Dial the Lobster

Bringing art into everyday conversation

Month: August, 2014

A Poem and A Painting: The Art of Losing

Hey Lobsterites!

I thought it might be fun and interesting to start a little series where I pair amazing poems with equally amazing artworks that (to my mind) illustrate, clarify, or expand upon a theme from the poem. Today’s pairing is about loss, and how and why we might lose someone. First, the poem. It is the incredible “One Art,” by Elizabeth Bishop. This is probably my favorite poem of all time, which is why I chose it for this first ‘pairing’ experiment…

 

One Art

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;

so many things seem filled with the intent

to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster

of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

 

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:

places, and names, and where it was you meant

to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or

next-to-last, of three loved houses went.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

 

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,

some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.

I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture

I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident

the art of losing’s not too hard to master

though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

 

What I love about this poem is the pay-off at the end. The moment when we realize that losing her loved one IS a momentous disaster, despite the author’s attempts to kid herself that it’s not-  that it’s akin to losing ‘things.’ We learn simultaneously how much she loves him: more than her memories of people and places; more than her ‘cities’ and ‘realms,’ which makes the loss seem even more staggering. And then the incredibly self-deprecating refrain, “the art of losing isn’t hard to master,” which reminds us with a kind of savagery that we should never take what we have for granted, and that the ‘losing’ of it is our own fault. The whole poem is a downward spiral as well, from the mundane and trivial annoyance of losing keys, to the grief of losing a loved one. It’s a masterclass in poetry.

Now to the artwork. Despite my alliterative blog post title, this isn’t a painting, but a sculpture! I chose Bernini’s exquisite “Apollo and Daphne” (1622-25) which I find almost impossible to view without a tear welling up. Some backstory: Apollo was in love with the beautiful nymph, Daphne, but she was a proto-feminist, and wouldn’t succumb to his (or any man’s) advances, preferring to spend her time rambling in the woods. When Apollo (with some help from Eros) finally catches her, Daphne pleaded with her father, Peneus  to save her, which he does: by turning her into a tree.

This story had been told in art many times before, but never with the sense of horror  that Bernini manages to convey. This is, to all intents and purposes, a rape about to happen. A double-horror stems from Daphne’s shock as her hands begin to morph into leaves.

Despite its underlying violence, Bernini doesn’t want us to think of Apollo as a monster. When you look at Apollo’s face close-up it is full of sadness, shock, and a sense of loss. And there is sadness too in the fact that where his hand finally touches the object of his desires, she has already turned into tree-bark. Daphne is a metaphor not just for Apollo having to face the consequences of loving ‘too much,’ but for the ‘art of losing’ in general. We lose, both Bishop and Bernini say, through an excess of wanting and striving, and an inability to accept the inevitability of loss. Bernini says it loudly and plainly; Bishop coyly and ironically, but the message is the same: we must let go of what we cannot have or risk losing not just a person dear to us, but ourselves as well.

apollo and daphne

Picasso’s “Owl” is Just…Perfect.

Hey Lobster-folk,

Picasso is known for his doodles and sketches (I guess we can’t be having ‘blue periods’ ALL the time) but my favorite by far is this one, simply titled “Owl.”

 

picasso owl

 

For me, “Owl’s” quiet simplicity puts the masculine energy of a Jackson Pollock, or the spiritual aching of a Rothko to shame. What does it demand of us? Nothing, but our empathy for another creature; our willingness to let it just…be. Perhaps, at the end of the day, there is no greater or more important artistic statement that can be made.

Yours,

The Lobster.

 

 

 

Curated Lives: How Do We Get Our Sanity Back?!

Hey Lobsterites!

Sorry it’s been a while. I’ve been writing a LOT; other blogs, a short story here and there, and having a hard time focusing my attention on one thing (as per usual).

Today I wanted to talk about a topic that’s been on my mind a lot recently as I have ventured further down the rabbit hole that is the internet/social media. It’s kind of related to art, because the topic is…curation.

At the ripe old age of 34 I hadn’t realized, until I started blogging and checking out other blogs, just how curated our lives have become. Obviously, the internet requires content curation to some degree, to help us sort through the massive amounts of information. But it’s also happening on a more micro-scale. For instance, for us ladies there are incredibly addictive, brain-cell busting ‘lifestyle’ blogs, complete with curated instagrammed images of ‘a perfect day at the farmers market,’ outfit or ‘the perfect holiday’ make-up look. Lots of use of the word ‘perfect.’ Facebook is also a kind of micro-life-curation experiment…because we choose/select what to say about ourselves, and in the process we are shaping not just how we want people to see us, but how we want to see ourselves. We are, so to speak, ‘curating our own lives.’ One day, I’ll be able to look back at all my posts and pictures and ‘likes’ and see a sort of curated scrapbook of my life. I like this idea, but I know that that scrapbook will only tell half the story…

The desire for curation totally makes sense to me, because it lends us a (false) sense of control, feeds our fantasies about who we are, and makes us look awesome to other people in the process. It allows us to affix boundaries around our identities in an age when the internet and social media load us up with so much information and opportunity and options that we NEED these boundaries in order to stay sane, and make meaning for ourselves. We need to be able to distill all the crap in order to tell ourselves stories that still have a half-sensible plotline. For instance, I have this cool app. that ‘curates’ my newsfeeds depending on my preferences, allowing me to choose the genre of story I want to read. Amazon now curates my homepage with product selections that reflect previous purchases, creating a plot that has a definite arc: I used to be really into buying Agatha Christie books, but now I’m buying writing guides. My character is evolving, and Amazon responds beautifully to each new twist and turn.

This has all started to feed my own desire to become active in the curation process. I have to tell you, my thinking has changed since getting more internet-savvy, and not entirely for the better. I used to be quite happy browsing around, taking-in information, flicking through pages of products. But since reading others’ blogs, checking out Instagram/Twitter, and (perhaps the worst culprit) subscribing to a couple of online ‘box’ services (one, Blue Apron, sends posh ingredients so you can learn to cook awesome recipes, the other is a beauty box sent monthly, with customized products to try out) I have been far more self-aware and even anxious about my consumption of goods and services, as if holding up each potential purchase to the light of my ever-burgeoning ego. The track in my head plays a bit like this: “hmmmm, does this fit who I am? Will this look good with this, this, or that? How does this speak to my INDIVIDUALITY AS A HUMAN BEING?” God, it’s soooooo emo.

Of course, this is all absolutely awful. And yet, we crave personalized service. We love the idea of things being ‘curated’ to our tastes, or more excitingly, curated for us by someone else with taste that we admire, setting up a worrying loop of ‘how can I be more like him/her? Oh, buy this thing! And then blog about it! And then someone else will want to be like me!’

Art curation, at least way back when, was a job designed to soothe the experience of the ‘consumer’ (the art-gallery viewer or buyer) because it allowed the visitor to entrust themselves to the enjoyment of an experience chosen for us by someone far more knowledgeable. And we were more willing to pay for the privilege. I don’t think many people went home at night thinking, ‘how can I replicate this experience for someone else, or put my own personal stamp on it?’ Now, it seems, we are all experts. And isn’t that the goal of capitalism, really? To make us feel capable, in control, excited to share…not the opiate of the masses so much as the caffeine.

Now, I’m not a communist, before you ask! As you can tell from this blog post, I love shopping as much as the next gal. I love browsing blogs and Pinterest and all the rest of it. And I’m definitely not giving up my Blue Apron subscription any time soon. But I’ve realized I need to find some antidotes to this way of being, which is only fueling my ego (in the wrong way) and making me feel antsy.

If anyone has any bright ideas, I’m all ears. I know being in nature helps. I know art helps. I know mindfulness helps. And, obviously, computer/tech ‘fasts.’ I’m sure that donating time/money etc. helps too, because so much of what we do on the computer is about consumption.

And here I am, contributing to the sound and fury! Argh, the irony.

Yours,
The Lobster.