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Posts Tagged ‘magritte’

On Shadows

Photo of Magritte art: Thomas Hawk.
René Magritte’s “La Trahison des Images” (“The Treachery of Images”) (1928-9) or “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (“This is not a pipe”). The work is now owned by and exhibited at LACMA.

The first time I saw the Magritte work called in English “This is not a pipe,” I thought, “What do you mean? Yes, it is.” It took me a long time to consider that it’s only a picture of a pipe, not the pipe itself. My pipe-smoking father wouldn’t have been able to put tobacco in it and smoke it.

I mention this because it relates to one of the reasons I’m fascinated by shadows.

Peter Pan’s shadow goes off on its own for a while, but it wouldn’t exist without Peter Pan. The shades in the Greeks’ Underworld are both the real people and not the real people. In “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” when Puck says to the audience, “If we shadows have offended,” he’s describing actors as shadows of characters, and characters as shadows of people. He recommends thinking about the play as a dream — another kind of meaningful shadow.

This is not a bicycle.

A shadow is the thing and not the thing, a distorted version of the thing that may lead to interesting or useful thoughts. Perhaps Orpheus will come and ride that bicycle into Hades and try bringing Eurydice home on the back. In the myth, though, he turned around despite dire warnings not to because he couldn’t hear her footsteps. I fear he will make the same mistake with the bicycle as he won’t be able to feel her sitting behind him.

Shadows are a way of thinking about things unseen that can stimulate the imagination and provide extra insight into the everyday world we experience. Since first reading The Princess and the Goblin, I’ve sensed that fiction and fantasy may provide the best ways to understand the “real.” It’s why I enjoy, for example, Francesca Forrest’s other world in Lagoon Fire, here, and blogger Laurie Graves’s fantasy series about the Great Library and her podcast, here.

There are so many things in our lives that are hard to fathom, and sometimes the imagination helps to get a grip on them. Some years ago, I read about a woman in Guatemala who was trying to explain why her neighborhood volcano erupted and killed so many people. She said it was because of her husband’s misdeeds. It was just her way to get her head around something too enormous to comprehend.

This is not a planter Suzanne made as a child. No plants here.

This is a planter Suzanne made as a child. Or is it?

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I wanted to do another photo post but didn’t have very many photos. That’s mainly because I have been doing my daily walk indoors when it’s not nice out. ‘Round and ’round indoors. Kind of dull.

So I went to a couple free art exhibits, and now I have more pictures.

In Providence, Racine Holly was showing some dramatic skies at a church. When I went in, I didn’t see anyone around. Very trusting. I could hear construction workers talking behind a screen at least. I’m sharing the two oils I liked best. They both had “sold” stickers. The second one was tiny.

Then I went to the Bell Gallery at Brown University, where there was a show of work by Brown art professor Wendy Edwards that had been recommended by critic Cate McQuaid at the Boston Globe. I find I like art that McQuaid likes.

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This artist had a lot of works related to reproduction. The giant peach looks great in the Globe article but up close was “too buch for be,” to quote the Elephant’s Child. Below are a few paintings I liked better.

While at the Bell Gallery, I also took a picture of a Brown University Design Workshop pedestal that I didn’t quite understand. It looks like a range of stamping techniques carved in different styles. But if you used one as a stamp, the words would be backwards. It’s probably just to show potential clients what can be done.

The final six photos reflect recent travels in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Note the path of rose petals a clever florist scattered to her door for Valentine’s Day shoppers to follow.

If anything needs more explanation, please let me know in Comments. (Did you get where I’m trying to imitate Magritte?)

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We went downtown to have lunch at the Whitney Museum with friends and to take in the Real/Surreal exhibit.

Favorite artists like Charles Sheeler, Mardsen Hartley, and Grant Wood were featured. I liked the eerie emptiness of Edward Hopper’s “Seventh Avenue” and the anxious denizens of George Tooker’s subway world.

Sounds unnerving, but in surfacing the alienation, I think the artists make one feel the possibility of getting a grip on it.

Afterward, we walked up Madison, stopping at a gallery in the Carlyle Hotel that was showing Magritte works, some for sale.

I have always liked Magritte, with his bowler-hatted men blocked by giant green apples and his nighttime streets overarched by daytime skies. And I especially like him because once in a workshop, I directed a Tom Stoppard one-act play inspired by him, After Magritte. It was the best fun!

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Do you remember seeing a René Magritte painting called “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”? It took me a while to get what he meant. It was a picture of a pipe, after all. Why would he call it “This is not a pipe.”

(Oh, right. It’s not a real pipe. You can’t fill it with tobacco. You can’t smoke it.)

In the same spirit, I am posting pictures of not-summer.

On a warm July day, I took my photos of blue skies, beach paths, and small boats, and the next thing I knew we were having a Labor Day clambake. Within two days, summer was over, and a curtain of cold, windy rain descended. Along with the September mindset, my husband says.

Ceci ne’est pas l’été. Au revoir.

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