Sunday, September 6, 2020
I’ve long had it in mind to write a bit about Tiepolo – Venetian artist of the 18th century – an artist I’m trying to catch up to, one I suspect is in my future.
It’s the turn of the year. We are back from driving to see friends and family. As we drove the highways, we looked for horses. On and near lucent rivers, we looked for swans.
It’s raining. Most of the garden did well in our absence, a few things are withered and brown. The school year, unlike any other, will begin for our family the day after tomorrow.
Tiepolo painted myths and allegories, and painted religious paintings as if they were myths and allegories. He painted on ceilings and he painted the life of skies. He is a sort of intersection between the interests of our two children – our son who loves the vastness of astronomy, rockets, skyscrapers, our daughter who loves the magical endless patterns of myth.
Across the country, museums are reopening. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York reopened this past week. Our own Art Institute of Chicago has been open for several weeks, and I hope to go in the next weeks to see two shows that promise to be wonderful, the El Grecos and the Monets. El Greco’s sense of height and sky and cloudy mediation having offered much to Tiepolo. Tiepolo’s palette, brushwork, reflective sense of light having offered much to Monet.
Tiepolo, The Chariot of Aurora, large oil sketch, 1760s, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo Rachel Cohen.
Tiepolo, The Chariot of Aurora, Detail photo Rachel Cohen.
I can hear the children downstairs – he is tracking which human buildings reach above the “rising condensation line,” the line of the clouds; she is following the taxonomy and hybridization of impossible creatures – vulturecrocs, and kinds of unicorns.
The sense is of aperture – the opening and closing of spaces and the stream of creations flowing through.
Nearly ten years ago, I read a wonderful book on Tiepolo, by Roberto Calasso, called Tiepolo Pink. I was struck by its insights and began to promise myself to look more at Tiepolo. In 2014, I was in New York and did look closely at the Met’s wonderful Tiepolos. I took this picture of the large oil sketch from 1752 that was the basis of one of Tiepolo’s most celebrated ceilings, the Allegory of the Planets and Continents, in Wurzberg.
And I took four pictures of The Chariot of Aurora, another oil sketch, of the 1760s, for a commission never painted.
Look at the aperture, the skies erupting upward.
Look at the chariot of dawn, and at Ceres with his sheaf of wheat, who gave his name to a dwarf planet, the largest object in the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars.
At the figure of Time, ancient and robed in blue, at the swans.
If you think of each act, Pissarro
Thursday, May 14, 2020
If you think of each act. I mean, every time a person comes into contact with someone else or a living being, or the life of the world. Every time she talks to the cashier as she pays for groceries at the store, or calls the pharmacy about a prescription, every time she does or doesn’t nod to a person she passes as she’s out walking, every time she puts out bird seed or chases away a rat who has come to eat the bird seed, or decides to bring in the bird feeder for now and moves a dry leaf so a fern can struggle on. Every time she answers the children with a laugh, and every time she answers sharply, impatiently, every time she writes a note back, every time she doesn’t.
If you think of each act as a drop of rain. Then every life would have millions. Millions and millions of tiny acts. A vast ramifying sky of rain pouring down.
This morning it is raining torrentially. Rain is pouring in cataracts across our windows, and seeping in the back basement door to run down the cement floor, rain is pounding on the windows and the roof.
My old friend’s mother has died. Not of coronavirus, of other long illnesses. He and his siblings couldn’t go to her. She died in the night of May 12th becoming May 13th. I never met her, but my friend is a kind, insightful, brilliantly perceptive person, formed in the rain of thousands upon thousands of her tiny acts, kind and unkind, and so I know something of the weather she carried.
When my father died, seven years ago, the weather was so present to me. It was in storms that I felt he was closest again. I looked to the sky for signs.
Saturday, February 15, 2014
At this time last year, in the days when my father was dying, it snowed and snowed. From the hospital windows, it had its beauty. The hallway near the elevators had windows that looked down on to a sort of large courtyard, not rustic, but still made precise by the snow. People crossed and you would see dark footprints. These would then be covered. The footprints and their being covered, traces of particular steps and shoes, then again white -- the tiny brevity of each passing figure, of the length of time in which the marks each made were visible, and then the snow.
Time is slower in the snow. You can see it passing before your eyes. Discrete white that you can follow just long enough to feel that you were following it before it was lost, but over and over so that the seconds fill, and the minutes.
A man in a blue hat, walking vigorously -- I can see his head and shoulders beyond the fence with its white lines, through the scrim of white air -- passes the stop sign, makes his way along the road, goes behind the pine tree now more white than green, leaves the visual field.