Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Like Arthur Dove

Many years ago, Gail showed me the paintings of Arthur Dove, which she liked very much. At the time, I wasn't all that impressed. They seemed a little static and heavy in their coloration. But as time goes on, I can see what a recognizable stamp he put on his paintings, which often feature a round shape in one of the quadrants, and I have grown to appreciate them more. I have been revisiting my pictures and was struck by the Arthur Dove-ish ambiance of this one, shot through a car window on a heavily overcast day, with a burning late-afternoon sun. The sun seems to have created lines of force around itself. This is a purely visual event, as I am made conscious of by reading Eavesdropping; a life by ear, another book by Stephen Kuusisto, the author of Planet of the Blind, which I read last week. I am very sorry that I am almost through with his second memoir and no others are available as yet!
When he was a child, he lived for two years with his parents in Helsinki, near the harbor and used to walk there with his father. From the first and second pages of this book:

"I saw only endless plains of gray Baltic light. This didn't bother me. It was the world I knew. It was a world of shadowy loves. If a person appeared before me he or she resembled nothing more than the black trunk of a tree. A troupe of women emerged from the mist. They were indistinct, liquid, black and green. These were the old women from the neighborhood unfurling their carpets on the shore of the frozen sea.
Lordy! Then they sang!
The tree women sang and beat their carpets in the Baltic wind.
My father told me to listen.
"These are the old songs." he said.
The women croaked, chanted, breathed and wept.
The women were forest people. They had survived starvation, civil war, and then another war, the "Winter War" with the Russians.
Their carpets swayed on wooden racks that stood along the shore. They sang and beat dust from the rugs with sticks.
They sang over and over a song of night. The song unwound as if from a spool. I remember its terrible darkness. They were together singing a song that rose from a place deeper than dreams. Even a boy knows what this is.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Wind poured from the city through the masts of sailboats.
There was an old man who sold potatoes from a dory in the harbor. His voice was like sand. He talked to me every day.
Potatoes from the earth, potatoes from the cellar! You can still taste the summer! You can still taste the summer!
Later I would think of his voice when reading of trolls under bridges."
I cannot recommend this book highly enough!!!

1 comment:

  1. I Like Arthur Dove and I bumped into your blog while perusing his paintings. I like to read and I often stand in front of the stacks and stare. I was very happy to hear your recommendation of Kuusisto and the excerpt. Now I have a direction.
    I have just finished Sei Shonagan
    Listen to this:
    "I feel old today, just suddenly - today. That was the thought that woke me up. A mind as old as its body. It's as though it happened overnight, this clicking into place of something I've only ever viewed as a distant potential - the unwanted combination to a safe where I thought I could lock up Time. ( Jan Blensdorf )
    Thank you, Myra Williams