later, the Institute built a monolithic modern wing and shoved all the boxes in a big glass case all together and basically ruined everything, but at the time, they were strung through a series of small rooms, which allowed you to encounter each one singularly. To sit down in front of the tabled ones. I spent a lot of time there, working over the next few years on what would become at the hotel andromeda.

It was while working on those pieces that I filed away my encounter with Dali's Invention of the Monsters, which was hung in a room I had to pass through to reach the Cornell;s and had a bench upon which I often sat to jot down notes.  While Cornell was icy blue and haunted, Dali was all wild and in flames, and just really weird in a way I appreciated.  It took me years to return to that painting as subject matter., and when I did, it turned into a sort of meditation on the ghostly little blue dog in the corner and Dali's own wife, who occupies the painting with him.

An of course, there are still the planned series that may have tiny beginnings or preliminary plans, but nothing much yet.  I'd love to write about Gregory Crewdson's work.  Also Francesca Woodman, who has been a muse in so many ways. If you expand ekphrasis to other media, I've toyed with a series about my favorite film, The Shining.   (there is so much there not only tickling my horror bone, but also domestic abuse and the writing process.)  I'm also intrigued with approaching non-existing and made up artwork as a project. Of exploring various aspects of "ekphrasis."