Thursday, January 26, 2012


These past two months, if lacking in warmth and exceedingly cruel as winters can be (yes even in the sunny East Bay, winters can be excessively harsh for some of us, certainly emotionally), have at least been visually generous: Pina Bausch's Danzon at the Zellerbach, with its girls giddily sucking on oranges, dresses taken on and off and on and off again, and large-screen goldfish/male-dancer duets; Hugo and clock towers, trains and train stations and people in train stations...and, of course, Georges Méliès film clips and their stunning reproductions; the Francesca Woodman retrospective at the SFMOMA, and all the eerie beauty and the steely strength in the vulnerability of nudity, vintage dresses, the dead, decaying, and the ghostly. All of the beauty and sadness swirling around in my head but never landing, never really making complete narrative sense but all of it making an impression.

And as January is full of birthday celebrations--my mother's, my daughter's, my niece's, MLK Jr's (my daughter said that Martin Luther King Jr "was shot in the head by a bad guy" and that he "is the most important person in the world" and also that "he's lucky because even though he died we celebrate his birthday...when I die will you keep celebrating my birthday?"--god, she's morbid like her mom)--it is also full of commemorations (my mother's, MLK Jr's). And so I think about the potential of the present but also about the opposite of celebration and that is mourning. Mourning for the past, mourning for those we have lost and the things we are, maybe, at any moment, just about to lose.

So I take refuge in seeking meaning in art. And seeing patterns in art and in life somehow makes the unknowable more tolerable, because at least I know someone at some point must have experienced this very emotion and made something beautiful out of it, or at least expressed that emotion and so validated it. Like the V's in Woodman's photographs of bent arms and colliding stripes, my hand-knit (not by me) blue sweater reassures me with its tassels and "V" motif. I mean--tassels. They make life at least seem richer and more elegant. Even when they simply dangle on dusty curtains they instantly give the room a more regal/fancy air in their excessiveness and silliness. I guess with my head stuck in thoughts of the cycle of life, death, celebration and mourning, the frivolous tassels, like hiccups on the road, make life not so awfully serious for an all-grown-up person like me who deals with not very fun grown-up affairs on a winter's evening.

(Photo: Knitted by Hand Jamie Scott sweater from Mars Mercantile)