• John Diamond-Nigh

We are #stardust, we are #golden

#Téju Cole says that “#spring, even in America, is #Japanese.” Is there any blossoming tree anywhere on earth that is not, thanks to artists like #Hiroshige, Japanese?

Wolfgang #Laib, the German installation artist, is best known for his #pollen ‘paintings’. A peripatetic Buddhist, he spends spring days in the fields and orchards around his rural home in southern Germany going from tree to tree, from stalk to stalk, knocking out of the new blossoms an infinitesimal stardust of #pollen. You can only imagine how long it takes to accumulate even a saltshaker’s accretion of the yellow dust.

Shelves in Laib’s studio hold jars containing all the #shades of #yellow that each spring confers. I recall an indignant student in a class on abstract art wondering if this was not theft equal to robbing birds's nests of their eggs. I hardly thought so, comparing it to taking a glass of water from a lake and wondered in turn if pollen could not fertilize the human imagination just as wonderfully as it could a hazelnut tree.

Using a household sieve lined with cloth, Laib sifts the vivid pollen onto gallery and museum floors with the rhythm of a percussionist shaking a pair of maracas, usually in squares of varying size. (The centerpiece he installed at #MoMA in New York was huge.) The dust is just thick enough to convey a solid tegument of color.

Is it right to say he uses pollen the way a #painter uses paint? Yes and no.

It is spring.

It is always spring in these sublime and utterly unique works of art. At exhibition’s end, Laib will carefully sweep the pollen up, restore it to its jar, and use it again. Never installed for good in any museum (like Buddhist sand paintings in this regard), they speak not only of spring, but of the vast #fertility and #ephemerality of #life itself and of how those two elements #eternally concur.

In short, of something intensely, mutely #sacred. The #elementality of the pollen itself. The sauntering priestliness of its procurement––weeks and weeks of trudging along, knocking on the tiny doors of a billion flowers. The bright, granular yellow (so akin to the yellow of Van Gogh’s sunflowers) is the #sun itself. For #Van Gogh, the sunflower was the sun flower, that #Apollonian star on whose light we depend and whose glow is the topaz of our own indivisible eternity.

Take blue, the #cerulean blue of the heavens––sacred as well and the devil to get your hands on in the Renaissance. Brought by caravan and ship from Afghanistan, #lapis lazuli was the mineral base of that gift-of-the-magi-like pigment. Why #Michelangelo got to use so much blue in his great Last Judgement fresco was owed to a simple fact: his patron was a pope. But I digress.

It is spring. A difficult, melancholic spring. A gorgeous spring. For many, a tragic spring. How sorry I am.

#Robert Frost states, in his laconic #dirt voice, that nature’s first #green is gold. Growing up in Ontario, spring resurrected in spangling, perishable christs of crocus, dandelion, daffodil and forsythia. It is also, says Frost, “her hardest hue to hold.”

#Cole recounts the story of a man in Nagoya, whose cherished wife had recently died and who killed himself in May. It was in all the papers at the time. He could no longer bear to hear the word “spring.”

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