Picasso, Dead Can Dance
I forget how much pain there is in Picasso because the painting looks so fast and sure, so solid yet ephemeral that it looks like marks of joy, exuberance. How he ages before us. How quickly in a retrospective the young Spaniard the Minotaur the bull, the goat, the satyr become the old clown painting, so quickly, the young bemused model. The old painter, unfinished with things, prodigious, self caricatured.
i came sad away from the gallery with my friend the lycanthrope and our friend, the photographer Zoe into the sweltering and nudging glare of hot cubist city viewpoints. We shared thoughts about our preferences on the steps in view of a Henry Moore statue. A writer I knew had used the place where we stood in a story he wrote so I saw it through his prose as it was before the gallery’s last face lift for a bit, remembering a bag lady character in that prose arranging apples, windfalls she’d bagged in a park, perfectly good eating apples. She was chased off.
I’d stood close as an arm’s length to the pictures, to one side, so as not to block views, neither wearing or wanting a headset guide nor glancing even once in relief at a little explanatory placard dressed to the left of each Picasso. I came away realizing with soft, judding shock how the objectified, or at least painted flesh i saw in some pictures was seen and painted by Picasso like I see your body up close in lovemaking, or in waking from sleep, restrained by your embrace and aroused by the restraint.
I suppose the paintings of his women never touched me on that feral, sexual level but that one male nude did get to me. It was painted, a study with an eye to a planned brothel painting. It’s jaw line and abdomen did get me. They were signs of you. I think I read somewhere that that mebbe four by five foot picture was a study for a sailor for the bottom corner in a version of the Mademoiselles of Avignon painted over, excluded.. It’s providence and the narrative I assume here are makeshift. It did touch me into panic so I didn’t care whose view I blocked, I got up close, in the way of others. I saw a laconic guard become a vigilant blur in the corner of my left eye. I stood like a respectful lover though, within the context of gallery viewer and object.
Oh I’d read that the nuzzling and body being right under his nose under his own body or over, at least in memory, accounted for those depicted subjective privacies, those distortions too familiar from fucking with one’s eyes wide open to be distortions, those dead-on displacements, but i had not viscerally noticed the detailed sex, the pain and the pleasure and the abandonment, the courage and cowardice in the face of love until I stood before a painting of a young sailor with a jaw line and a belly like yours studied mebbe a century ago and I saw you as you are when close to me, a flesh scape enthralling. Abstracted.
Like any painter I guess looking at a big Picasso show, sampling the curated periods, I had felt at first on entering the galleries a sense of my own shortcomings and errors in manner, indeed an awareness of flaws in my own temperament. That egotism dissolved very quickly and I thought more of Picasso and my love of painting than I pondered the crap shoot of birth and blessings. “Comes love nothing can be done” I said to my self. I’ve heard said he painted with a child’s freedom but that’s bullshit. I may see as a child sees now and then when I look at those things but he was no case of arrested development or for that matter of decline. That would be me. He said, I believe, that he could draw like a master as a child and then had to learn to draw as a child.
Our technology allows the wolf and I to trade self portraits back and forth quickly on-line. We are interested in what we are turning into and how it shows and we document our visual shifts and stylistic intentions every little while in staged self shoots. It is bizarre I know. We are vain, technologically privileged men who photograph well. We note that we have never had to explain ourselves to one another. We create a mutually plausible narrative about our world together and apart. Perhaps in such cases there is not so much need of words, and in our urgency for transformation, for the realization of fantasy, erotic or otherwise, the digital pic is the medium more efficient in our exchange than verbage. We present.
Later in the day I modeled for Zoe, the photographer, happily engaged under her steady gray eye in an underground garage while the wolf held the flash apparatus toward me like a torch. I mugged on command for the flash and all it entails. I was aware of The wolf beyond the glaring focus, grinning at my clowning. I thought of painting you up close when Zoe asked me to think of something that moved me deeply. I thought of our recurring discussions, like things out of Doris Lessing novels, about courage and cowardice in the face of love. How I no longer even think of asking you to sit still. How I painted you from photos taken in trucks and on trains.
There is little photographic evidence of the wolf and I together so I was nervous when he was directed into the frame, into view for a few shots of us together then. I seek to capture you both, if not for myself then even more pretentiously for painting but there are few sentimental candid shots of us together.
There we were comrades in the game of presentation to one another and to the camera. We stood side by side in jeans and tshirts sizing each other in a compartment in a labyrinth underground.
Our poker faced love. You said I had a right to be human, that it was hard what we were trying to do. I doubted we found it all that difficult. I wore both your bite marks.
Then it was me alone again for closeup up, my head gear a black fedora over a bandanna. Zoe and the wolf discussed something about me they wanted captured but they never told me what it was. They had discussed my character for depiction. There were few directives. Something Zoe saw last night in a gesture. I’d wiped my face at a concert watching the band “Dead Can Dance”, the singer Lisa Gerrard ten feet away sang passionately but was icy in demeanor, only a raw twist of the mouth showing feeling and the castanets held in her pale hands twitching spasmodically. The ice queen made my eyes water a bit. The wolf pointed at a series of raw picture files later on his laptop screen, pictures of me thinking about something important to me and said he knew i was thinking of you.
Later on a balcony the wolf bade me dress in the shreds of his oldest jeans and later, bound under leather straps,elegantly rubber gagged and luxuriously blindfolded, I heard the camera clicking, my control given up to the photographer’s eye entirely. The relief of relinquishment of objectification, shuddering in my odd, long body.
I needed anonymity and cigarettes after the shoot in the evening so i walked out in the piss smelly urban heat and sat on a street corner in the gay village sharing my cigarettes, but my generosity extended not to the sip of my coffee a smokeless girl requested. I was still posing, that reflex, I’m always voguing, imagining a lens, accustomed to childhood and then to juvenile and then to professional surveillance, presenting myself as carnival rough trade, a saltambique of sorts under a corner bank pedestrian camera. I rewrote a sentence in my head for a poetic blog post about Picasso, a post accompanied by flattering pics. I thought maybe I’d dare to impose a considered narrative on reality.
You and I discuss the propensity to compose mutually believable or desirable narratives, the tendency to collude in social reality or illusion.. We see how narratives provide cohesion for groups, how narratives create spectrums of groups, and no one has all the data or nerve or sense. The unshakeable. The cage of privacy. The freedom of it. Lately I’ve written only privately, mercilessly tentative so far as establishing a narrative. Anything more comprehensive than a dateline provided way too much information.was just speculation. I’ve no longer written long letters to the wolf or to you.
I haven’t posted anything in a long time, immobilized when it came to writing while riding trains and ferries, unfamiliar beds a norm, all good beds too with you. Cafes. campsites. I traveled but I was immobilized when words piled up in my head and I considered a narrative. The jumbled pile of words behind my brow. The shoulder-high heave and wallow in a hoarder’s basement. Just more posing and blather to romanticize paintings or to explain their origins to a few elitist types, clients on-line.
I wondered if you wished I was beside you then eyed a hard pale shirtless torso loping up the street. He stood across the street from me and when our eyes met he discretely sucked his index finger. I looked up and saw the ad for the Picasso show on a billboard near me, the most identifiable and publicly palatable of the assembled paintings, one of Dora what’s her name reproduced to lure the punters to the big show.
wolf and parking garage photos courtesy of Zoe Gemelli
others by David ?
paintings by Rocky L. Green