laid down the gauntlet
and there are takers
even at this late date
still to be
as the fire sings
—from Trollius and trellises by Charles Bukowski
In Diego Velázquez’s painting Las Meninas all of the content of the emotional world is laid bare. You see beauty, preciousness, politics, horror and vanity. You are witness to the painter’s reflected imagination, his recursive elegy to beauty and ugliness. You could be looking at a bum asleep in an alley or the most beautiful woman in the world, it’s all there for you to share. Velázquez deliberately utilized reflection to implicate the viewer in the loose conceit of reality, in our own consciousness. The painting is beautiful in its hatred for the obvious. The most mundane, facile and crestfallen of people immediately develop a narrative from its constructs. The painting, the one you are looking at now is within the painting hidden from our view. A dwarf stands in elegance next to a princess. A nun whispers in servitude to the greater power of a king. A room filled with beautiful paintings lingers in a damp green stale air suggesting a room that is forgotten by time. And on it goes.
Beauty is an intangible and as a kind of magic it persists in our own perceptions, our constructs of the world around us. The inexplicable aspect of being an artist is not that you own some special ability to construe truth but rather you unafraid to confront truth in its overwhelming completeness. You see no difference between the blood, soot and semen and the precise curve of a woman’s pale breast. You are seduced by the danger of trespassing in reality. The ecstasy and pain come in waves brought on by your adventure and welcome them both in order to remain sustained by their inexplicable logic. You can find math in the near spiritual contortions of a baseball pitcher as he throws a curve ball across home plate. The sharpness effects you like cold air and some days all you can do is loose yourself in drink hoping to avoid that which you have spent a lifetime cultivating. Unfortunately the drink is just another aspect of it all, another consequence — a cosmic quantum essence shifting relentlessly outside of clear understanding. And then comes the loneliness like an impenetrable vapor. As Bukowski said; “you get so alone sometimes it just makes sense.”
Beauty is a blood sport. An infinite arena filled with bruising consequences associated with the openness required to really ‘see’ the world and live fully within it. If you are ever lucky enough to find someone who understands these words fully, covet them together, and lay down the gauntlet.