Friday, December 25, 2009

Paintings by JANET SNELL -- a calendar

This deluxe 2010 calendar should be on the walls of art-loving people. It's remarkable. The 12 images of Janet's paintings make you forget all about dates, even time. They make you stop. Time is staggered. Weird calendar!

I'm not going to talk in detail about each painting. Rather, these images stretch my find a general space in which to set them, in which to gain a tenuous perspective.

They all have heads, suspended in ambiguous space or set amid indefinite objects...slippery forms. Each work pulsates with intense primary colors. These hues are made brilliant by their contrast to murkier, darker shades lurking here and there. The play of form and color produces an almost hypnogogic effect, or maybe hallucinatory: you begin to force known things onto these shifting background shapes...the colors come at you like memories you've forgotten.

And the heads!

Human-looking, for the most part. But before I get to the heads, I want to offer something about style and genre. I tend to look for representational things in these paintings. I want to make sense of them. If there is a human head or a background object that seems familiar, I want to force a narrative. Piece them together. But I don't think that is what Janet's style is about. I think these paintings are expressionistic and too abstract for my compulsive attempt at interpretation. I don't think these works are meant to be interpreted. They are to be experienced. They are affective, not textual.

These paintings are poised halfway between the abstract and the concrete. And, damn!...that's what makes them so compelling. The days on the calendar become irritatingly ordinary. You want nothing to do with time for a while (yes, that's paradoxical). You enjoy being held in marvelous suspense.

But back to those heads. It could be the case that those human heads are floating in a paradoxical space: yes, obviously human (and all that that signals to us) but also pure moments of form. Cephalic shapes to circumscribe color-vacuums, lending force to the other “objects.”

Another impression jumps into my own head, beyond what I said above about...well, whatever it was I said. For me, I feel like I'm looking at a negative-image of consciousness. The subconscious? Maybe. And what's weird and cool is that those heads, drained of color and feature detail, seem to express more human soulfulness and depth than even a portrait by Rembrandt!

“Hyperbole,” you shout!

Well, buy the calendar and see if I'm exaggerating.

Scattered Light -- Facebook page

Scattered Light Publications website

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

ranting on William Blake's AMERICA: A PROPHECY

Death Depicted as the Grim Reaper on Top of the World from The Raven
Gustave Doré

Orc is the red-eyed, hairy spirit of rebellion and freedom. He is the inflaming passion that encourages the American colonists to break the chains of oppression – both royal and clerical. As a universalist, Blake envisions America as a vast land of utopian, egalitarian promise. He applauds the formula “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Desire and joy, which animate much of his poetry, are free energies that should range unchecked. Repression will eventually explode in a bloody unshackling. Britain is defeated, and a new nation born. It is born, as Blake would have it, from the raging, lustful union of Orc with the female principle of potentiality – “the shadowy daughter of Urthona.”

I wish Blake had lived a couple centuries more, long enough to write a sequel. What would he have thought about that new nation emerging over decades?...built on the enslaved misery of black men and women, expanded via the obliteration of native peoples, frothed into psychoses of revivalism, normalized into patriarchal suppression of females? The spirit of freedom – the passion of Orc – was very short-lived. In fact, Orc suffered a very premature death and peremptory burial.

Seventy years after a final rebuke of Britain, after a putative New World order was gaining momentum, a quiet demonic birth took place in the shadows behind a Supreme Court bench: corporate personhood was unleashed on the world. The Earth would now begin to tremble before a dark spirit more insidious than the East India Company and more powerful than Orc. Blake's mad, shaggy god is a poetic abstraction. “Corp,” by contrast, is a real-life legal entity. It is very mean. And it is very hungry. It is much worse than the madness of King George III.

Blake was a universalist. His soul was boundless, thus he resented borders, whether geographical or spiritual. Well, the new beast Corp is also sort of a universalist – it burst the bounds of the USA and now tramps heavily across the globe as an international, bloodthirsty pirate. He is greedy, rapacious. With an iron boot, he snaps the neck of any recalcitrant country. He wields the sword of armies to puncture the heart of decency and peace. And he loves to gamble with extremely loaded dice.

We can easily examine Corp's footprint left last year on this country – on Blake's America. Hundreds of billions of bail-out dollars flushed into the Wall Street cesspool, especially Goldman Sachs. And thanks to the corporate lackeys who make up all aspects of the federal government, there is no oversight, no accountability. As the economy remains staggered, with unemployment personal and small-business loans remain elusive...Goldman Sachs and other corporate vultures pay themselves vertiginous bonuses. As misery continues apace among the People (real people), as more children go hungry, Wall Street enjoys record profits. Republicans (and many Democrats) are enemies of the People, are best friends of the arch-demon Corp, who inflicts his fiscal poisons on this country and the world.

The Armed Services are a subsidiary of Corp. They go where he commands. They are not reserved or deployed to protect the citizenry. They are available to protect and enhance the far-flung interests of Corp. Many people join the military branches out of a noble sense of duty, but they are being duped. Not one American soldier or Marine should have been killed in Iraq. Not one. And Afghanistan? A cluster of rat-brained zealots scampering around the Pakistan border logically required an international police effort to ferret them out. A huge military invasion by us? Absurd...until one realizes that a standing army needs an excuse to justify itself, to keep munitions and war-techno corporations going strong.

I have always suspected such a thing – the military as corporate bodyguard and advance legion – but the health care debate in Congress really confirms something basic and essential.

The Defense Department is annually swollen with unquestioning hundreds of billions of dollars. More money than the next several countries combined. And this is done ostensibly to protect the citizenry. You know, Colonel Jack Nicholson's “We're on the wall so you don't have to be.” The truth is that Republicans wish to stamp American power into the world. So Corp will thrive globally. Mealy-mouthed Democrats go along with this malignant nonsense. Very twisted people. Republicans and Democrats don't hesitate to glut the military with gold. And call that glutting "protection of the citizenry."


If protecting the citizenry from harm was truly an essential tax-dollar investment, then protecting the citizenry from the catastrophic effects of disease would be a no-brainer. Congress does not give a damn about protecting you. Your representatives and senators are in place to protect their jobs by protecting Corp., ensuring his profit. This is a logical, algorithmic extrapolation of what happened in 1886 – when corporate personhood was given the green light by the Supreme Court.

Prior to that date, corporations were subservient to the People. Since then, the People are here to serve Corp. Earlier, strict behavioral controls kept corporations subdued: they must be grounded to the licensing state; they must not have holdings in other corporations, they must be punished severely if they operate against the Commonweal. All that changed when they became “people,” when they gained access to our Bill of Rights, when they became Corp.

So, what more logical result could be expected than this: your biological life as a market strategy for medicine and insurance? You are nothing but slabs of Solyent Green to be run through the financial digestive system of Corp. And the harder you work (work until your expendable self drops) and the less you make (stop whining about that untreated broken leg), the wider the toothy smile of Corp.

The ravages of illness are a more insidious threat than the Talibanis, the Iranians, and the North Koreans. But Corp is making too much money off your misery. Health Care Reform: what a silly mirage. Congress is only a puppet show.

William Blake's prophetic voice sang the new Folk Song, lifting the deeds of free, fiery men into mythic verse. America, with its fires of freedom and higher justice, was, in his mind's eye, an example to the world, soon to spread its inspiring flames to France. But that voice, that Folk Song has been forgotten and drowned out in the cacophonous shriek of Corp's greed. Let us remember at least one stanza of that Folk Song and lift it against the cold iron soul of Wall Street:

But all rush together in the night in wrath and raging fire.
The red fires rag'd! The plagues recoil'd! then
rolld they back with fury.

Oh...and Joe Lieberman...well, he can investigate my sphincter with a headlamp and hiking boots.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

"And I nearly lost my mind."

Billions of years of atomic and chemical processes, leading eventually to life and to its most exuberant expression:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Brown Eyed Girl

June, 1967. Me, 15 years old. Summer job -- painting the house exterior.
White oil paint. Gets gooey in summer heat. Gets on your arm hair and
dries tight. I watch Lou Ann walk down the road. I reach down and crank up the volume on the RCA radio. I think she smiled as this song got louder.

journal entry by an unproductive citizen

Normality is the oddest thing. Everydayness is disconcerting. Does the madman clawing Bedlam's wall know something important? Maybe he knows that being blithely located and snugly wrapped in human events is insanely sane? How to account for the bizarre psychological buffer that keeps astonishment repressed? Lulling people into a conception that existence and being aware of one's existence is in any way normal, a thing to be taken for granted? Where is the friend of my soul? The one who knows that normality and the “sane” absorptions of human beings are extremely creepy? Where is the hobo-soul to walk with me on the outskirts of society, on the astonished periphery?

country rant

Country music on the CMT video channel is gawdawful. It is much worse than Hip-Hop, Rap, and Soul (nearly all of which are intolerable). At least those other genres provide pockets of creativity and real expression...even if what is created and expressed is shallow and numbskull. Another contrast: Nashville (or whatever it is) makes the old Tin Pan Alley seem like a bastion of radical artistic inspiration.

Country music on CMT is devoid of anything genuine. It is lifeless. And the more revved-up it gets -- incorporating pop and rock -- the more lifeless it becomes. Sure, I could just ignore it, but I like ranting about it. I like knowing that it represents everything I detest.

Let's set aside what is being sung about (gawd...cliches as thick as Washington lobbyists). Although the lyrical asininity is worthy of scorn and ridicule, it is not the worst aspect. What is so deplorable has to do with how it is being said -- the musical structure. It is formulaic, cynically crafted, machine-like in its soullessness.

Country music used to be listenable -- Hank Williams, George Jones, Lefty Frizzell...Loretta, Merle, Buck, and Johnny. What the hell happened? I do believe this country is undergoing a cultural collapse into final banality.

The Great Adagio

No...not Samuel Barber's movement lifted from his string quartet and orchestrated to accompany Willem Defoe's death scene in Platoon. I'm talking about the third movement of Anton Bruckner's (1824 - 1896) Symphony No. 8.

Bruckner was a devout Protestant, with his face turned perpetually toward the radiance of his God. His middle and late symphonies, with their organ-like sonorities and vast surgings, do give off a cosmic, spiritual resonance. I wish to isolate the third movement Adagio and share a few thoughts about it.

There are many theories of reality. Some contradict others. Some are ridiculous. It may seem odd to speak of a piece of music as a “theory of reality,” but that is how the great adagio strikes me. But is Bruckner only “theorizing”? Only asserting a religious answer to transcendent yearning? Are we, as listeners, only empathizing with his sentiments? Or given the mystery of consciousness, are we, through this composer, gaining access to a real spiritual beyond? Preposterous, right?

For me, this movement as a whole (and especially those measures at the 2:25 mark in the first Youtube below) is an example of objective knowledge. Bruckner, aside from his religious beliefs, is a musical conduit, a channel through which mystical experience flows into me. I am not a believer, and I'm not an atheist. I'm not even an agnostic (postponing his opinion of reality until God drops by for whiskey and cigarettes and surprising revelations). I am a paradoxicalist, who thinks that reality is groundless and absyssal. What comes into me from this music, therefore, is not a delusion or a jacked-up hope. This is not about about Unamuno's tragic desire for afterlife, for that desire's strength forcing a solution. This is not about a requirement that yearning be satisfied, else life would be too absurd. No, this movement expresses something other than human need or religious sign.

Bruckner's Adagio is an expression of deep reality caught candidly and unconsciously. The power of music has, here, mediated worlds. And I catch a strong hint about what has been paradoxically crafted inside the Abyss, a meaning that has generated itself through absurd processes. That hint is in this music: love will enfold all creation, and everyone who has loved or who has been loved will be magically redeemed by Love, beyond the red of roses and beyond the nightingale's song.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Sunday, December 6, 2009


The dark pines are weeping
as coming winter's early shrouding
swallows up the day. And night hovers
over the hour of music.

Brahms would be fitting,
in fitful agitation:
plaint of violin
and horn's resignation
bring a melancholy tone
to pianoed questions.

Maybe ice and bourbon
to blunt nostalgia's tang,
unsharpen pikes of memory
where sagging regrets hang.

Music speaks so wordlessly,
yet eloquent as ice,
and moves through utter stillness,
grave as love's delight.

I know not why I'm weeping.
It's just a mood of being.

thoughts on two Cesare Pavese poems

from Hard Labor: Poems by Cesare Pavese
trans. William Arrowsmith, The Ecco Press, New York, 1979


The window, half open, holds a face
over the meadow of the sea. The hair sways
with the gentle rhythm of the sea, moving.

There are no memories on this face.
Only a passing shadow, like the shadow of a cloud.
In the half-light the shadow is moist and sweet
like the sand of a hollow cove, untouched.
There are no memories. Only a murmur
which is the sound of the sea made memory.

In the half-light the soft water of dawn
is saturated with light and illumines the face.
When the sun is high, each day is a miracle.
It has no time. A salt light suffuses it,
and a smell of living things from the salt sea.

No memory lives on this face.
No word could hold it, no word
connect it to vanished things. Yesterday
it vanished from the little window as it will
always vanish, instantly, no sadness,
no human words, over the field of the sea.

I adore this kind of poem. For me, it achieves the highest goal that poetry has latent in its power: numinous art. Here, there is no complaining ego, no myriad foibles of fractured psychology or wounded heart. No “I” or “me” protrudes; self is only observer. Here, we have a moment of transcendent beauty, sublime Being. Here, the human being takes his proper place amid mysteries and then salutes them quietly, without hubris. The image of that strange face must

always vanish, instantly, no sadness,
no human words, over the field of the sea.

Landscape VIII

Memories begin at evening,
with a breath of wind, to lift their head
and listen to the river running. In the darkness
the water flows as it did in the dead years.

In the still darkness a rustling rises,
old voices, old laughter go flowing by,
and with them goes a flurry of empty color,
color of sunlight, and beaches, and bright looks.
A summer of sounds. Each face keeps,
like ripe fruit, a savor of something gone.

Each look, returning, keeps a taste
of grass and things suffused with late light
along a beach. It keeps a breath of the sea.
It's like the sea at night, this drifting blur
of old longings and tremblings, touched by the sky,
which every evening brings again. The dead
sounds are like that sea, breaking.

Again, personality is subsumed into what swirls and mixes into our experience. Memories, yes. But their status as prior events has been subtly altered: they are now bonded to something bigger, abstracted into color, sound, light, movement. Transmuted to higher, more complex emotional forms. To something that has a nocturnal taste of dream about it. Or at least that odd in-between space where nature and spirit sometimes mingle.

[Cesare Pavese, 1908 - 1950]

a literary moment

Come away with me. To 1920. To California. To Steinbeck's Tortilla Flat:

It was purple dusk, that sweet time when the day's sleeping is over, and the evening of pleasure and conversation has not begun. The pine trees were very black against the sky, and all objects on the ground were obscured with dark; but the sky was as mournfully bright as memory. The gulls flew lazily home to the sea rocks after a day's visit to the fish canneries of Monterey.

Pilon was a lover of beauty and a mystic. He raised his face into the sky and his soul arose out of him into the sun's afterglow. That not too perfect Pilon, who plotted and fought, who drank and cursed, trudged slowly on; but a wistful and shining Pilon went up to the sea gulls where they bathed on sensitive wings in the evening. That Pilon was beautiful, and his thoughts were unstained with selfishness and lust. And his thoughts are good to know.

a certain blue

Nature offers us many instances of beauty. Some of these encounters impress themselves deeply into memory. Sometimes, nature becomes mixed up with something else, and memory is not only impressed; it is sacralized.

When I was nine or ten years old, the family was on a short vacation trip from El Dorado, Arkansas to Lake Greeson (near Murfreesboro in southwest Arkansas). I had fallen asleep in the backseat of our Olds 98 and was roused from slumber by Daddy's announcement: “There's the lake.”

I raised up and peered out the window. The road was about a hundred feet up from the lake, with tall dark pines plunging steeply down to the water and forming a forested screen. The tree canopy was such that the lake's extent was blocked; only what appeared between those trunks was visible. Censorship always breeds fascination. Yes, between those trunks, I spied that water. I fell into its strange color. I have never seen that shade of blue since then. It was not a bright, pale turquoise, but that's the closest approximation I can offer. It was strikingly different from any bright, pale turquoise one might associate with Key West or the Caribbean or Bermuda...or some South Sea atoll. It was unique.

I'm not convinced it was a purely natural color. I had just awakened from dreams (surely I had...I always dream when asleep), and I was disoriented. I didn't know how we had gotten to the lake, didn't know where it was in relation to my hometown, didn't even know why we had come to the lake – at a certain age or with a certain daydreaming character, family events just materialize and one gets swept up in the unexplained, unprocessed momentum.

Reflecting now on that memory, I do believe something else was mixed into that strangely beautiful lake water glimpsed through pine trees. In those few seconds before the road curved away from the lake, some residual dreamstuff blended into that sun-dazzled water color. It seemed an unearthly hue. Maybe a mystic-plasma-blue, showing itself only once in that magic space between nature and uncertain consciousness.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


While offline for several weeks, I did quite a bit of reading. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Here's some of my impressions:

“Bad Blood” is delightful. An American woman, married to a relocated Indian, must suffer the cultural condescension of his visiting relatives. Subtle psychological combat between our protagonist and her antagonist, Jaya, moves us humorously to the story's end. And that ending sounds an unexpected, wistful note.

Of course, the exotic (to me) element adds flavor and interest, but I couldn't resist thinking that a similar friction among relatives could just have easily occurred between two Americans. What we have, basically, is a main character who is self-conscious and self-possessed. Those others, whether in person or as revealed in letters, lack those characteristics. For them, tradition and egoism have displaced the functions of a self-critical faculty.

It would be silly of me or others to read too broadly into this phenomenon. Though India still clings to many worn-out behavioral modes, I know some Indians whose minds belong to themselves. Having said that, I do think this story should be pitched to a TV exec. It would make a wonderful, sophisticated sit-com in the right hands.

* * *

With “Prickly Heat,” Cheryl proves herself an exceptional prose stylist. There is something of Keats's “negative capability” revealed in this poignant story: it is a mystery to me how a female author can so perfectly inhabit the hurting corners of a middle-aged man's soul. And her striking turns of phrase bring delight to the reader, even as he squirms and winces in sympathy with Roger.

* * *

“Closure.” This tale is superbly rendered. Again, those fresh, stunning turns of phrase. The first time I read this, the tearful harmonica player Hank struck me as marvelously absurd, inexplicably sentimental. After a second reading, the truth came clear (I almost regret the truth, preferring non sequitur as a form of high art). The forlorn character Lily is brought vividly to life. And her moments of eventual determination are delivered to us with a palpable presence.

* * *

Read “Healing Louise” and take from it what you will. For me, the details recede. In the foreground, a general conception emerges: human beings are, each one of us, very strange creatures. Six billion brains. Six billion different psychological universes. That we communicate at all sometimes hits me with a force of incredulity. A nurse, an astronaut, a rodeo clown? What shall you choose to be to stay distracted from the crushing Absurd?

* * *

“Boomerang Avenue.” Another general conception: it is a form of magic how a writer can populate your brain with living characters and furnish it with objects that teem with verisimilitude. Setting that consideration aside, I'm not as pleased with this story as I am with the previous ones. Cathy's attitude reversal at the end – from a resentful belligerence to a sudden softening – strikes me a bathetic, a bit facile.

* * *


Dentists are a bit odd, wouldn't you say? They've always struck me that way. And I think I've read that, among professionals, dentists have the highest suicide rate. Hygienists and dental assistants also freak me out. They are preternaturally chipper. It's no act. To their cores, they are well-pleased to be existentially rooted in the vicinity of root canals. Like blithe gondoliers rowing the canals of Venice. Chipper people disconcert me. Happy people make me nervous.

OK, to the story. I don't know what to make of it. Is Zoe a programmed zombie, an idiot-savant? She is very odd, as are the others in her orbit. Is the man as strange as he seems, or has the Novocaine numbed Zoe's brain? Maybe he's not really even there! Read this yourself and see if you can gain traction on the fascinating, slippery surface.

* * *

“Safe House.”

Like “Bad Blood,” our main character is observant, self-possessed, put upon, and constrained by socials mores. The cleaning entrepreneur Karen is, like Jaya from the first story, just the opposite – she is expressionistic rather than impressionistic. In other words, crass and boorish. But as “Safe House” moves along, we begin to sympathize with her pathos (Jaya never stirred sympathy in me).

Cheryl is adroit in her ability to blend social absurdity with personal alienation. The protagonist's husband is, apparently, the bread-winning jerk. Karen's world is a sad, seedy, fractal kaleidoscope. Those societal topographies form the background. In the foreground is a perplexed woman inhabiting her own mind.

But sheesh! Who hires people to clean? Get real. Clean up your own freaking mess.

* * *

What I liked most about reading “Whet” is that it made me glad I'm not like those characters. I'm glad that artsy discotheques and empty sex hold no attraction for me. I'm glad I don't have to associate with somersaulting libertines. But maybe I'm being callous, uncharitable. Maybe the crises of a rejection and a weight problem create a tension and an isolation that naturally expresses itself in superficial activity. And the need to be accepted, to be acknowledged, to be known can, I think, send the human spirit on very basic, urgent missions. Aside from all that, Cheryl has given us another vivid, provocative slice of life.

* * *

“Wisdom” is a very well-crafted story about time and love's erosion...about the contradictions inherent in monogamy.

And of course for me – basically a hobo masquerading as a normal person – it's always interesting to read about the upper crust, about people who have real nice houses and who attend social events. Who wear silk smoking jackets and sapphire necklaces. Who are more interested in novel bed mates than Russian novels. Who are obsessed with illicit carnality, instead of chastely dreaming about an ideal soul-mate.

* * *

In conclusion, this book is aces! If you enjoy falling into strange, expertly realized worlds, you will love this little volume.

* * *

The book's cover painting is by Cheryl's sister Janet. She also contributes a painting for each of the nine stories. These images are not descriptive, do not illustrate the stories. Rather, they are expressionistic, formally loose gesturings. From them, a mood is evoked that carries over into each story. They are ambiguous, and that is their power.

Here's the link to their Facebook page Scattered Light Productions.

a general impression of W.G. Sebald's THE EMIGRANTS

I recently read this novel for the third time. I have read masterpieces. This is a masterpiece. My first reading left me impressed. My second reading affected me even more. This last reading bowled me over – I realized that Sebald deserves a rare seat among the company of literary geniuses.

The narrator who is and is not Sebald probes the repressed biographies of four displaced Jews – emigrants. His subtle tracing of the emotional scars of these main characters is complemented by the shadings of other wounded souls who drift into the narrative...into the memories of those main characters.

Anti-Semitism (who can explain to me that psychosis?) at the end of the 19th century and then during the madness of the Holocaust forms the harsh background for these penetrating glimpses into human desolation. Not exactly light reading. But very necessary reading.

Sebald approaches his theme obliquely and with understatement, which are the methods of a master. The impact of his overall story gains force through a paradoxical subtlety. Poignancy and hard truth leak into the narrative imperceptibly. And we are swept along unawares on currents the strength of which we little suspect.

Until tears pronounce our unspoken verdict on what has been wrought in us.

The Internal Beyonds of Yves Tanguy

All art contains an element of mysticism. Reality remains unexplained, hence, all creative acts inside it push against the boundary of being, probe the possibilities of transcendence. Most art prior to the emergence of Impressionism was, consciously or unconsciously, a form of religious expression. Even portraiture had a religious dimension: those subjects depicted on canvas were emblematic of the human intersection with the divine, ego as implied vessel of eternal spirit.

Then, Impressionism. The religious receded (Darwinism was gaining traction), but the mystical survived. Nature's moods and energies, though “scientifically” rendered, still impacted human consciousness according to sublime criteria. The essence of things – their concealed but felt actuality – stimulated a spiritual nerve in the souls of artists, even if an unacknowledged Pantheistic one.

Then, Expressionism (and variants of Modernist art). As the pathology of industrialization increased, leading to industrial slaughter during the First World War, forms of artistic consciousness erupted to stake out territory in which a semblance of metaphysical meaning might be preserved. Oddly (or perhaps understandably), these preserves of wounded spirit were paradoxical spaces. The immemorial desire for transcendence lived on, but with God gone, meaning was sought in the irrational. Transcendence became an obsessive move away from bourgeois normality and scientific hubris. Paradoxical because meaning was derived from the meaningless. As nature was subsumed into system and humanity became more dangerous and repugnant, actuality – Being, as such – pressed in more mysteriously, insinuating itself as the ambiguous theme for artists, composers, and writers.

Sartre experienced Being as nausea. The Modern artist transformed it into the fantastic, distorted it into the grotesque or the uncanny. The mystical, or spiritual, had taken on a more urgent aspect than what had hovered blithely in the Impressionist background. Wittgenstein's dictum – “Whereof one can not speak, thereof one must remain silent” – is profound. It established the parameters for what would become analytic philosophy. Language that strayed beyond the truly sayable was illicit and absurd. But there are other kinds of language, other ways of saying. Heidegger pointed to the poetry of Hölderlin. Music is another mode of intelligibility beyond the analyzable. Still another kind of transcendental semantics takes place through form and color on the canvas.

Yves Tanguy (1900 – 1955) was a Surrealist. He is my favorite artist from the Modernist era. When the term “Surrealism” is mentioned, most people think of wild juxtapositions of familiar objects, whether animate or inanimate. Tanguy is subtler, much more enigmatic. His canvases teem with objects, but those things have only a passing similarity to known forms. Those equivocal thingy forms are more like reified mental or spiritual intuition. And the “landscapes” in which they are placed are less like space-time milieus than volumes of void, theaters of dream.

* * *

Owing to intellectual property rights, I'm unable to reproduce Tanguy images here. So, below are links to two of his paintings. Beneath each link, I provide my impression of the images. See if you don't agree that the mystical, the spiritual, and the transcendent pulse as ambiguous energies in these works.

A blue-cream journey. Upright creaturing into cartilaginous form. Inexplicable paraphenalias. Conceptlessness symbolized. Hopefulness elementalizing itself into a blue-cream quest.

Stasis. Rootedness. Under the bouillon of an alchemical sky. Emptiness becoming a heavy tangibility. The miracle of number, yet the torture of separation.