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  • John Diamond-Nigh

The #consolations of #art










Many devout N Carolingians I bump into think the #president talks too much but otherwise is an honorable man. Ethical, pure, muscular, crusader against the secular (exempting dentists and bridge-engineers), in fact half way to Messianic. Sent by God. Equally plausible, of course, is the notion that he is a hush-money groper in a long succession of monsters.

How close might those two views of #power actually be?

In the first painting by the medieval Italian painter #Duccio, #The Temptation of Christ (love those toy cities), Christ, rather than embracing the Devil who has just offered him ten new seats in the Senate and three Supreme Court justices in return for his allegiance, evinces the courage of a scathing no. Behind the shoddy gods we make, others, older, may still have the #courage to stretch out their hand and say to the ancient temptations of power, no.

After his early, flamboyant renown, #Rembrandt dropped out of favor, his adored wife died, and he lived for the rest of his life in unfrocked isolation. But out of that reclusive post-stardom there ripened those magnificent #self-portraits that rank, in psychological insight, with Shakespeare and Flaubert as the greatest we have. Such tenderness. The moral, if there is one, is that the richest strand of our lives is often not even close to the glittering weft of the world or its textures of dooms and approvals. Life offers this recondite ore called character. Yes, we watch the world, care about it, strive to make it better, but beyond the delusional rapids of internet likes and tin pan news, life itself is what we choose to imagine and make. These lovely lines are by the poet Molly #Brodak:

I know there is a river somewhere

lit, fragrant, golden mist, all that,

whose irrepressible birds

can’t believe their luck this morning

and every morning

I let them riot

in my mind a few minutes more

before the news comes

I love the painter #Chardin. Recently at the Louvre, staggering from fatigue but not wanting to waste one crumb of my evening in that favorite place, I asked a guard to direct me to the Chardins. He looked bewildered, accustomed to pointing people toward the Mona Lisa. Chardin, you say? No one’s ever asked me that. Let’s see. Well, he’s a long way away. But look at this exquisite still life. Note its frugal solace, the way it stills you down. And when you’re down to five miles an hour, you sense not just the objects themselves, but the #conversation that’s constellated between them. Edmund de #Waal observes that artists make things, but usually fail to place them in the world where the atmospheric tension that strings things together is more important than the things themselves.

I find that crepuscular chat between the papery skin of the garlic and the opaque weight of the pot (a coffee pot, no less) to be so perfectly tuned, infinitely sweet, and yes, in so many shadowy moods, consoling.

A final work of art comes warm out of the oven. A friend, John #Dancy-Jones, sent us an article of #‘mail art,’ hand-made down to the exquisite hand-made paper. It opens and closes (to envelope size) like a complex collapsible instrument. As with all #collage, you must think differently, conjoin fragments into an absurd, dissociative cohesion. The piece includes a variety of charts, with all the connotations of charts as diagrammers of time, steps and vectors through chaos. But here’s the consolation part: in the great, impersonal, ravening sea of art, a friend took the time to make this beautiful object, marrying as it does his love of #science and #aesthetics, and mailed it to us.

I can’t believe my luck.

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