The Fig Tree

The Fallen Fig. Theodoros Stamos. 1949

The Fallen Fig. Theodoros Stamos. 1949

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

From The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath


Californian artist John Baldessari is known for his film, photography and painting since he started working in the 60’s. In the late 70’s and 80’s he began to use other peoples’ photographs in his own work and use film stills from old Hollywood films. He gathered images in abundance and used them to create photo collages, experimenting with the juxtaposition of images to explore the nature of communication and perception. Baldessari’s arbitrary juxtapositions make us question how we read images.


Portrait: (Self) #1 as Control + 11 Alterations by Retouching and Airbrushing. John Baldessari. 1974.


Concerning Diachronic/Synchronic Time: Above, On, Under (with Mermaid) 1976: The pictures stacked vertically represent events taking place simultaneously (synchronically) while those juxtaposed horizontally represent successive instants (diachronically). But only the middle pair adhere to this rule, showing a boat moving across the horizon. On the other in hand, the others are formal rhymes, in the pair at the top a plane turns into a bird and in the pair at the bottom a submarine turns into a mermaid. The middle images can be read in terms of narrative while the others must be read in terms of association.

Concerning diachronic/synchronic time: above, on, under (with mermaid). John Baldessari. 1976

Concerning diachronic/synchronic time: above, on, under (with mermaid). John Baldessari. 1976

Violent Space Series: Nine Feet (of Victim and Crowd) Arranged by Position in Scene, 1976: Everything is hidden except for the circles which reveal people’s feet. The arrangement of the feet, in conjunction with the title, suggests that this is the scene of a crime where a crowd of curious onlookers are standing around a figure lying on the ground (evidently the victim). It’s amazing how much we can read in an image with such little information.


Kiss/Panic, 1984: photographs of hands holding revolvers frame two central images, one a panicked crowd scene and the other an intimate kiss, offering two extremes of human emotion: fear and passion. All the photographs are in black and white except the one of the kiss. The menacing mood created by the pointing guns connotes a certain anxiety about intimacy while the kissing mouths suggest a warmth of human feeling in the midst of this panic and aggression.


Spaces Between (Close to Remote), 1986: collection of horizontal scenes in which the distance between two characters grows wider. Each time more imagery separates them: a bouquet of flowers, scenery, other people)


Horizontal Men, 1984: A sinister work in which images of standing men are rotated so that they appear to be lying down and stacked one on to op of the other, like a stack of bodies. Refers to the Holocaust, based on the images of bodies in concentration camps

horizontal men

The Parakeet and the Mermaid

‘It was like drawing, but with scissors… there was sensuality in the cutting’

La Perruche et la Sirène (The Parakeet and the Mermaid) is one of the greatest examples of Henri Matisse’s cut-out works. The cut-out is technically related to the collage. Matisse executed this work by snipping forms from paper coloured in one hue. The total work contains cut-out forms in contrasting colours on a white surface. He began this method in 1940, but in his last years this medium dominated all his work. The imagery of this piece consists of leaves, pomegranates and two forms that appear only once. These two forms represent a parakeet on the left and a mermaid on the right side, from which the title of the work derives. The space surrounding the objects is just as important as the objects themselves. Matisse created this monumental cut-out while recuperating from a major operation which prevented him working in his studio. Consequently Matisse referred to this work as ‘a little garden all around me where I can walk’.

Text from The Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

  To learn more about Matisse’s cut-outs, visit MoMA’s interactive page

The Rival

By Sylvia Plath

If the moon smiled, she would resemble you.
You leave the same impression
Of something beautiful, but annihilating.
Both of you are great light borrowers.
Her O-mouth grieves at the world; yours is unaffected,

And your first gift is making stone out of everything.
I wake to a mausoleum; you are here,
Ticking your fingers on the marble table, looking for cigarettes,
Spiteful as a woman, but not so nervous,
And dying to say something unanswerable.

The moon, too, abuses her subjects,
But in the daytime she is ridiculous.
Your dissatisfactions, on the other hand,
Arrive through the mailslot with loving regularity,
White and blank, expansive as carbon monoxide.

No day is safe from news of you,
Walking about in Africa maybe, but thinking of me.

Targets in Tijuana

Chris Bradley is a sculptor known for his assemblage sculptures in which he replicates things using other things. In this case, a palm tree is made out of cast bronze, paint, wood, aluminum, beer can, aqua resin, broom handle, pencil, tripod.

Targets in Tijuana. Chris Bradley. 2010/11

Targets in Tijuana. Chris Bradley. 2010/11

The Ballad of Maria Lassnig

Kantate (The Ballad of Maria Lassnig, 1992) by Austrian artist Maria Lassnig is the story of her life in 14 verses. A witty and wise commentary on the pains of living. See translated lyrics bellow: 

This whole wide world is full of growing grasses
This whole wide world is full of flowers that grow.
And now I am sitting here, – with dreams of yester-year
I’m thinking of the times of long ago.

A babe-in-arms, I was and hardly born
a great wet tear came splashing on my head.
It was my mother dear, – lying lonely and forlorn
she rocked and hugged me, lonesome in her bed.

My early childhood was a real life-drama,
the pots and pans went flying through the air.
The small child screamed aloud: “Stay alive, dear Mamma!”
The poor child suffered from her parents’ war.
I realized from the start, married-life is not made of sugar
a drop of bitterness fell upon my heart.

The good nuns taught me how to read and write
the other children pulled my hair and smiled
I was so slow to learn — and did not like to fight
because I was such a goody-goody child.

The Gods of Fortune gave me no great Beauty.
But one great talent was bestowed on me.
I drew and painted here, – pictures of people clear
like brother Dürer, Rembrandt, Da Vinci.

My darling mother thought this was not proper:
I should be married with a family.
I threw my arms around her feet, fell to the ground:
A man, a child is not my destiny !

The Art Academy was my destination,
I painted better far than any man.
I believe in Art, in Life — and all Creation
That Art should make a better World for Man.

The God of Love just did not like my features
though many suitors clamoured for my hand.
Yet they betrayed me all, – those handsome creatures
I packed my bags and left my native land.

Oh Paris, Home of Arts and velvet drapings,
but Love and Art for me was just a sham
I could try Op-Art, Pop-Art or Tachism
but the Art Mafia always called the game.

America, oh land of hope and glory
the land is mighty and her women strong.
They fight for all their rights, – don’t say they’re sorry
The Macho Men are stung when they do wrong.

The Lady Minister of the Art Department
was wise and friendly , called me home again.
A woman’s aim is high, – she should reach for the sky
a good professor can start her pupils’ fame.

I’ve scrambled up the peaks and reached the summit
my whole long life just lies beneath my feet.
But I’m still searching for — the stone of wisdom
Life’s made me cautious, Life still calls the beat.

I’m growing older and my legs seem longer
but now I love the world with all my might.
My feelings poor and soft, my face is stronger,
my television helps me through the night.

I just don’t feel my life as nearly ended
I still go skiing, ride my motor bike.
And each new day that breaks — brings new dimensions
so Art has kept me young in ways I like.

I know it’s Art so dear, that keeps me young and clear
Art made me thirsty, now fulfilment’s near.