Dance of Death

skeleton puppet

Skeleton Puppet, courtesy The Richard Harris Collection.

Edge

By Sylvia Plath

The woman is perfected.
Her dead

Body wears the smile of accomplishment,
The illusion of a Greek necessity

Flows in the scrolls of her toga,
Her bare

Feet seem to be saying:
We have come so far, it is over.

Each dead child coiled, a white serpent,
One at each little

Pitcher of milk, now empty.
She has folded

Them back into her body as petals
Of a rose close when the garden

Stiffens and odors bleed
From the sweet, deep throats of the night flower.

The moon has nothing to be sad about,
Staring from her hood of bone.

She is used to this sort of thing.
Her blacks crackle and drag.


Mad Girl’s Love Song

By Sylvia Plath

I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell’s fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan’s men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you’d return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)


Photopurism

Photopurism (World of the Soul). Frantisek Drtikol. 1934.

Photopurism (World of the Soul). Frantisek Drtikol. 1934.


The Meal

The Meal

The Meal. Paul Gauguin. 1891.


The Good Reputation

The Good Reputation sleeping. Manuel Alvarez Bravo. 1938-9.

The Good Reputation, Sleeping. Manuel Alvarez Bravo. 1938-9.

Whether concealed by a fig leaf or locked by a chastity belt, a woman’s erogenous area has traditionally been kept hidden from view. Flouting convention, Manuel Alvarez Bravo staged this scene by clothing the model’s upper thighs, hips, and waist, and exposing her pubic region. Although this photograph challenges traditional representations of women, it alludes to confinement through the use of bandages around the model’s wrists and ankles. These devices can be interpreted as symbols of bondage and lack of free will.

In this seemingly serene setting, the star cacti lined up beside the slumbering model signal pain and danger. The plants impede the woman’s free movement, while at the same time protecting her from the sexual advances of a potential intruder. In naming this photograph The Good ReputationSleeping, Alvarez Bravo drew upon the Mexican proverb: Earn a good reputation, then rest on your laurels.

(Text from Getty)


Broadway Boogie Woogie

Broadway Boogie Woogie. Piet Mondrian .1942-3.

Broadway Boogie Woogie. Piet Mondrian .1942-3

Mondrian, who had escaped to New York from Europe after the outbreak of World War II, delighted in the city’s architecture. He was also fascinated by American jazz, particularly boogie-woogie, finding its syncopated beat, irreverent approach to melody, and improvisational aesthetic akin to what he called, in his own work, the “destruction of natural appearance; and construction through continuous opposition of pure means—dynamic rhythm.” In this painting, his penultimate, Mondrian replaced the black grid that had long governed his canvases with predominantly yellow lines that intersect at points marked by squares of blue and red. These atomized bands of stuttering chromatic pulses, interrupted by light gray, create paths across the canvas suggesting the city’s grid, the movement of traffic, and blinking electric lights, as well as the rhythms of jazz.

(Text from MoMA)


Beach Scene

Leon Levinstein

Beach Scene: Woman in Bikini Cuddling Baby, Coney Island, New York. Leon Levinstein. 1960s.


The Melancholy of Departure

A Song of Despair

By Pablo Neruda

The memory of you emerges from the night around me.
The river mingles its stubborn lament with the sea.

Deserted like the wharves at dawn.
It is the hour of departure, oh deserted one!

Cold flower heads are raining over my heart.
Oh pit of debris, fierce cave of the shipwrecked.

In you the wars and the flights accumulated.
From you the wings of the song birds rose

…click to continue reading 

Vampire II. Edvard Munch.

Vampire II. Edvard Munch. 1895-1902.


Film Still

Untitled Film Still #48. Cindy Sherman. 1979.

Untitled Film Still #48. Cindy Sherman. 1979.

Untitled Film Stills is a series of sixty-nine black-and-white photographs made between 1977 and 1980. In them Sherman appears as fictitious characters in scenarios resembling moments in a film. She used vintage clothing, wigs and makeup to create a range of female personae which she then photographed in apparently solitary, unguarded moments of reflection, undress, or in conversation with somebody off-set and outside of the frame. The ‘stills’ are set in a variety of interior locations as well as outside in urban and rural landscapes. They were begun shortly after Sherman moved to New York city with the artist Robert Longo.

Sherman has commented:

In college I began to collect a lot of discarded accoutrements from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, more for my own personal wardrobe as well as for the sheer fascination with what those garments stood for. It was easy and cheap to collect all kinds of things in those days. I’ve always played with make-up to transform myself, but everything, including the lighting, was self taught. I just learned things as I needed to use them. I absorbed my ideas for the women in these photos from every cultural source that I’ve ever had access to, including film, TV, advertisements, magazines, as well as any adult role models from my youth. The resulting photo shoots were very brief. In those naïve days, I would sometimes take only about six shots for one scene and move on to the next, so that with one roll of film I could have six different set-ups.

(Quoted in Contemporary Art: The Janet Wolfson de Botton Gift, p.99.)

Initially Sherman photographed the Film Stills in the loft apartment where she and Longo lived. She took many of the pictures herself using an extended shutter release; others, particularly those set in outdoor locations, required a second person to take the photograph, such as her boyfriend, friends or family. Sherman’s father took #48, in which she appears as a vulnerable young woman waiting with a suitcase at the side of a darkening country road.

Real film stills are not stills from the actual film but are photographs taken to encapsulate aspects of the film for advertising purposes, to be shown on billboards or in magazines or newspapers. Sherman has explained that she titled this series of images ‘film stills’ ‘mostly because I was thinking of publicity stills like you’d see around 42nd Street, in boxes of hundreds of them for thirty-five cents each’ (quoted in Taylor, p.78). She has said that her intention was that they would ‘seem cheap and trashy … I didn’t want them to look like art’ (quoted in Tomkins, p.78). Like real movie stills Sherman’s images evoke events in possible narratives which the viewer may invent or interpret in different ways, suggesting an original which never in fact existed. Like all of Sherman’s photographic series, they provide a range of fictional portraits, usually of women, in which the artist operates as actress, director, wardrobe assistant, set designer and cameraman.

(From Tate)


The Labyrinth

By Jorge Luis Borges

(Translated by Stephen Kessler)

Zeus himself could not undo the web
of stone closing around me. I have forgotten
the men I was before; I follow the hated
path of monotonous walls
that is my destiny. Severe galleries
which curve in secret circles
to the end of the years. Parapets
cracked by the days’ usury.
In the pale dust I have discerned
signs that frighten me. In the concave
evenings the air has carried a roar
toward me, or the echo of a desolate howl.
I know there is an Other in the shadows,
whose fate it is to wear out the long solitudes
which weave and unweave this Hades
and to long for my blood and devour my death.
Each of us seeks the other. If only this
were the final day of waiting.

Six Labyrinths. Joe Tilson. 1976.

Six Labyrinths. Joe Tilson. 1976.