Monday, April 28, 2008

Jay Defeo

The first thing that my eye catches onto as I look at Jay Defeo’s painting, Cabbage Rose, are the reflections given off by the cabbage leaves and how it moves into the dark pit that is the center. At first, my eyes are drawn to conclude that the painting is of a blooming flower of sorts, but as I read the title, the cabbage allusion comes into play and the harsh lines of each leaf become more sensible.
Also, the harshness gives each leaf a metallic sense. When the light from the upper left hand corner comes in, it reflects the two leaves in the bottom center to be metallic and steel like yet the leaves directly on the left look to be jagged, almost as rocks. The rest of leaves are hidden in the shadows,
The light reflecting on the left sided leaves come off with a white smoke color that could be a fresh dew, however the rock illusion comes from the reflection of white smoke light from the leaves as well.
Being that the composition is balanced and equal, all the colors are on a grey scale being made up mostly of whites, zinc and cream and cold and light grays combined with the growing black in the middle. There are only certain shades of green that reflect mostly grey. The green shades contrast the life in the cabbage against the wintery light wisps, as seen on the upper left hand corner. The sense of frost is given and the darkness of winter as well.
The angle of the painting is a bird’s eye view, though it is peculiar in that Defeo’s abstract image also goes off the painting and out of the viewer’s sight, as to increase the magnitude of the cabbage so that the viewer does not know its size. Interestingly enough, the magnitude is not the only part of the painting that makes the viewer question their sight, the white speck or line in the middle of the dark abyss does as well. It is uncertain what the object is, whether it is a piece or vein of the cabbage, though the light source would not enlighten it.
The same abyss of darkness is highlighted by the angles the leaves are positioned from. Beginning from the middle, the leaves angle out towards the end. The two leaves in the bottom center seem to be coming from a different place than the rest of the leaves and as they veer off, the leaves become smaller and seem to be more realistic in that they curve and have bends, whereas the two front centered ones come off more abstract and metallic
Even the more realistic looking leaves, such as the ones on the right hand side, have a bit of an abstract touch. They are either almost hidden in shadows such as the leaves at the top right corner, or the wispy veins come off as shadows or they stand by themselves, such as the leaves on the middle and left hand side of the painting. As the painting comes full circle counterclockwise, the leaves become more abstract. Yet it is the leave on the right, that is the most peculiar and catches my eye the easiest and that is because it has the only non-grey scale color on it coming off the page. The leaf holds what looks to be an adobe red rose.

Another abstract painting I chose to describe was Defeo’s Makara, which like Cabbage Rose is a painting appropriately titled. This painting is indeed of a makara, only abstract in that the head of this makara does not resemble the dragon like image that most makaras portray. Instead, the makara in Defeo’s painting has a smoothe and unscaled face.
As the shades of gainsboro grays reflect throughout the makara’s top half of his body, the body and tail have shades of a very light purple and red. This light source also reflects the scales of the makara’s body. As the tail circulates, it is lost in the rest of the painting and flows into what seems to be a body water in the painting. Based off the ripples in the grey scales, the makara seems to be drinking the water. His mouth is open and his bottom jaw shows teeth.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A Prayer For Owen Meany

Part I

It is arguably enough to say that Owen Meany, of A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving, is spiritually a gift of God as he identifies imself being "God's instrument" as well. This chapter, 'The Finger', is the primary example of the many things Owen Meany gives to John Wheelwright.
After years of friendship, the two boys have come into the time of the Vietnam War. Being fated to his death, Owen believes he must go to Vietnam. "I know that I am God's instrument. I know when I'm going to die. I'm going to be a hero! I trust that God will help me because what I'm supposed to do looks very hard" (416).
This fate leads Owen to join the army insistently, though his best friend, John, and girlfriend, Hester, object. "You've got to learn to follow things through-if you care about something, you've got to see it all the way to the end, you've got to try to finish it" (479).
John, unsure of his plans and himself, narrates the novel through memories ad present-day journal entries mostly discussing and bashing President Raegen and American politics, though he lives in Canada. Through his contempt, the reader sees that enlisting in the army is never an option, though he does not have many foolproof plans to escape the draft. Helpless to this injustice as Owen is helpless to his fate and the injustices of God, amputation comes as an important symbol of the novel. Because of this, Owen Meany amputates John's index finger. "Just think of this as my little gift to you" (509).
Using the idea of amputation, Irving builds the climax of this chapter by identifying many things along the book through amputations.
In the chapter, John tells the story of the Mary Magdelene statue and Owen's determination to replace it after the amputations caused towards the church's statue. "It turns out it's impossible to restore Mary Magdelene exactly as she was" (444). Mary Magdelene, as a statue is also helpless to the injustices of god that Irving portrays in his climax at the end of the book.

Part II

Being the most prominent theme of the novel, John Irving ties faith and doubt together in his last chapter, 'The Shot'. A "shot" gives the connotation of a chance and everything Owen Meany is a chance, including his birth, that of Jesus Christ. It is only appropriate that his life be filled with doubt, yet also hope. His unusual voice and small features lead to making a basketball shot seem impossible but because of Owen's fate, he believes he can make it. Thus, the two boys, John and Owen practice making the shot in the least amount of time.
Owen is also a symbol of the relationship of world and spirit. He works in a granite business, earthly in his nature, but also angelic in his heigh and features, including the glow of his skin. "He was the color of a gravestone; light was both absorbed and reflected by his skin, as with a pearl, so that he appeared translucent at times"(3). To add to the idea of Owen as a gift, as "God's instrument", there is also Owen's fated dream, his supposed birth, and precognitive powers.
Because Owen knew his fate, because he was comfortable with the idea of his death, he had faith in his actions and those of others. "Teach me to live, that I may dread the grave as little as my bed. Teach me to die" (520).
It is the doubt surrounding Owen that sets the stage for Irving's final chapter. Irving reveals John Wheelwrite's father as Pastor Merril, who knew of Owen's dream and fate as well. Irving uses Merril as a symbol of doubt throughout the entire book, through his stuttering sermons and refusal to believe in Owen as a miracle.
"It's easier for you to j-j-just accept it. Belief is not something you have felt, and then not felt; you haven't l-l-lived with believe and unbelief" (524).
Owen's shot, his fate, is the chance miracle of Irving's entire novel, climaxed at the end.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man

Center of the Novel

"Hell is the centre of evils and, as you know, things are more intense at their centres than at their remotest points. There are no contraries or admixtures of any kind to temper of soften in the least the pains of hell. Nay, things which are good in themselves become evil in hell. Company, elsewhere a source of comfort to the afflicted, will be there a continual torment: knowledge, so much longed for as the chief good of the intellect, will there be hatred worse than ignorance: light, so much coveted by all creatures from the lord of creation down to the humblest plant in the forest, will be loathed intensely. In this life, our sorrows are either not very long or very great because nature either overcomes them by habits or puts an end to them by sinking under their weight. But in hell, the torments cannot be overcome by habit. For while they are of terrible intensity, they are at the same time of continual variety, each pain, so to speak, taking fire from another and reendowing that which has enkindled it with a still fiercer flame. Nor can nature escape from these intense and various tortures by succumbing to them for the soul in hell is sustained and maintained in evil so that in its suffering may be the greater. Boundless extension of torment, incredible intensity of suffering unceasing variety of torture- this is what the divine majesty, so outraged by sinners, demands, this is what the holiness of heaven, slighted and set aside for the lustful and low pleasures of the corrupt flesh, requires, this is what the blood of the innocent Lamb of God, shed for the redemption of sinners, trampled upon the vilest of the vile, insists upon" (page 119, A Portrait of The Artist As A Young Man)

With such a long passage, many ideas of eternity, cycles, and circles come to mind. Geometrically, a circle is made up of all points equidistant to the center, which is to say that one can never get to the center. It also refers to the point that a circle has no beginning or end, and is, therefore, eternal. On to the idea of centres, this passage talks of hell being the "centre of all evils" in that one will always suffer for eternity because one can never, in a circle, get to the center. I think this idea is extremely important as one thinks about the opposing battle Stephen Dedalus faces with his morality and sin. This prominent issue is also located at the center of the novel. It is also something Stephen can never get to the center of, therefore, it becomes a hell for him. As the sermon builds, it builds in Stephen, like the eternal fire of hell. This plays a huge part in Stephen's "autonomous" world and hell.

Hamlet's Soliloquy

Modern Intention
Alexander Fodor’s portrayal of Shakespeare’s Hamlet gives the famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy not only a modern feel to the original rendition, but also a realistic feel to what Hamlet, as a young man, could have had going on in his mind. Through imagery, light and darkness, and an array of other characters, Fodor twists the original display of Hamlet’s soliloquy by using the mind’s flashbacks and a dialogue sped up by a modern recorder that Shakespeare could not given to his original passage in Act Three, Scene One.
This creativity is firstly offered through the opening scene that displays a recorder that in a glance, resembles two eyes. The scene then cuts to the actor to be Hamlet and focuses in on his own eyes. A flashback of Hamlet kissing a pale body that is most likely dead but also “by a sleep we say end” (60). As the recorder turns, however, Hamlet begins his speech in silence. Although when the scene cuts back from Hamlet to the recorder, the audio of Hamlet’s speech begins. The recorder, in this scene, is a motion of Hamlet’s mind and by his assumed “insanity” not on the same pace as his mind may be when he begins his soliloquy with “To be or not to be, that is the question:” (55).
The light surrounding Hamlet and his mind’s deliverance of his philosophy on life “Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer/The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,/Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,/And by opposing, end them” (56-9) is a symbol of the truth that he also portrays throughout his soliloquy. By setting the scene in a light that is a “native hue of resolution” (83) his decision of “to be or not to be” coincides with the dark pallor of his shirt, “sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought” (84).
The other actors, one woman dressed in black and another in white, symbolize both death and life, the two concepts presented in the passage, “But that the dread of something after death,/The undiscover’d country, from whose bourn/No traveller returns, puzzles the will,/And makes us rather bear those ills we have,/Than fly to others that we know not of?” (77-81). The body laying in the bed casted by a white light of truth, is kissed by both the girl in white and black.
This body, either “in that sleep of death” (65) or in a bed of “what dreams may come” (65) is “shuffled off this mortal coil” (66) and kissed by the concept of Hamlet’s truth, portrayed in Fodor’s flashback. The body is then cut to Hamlet’s body, who is kissed by the girl in white, “The heart-ache and the thousand shocks/That flesh is heir to;” (62-3). The “consummation” that his “flesh is heir to” as the girl kisses him is an example of “the pangs of despis’d love” (71) and as Hamlet flashes back to this, his head turns away from the camera in the manner that this kiss, an “enterprise of great pitch and moment/With this regard their currents turn awry” (85-6).
Hamlet’s soliloquy is appropriately given to not only himself, but in Fodor’s rendition, a number of other actors, allowing the viewer to understand “For who would bear the whips and scorns of time” (69) because Hamlet is not necessarily addressing just himself, though he is speaking to only himself. His mind, represented by the running recorder, that is supposed to be mad, is only disconnected to the pace of the recording in the light cast because of “the dread of something after death” (77) for “conscience does make cowards [of us all]” (82). As this is presented, the camera focuses on Hamlet’s eye, a representation of manliness, which averts as his body loses “the name of action” (87).
Without such cuts in the scenes and imagery of light and darkness, the viewer does not get a sense of the symbolism behind Shakespeare’s passage in Hamlet. The recorder is not only Hamlet’s mind, but Fodor’s representation of the soliloquy and Shakespeare’s work which is a reflection of Hamlet’s mind. As a viewer, the scene is more realistic and modern, though abstract the way that Shakespeare had probably always intended.

An Evolution In A Humament

In his trials to tie both artistic prose and poetry with art, Tom Phillips uses W.H Mallock’s Victorian novel as his torn apart and paged canvas for A Humament. By shaping his images around the text, Phillips’ text is highlighted by erasing other words and/or faded throughout the many collected prose and poems of the original novel. In this way, the meaning is also italicized to show not only importance but also another story and a different text within the orbs of the original, such as in Page 50 of Phillips’ A Humament. Through his artistic choice of highlighted text, the reader is able to see and comprehend an alternate view of the limited words and repeating green and yellow shaded orbs of what is the “revolution”
The different hues and shades of both the lime green and yellow greens suggest a slow moving evolution between the six circles in Phillips’ painting, though all the masses inside seem to be moving languidly towards each other in a cyclical movement. Suggesting at the time span of movement, the reader gets an idea of another time span, “ten hours;” which is cast aside outside the orbs of evolution, and centered and boxed around faded text that the reader cannot see, focusing the eye on “ten hours;”. By separating the two, the way the semicolon separates the two interdependent statements, the “political revolution” is outside the evolution illusion and this separation gives a sense of those ten hours between the circles, the evolution and “revolution”.
Phillips’ title of his human documents, A Humament, appropriately addressed this evolution of words as well, as the words “human” and document” are meshed together in a slow and languid way. The stale connotation to “document” gives off the sense of a yellowed parchment paper color as well as “human” which can be associated with a green of growth and life. The orbs that, in an alternate view, resemble different worlds also seem to coincide with one another as the “ten hours;” move along together, shifting shades and position, though the text remains outside. Phillips uses these orbs to also suggest at the symbolism of each circle as a “band”.
As each “band” moves into the other, it provides a sense of not only an evolution, but also each orb symbolizes an embryonic revolution as the “bands play”. Each band holds a center that plays into the other that is separated from the idea of time and ended off from the “political revolution”. Within their orbs, the “bands play” and until it comes to its origin, the evolution is cyclical, and “It is a political evolution,”. Such bands also exemplify the obvious connotation of music, which is a moving matter in itself. Phillips, in this way, uses the lime greens and yellows to suggest at the different but harmonizing musical notes. Such different and yet alike notes are a “political evolution” in this alternate view.
These orbs also suggest at the slow moving evolution to Phillips’ poetic statement which is ultimately “It is a political revolution”. By setting it in a tone of other faded texts, the revolution most clearly portrays a change, though also a slow one. The shades of green provide not only a symbol of growth but Phillip also suggests at the innocent naiveness of his “political revolution” that the “bands play” and provide which, alternately, the hidden text fails to explain. The meaning is caught between the masses inside the orbs of Phillips’ painting just as green is caught between blue and yellow on the color spectrum. In an alternate thought, Phillip suggests that such a “political revolution” is cast outside of this entrapment that both the mass and colors are caught in.
Independently, “revolution” and “evolution” serve as a pun to Phillips’ green poetic statement. The prefix re- refers to the cyclical and repeating movement of the circles in the painting and their meanings. His text is also surrounded by ongoing punctuation “ten hours;” and political revolution,” which gives the reader a sense of repeating movement that is highlighted and shaded throughout the orbs in the painting, though the text is cast around such evolution as a “political revolution”.
Phillips’ last punctuation leaves his poetic work that is combined with art to be continued and flowing such as the art itself. The pods within each orb or world continue to change forms and shades as well but are all “At last--welcome!” in Phillips’ “political revolution” that the pods or “bands play”. In this alternate view of W.H. Mallock’s Victorian novel, Phillips’ provide many alternate views using artistic puns on texts, growing shades of green and stale yellows in his human documents that are reworked in A Humament.


Here I am at the cemented steps swirling up to your door frame.
The air is stolid, shifting in bricks
on the way to an asphalt streetscape
I drink some ‘57 scotch which, as always, is my excuse for this bravado
and leads me, cemented and drunk, to have screamed your name and to feel its vibrations pushing
In. The streets look for your answers. or me. I have
dropped pennies in every cup for your name. spoken dead languages to find you. It’s
not my fault you don’t exist.
It’s not my fault this scotch has rested. on my blood cells. on me. I tear
through it. them. as
my vicarious neurons sipped on poisoning and already forgotten your face now
light years almost ago. and the man I first begged
scratched at his neck and described your narrow hips. & telling.
Who would have thought that I’d be here. nothing
To live for besides you. everything
to risk. I’ve rung the bell, smoked through a pack and you’ve arrived, white washed in this glorious frame. The smells combine and I reach your door. Your breath floated
Up in the shifting bricks and gets heavier. now
more than ever before?
Not that closeness made me weak. Fidgeting in my summer night coat
eyes penetrating through the wall into your bedroom
& focusing in on you. Not that I did. Your body is young yet not so restless. Seventeen. who was going to have to go, careening into literary words. so.
to feel. & to never forget you could outsmart me and reach further and imagine
so to go. Not that I would leave you, who from very first meeting
I would never & never continue to ruin you and drag you
into the crazed atmosphere you prayed for & so demanded
To find & who will never leave me. not for letters. nor words.
nor even your perfectly structured sentences of insanity which is
Only our human lot and means you win. No. not loss.
There’s a song “Tiny Vessels”. but no. I won’t do that
I am invincible. When will I die? I will never die. I will live
To be here. & I will never go away. & you will never escape from me
Who am always & only a fragment of your air. despite this buildup of tar. Spirit
Who lives only to destroy.
I’m only wrong. & I am sorry. & I didn’t choose to wind up
Here tonight
I came into your life to throw these stones
And never hit your glass
Running for the opposite direction
I’ve left your landscape broken & shattered. You lost fate. nevertheless
I ruined this and can’t think of any other place to be other than this room
The world’s tension builds until you say it’s okay.

College Essay

I can hear the sizzling of my father's cooking from anywhere in the house. It flows at a vibration faster and higher than music. The clicking of the tongs that he uses to strategically place the food on the plates in a bistro tower sounds throughout our apartment halls. It's something that only recently has started to feel familiar.
It's then, the final product, after the chemistry of the spices, the combining of flavors, that I know dinner is ready. My father comes in with an energy that he only gets from cooking, from creating.
When I met my father this past year for the first time, I thought I was going to be disappointed by what I assumed to be a dead beat father who left my mother. Yet, in a crazy, story book way, it turned out to be the opposite. Though we don’t know each other like a father and daughter do after seventeen years, I know that creating is something that runs continuously through our blood. With a pen and paper as my spices and flavors, I’ve gotten the same energy with writing. I find that my mind races with letters and words. My body temperature involuntarily rises when a sentence flow never ends and ideas, plots, and conflict sizzle in my head.
When I read something that shakes me to my core with profoundness, it gives me an energy I have never felt before, not even as a child. After reading, it takes every bit of energy to not get up and grab a pen and a notebook. All I feel has to be written down. All I can do is write.
It wasn't until I moved away from my mother six years ago that I even thought about writing. I never knew I could find anything to write about and yet, I couldn't sit anywhere long enough to ponder the idea of anything. It was move after move with my mother. I slept on the edges of beds ready to get up and pack in the middle of the night, in case of an angry tenant or landlord. I listened through the running water while my mother shot up in the bathroom and I naively accompanied while she made deals in the streets of Dorchester and Jamaica Plains.
I changed schools constantly and because of that, I know that there is knowledge I lack. All the moving, all the changes, I know that I missed some fairy tales, songs to remember the days of a month, or moments in history. It's a flaw I don't let myself resent because it enables me to always learn something new and through these moves and changes, I’ve been able to see and write about all different aspects of people.
The idea of all that I can learn pushes me to do something that will take consistency and hard work. Until I met my father, I can't remember ever feeling settled enough to try to achieve anything but a better transition to the next place. Now that I have the opportunity to take a step away, I can digest and I can finally start writing and I see Emerson as that opportunity for me.
While my father cooks, I write and I know that we’re both creating and we’re both doing exactly what we love to do. Writing has taught me so much about myself that I can’t see being who I am today without it. Without all my na├»ve journals and pieces that I poured myself in, I wouldn’t be able to laugh at old memories and myself or feel proud of a piece that felt heart wrenching to even put on paper.
Regardless if a piece keeps me up for all hours or is too much to bear, I know that it will still be written down. So I take a seat at the dinner table and let the day’s course clink with the silverware, still and always ready to write about it all.