Where do I begin and end? And where.
As I strum the thing, do I pick up
That which momentarily declares
Itself not to be I and yet
Must be. It could be nothing else.
(Wallace Stevens, “The Man with the Blue Guitar”)
I’ve taken these words from the opening paragraph of Jean-Luc Nancy’s essay “Paean to Aphrodite,” (Multiple Arts, Muses II). Taking one concept, one name—Aphrodite, he traces an intricate map of the goddess and her trajectory (physical, linguistic, mythic) through her various appellations and manifestations. He asks, “But why does the beautiful never let us go? When everything is ugly, all that remains of it is a memory.” I am interested in that phrase, “what remains.” Renmants— unsaid, undone, unknown, invisible. What remains?
The text in the image above, I’ve drawn directly onto my studio wall. The small pile of objects that form part of this installation are the renmants of the dried, inscribed, white rose petals I used for the magnificat project that I did last year. (See my post of May 11, 2011, “re-inscription in progress”).
I’m putting together and arranging images from my most recent drawings. Still working with fragments of text from Jean-Luc Nancy, stuck as they are in my imagination, I begin with one image and then build around it, working on a narrative and expanding the initial text-idea. I’m borrowing from my Withdrawn:scribing Nancy series, from the Greek images, and from the even earlier drawings of birds. What is this? Drawing as a daily process and an eclectic search for form.
It’s been some time since I’ve written in this blog. I have been working consistently, but at the same time, feeling like I was in transition and simply not ready to commit anything to print (however virtual). I have started a new project in the intervening months, one that brings the Withdrawn:scribing Nancy series to a close. The project is called “Bibliography: the return” and I’ve written a little bit about in a page on this blogsite. (please check it out).
On July 5th, one of my favorite artists, Cy Twombly died. The scribbles, drips, scratchy integration of text, drawing and paint, the vast canvases and the re/interpretation of antique literary sources and modern poetry are some of the aspects that drew me to his work. Twombly painted flowers several times throughout his career, the most recent in 2008, a series of roses that incorporated some fragments of text from Rilke’s own addresses to the rose. Since I’ve been working with rose petals these past two years, I thought I’d name this recent series of 12 white-petal drawings, “12 for Cy.”
I’ve done two more of the large pastel-over-white-inscribed-rose-petal drawings. I print the images myself to the largest paper size that my printer will accommodate and then tape the pieces together to form the large petals. The pastel I use for the over-drawing is Schminke. It has a buttery texture, easily crumbles into a powder and the colors are super intense. I’m ready to do more drawings, but I’ve run out of the Schminke pastel, have to wait for an order to arrive, and reluctant to change to another brand of pastel in the middle of a series.
I found a fragment of Sappho’s poetry* which references the Graces, and since the Graces figure in Nancy’s discussion of the Visitation, I couldn’t resist adding the fragment to my project. The mention of the rose metaphor intrigued me – and even though it is a superficial connection – I’ve used the image, appropriating Sappho’s words, and combining the phrase with a second fragment, “I would not think to touch the sky…” Anne Carson’s collection of Sappho’s poetry is written with the original Greek and the English translation side by side and often, there is only a single phrase or sentence on a page, leaving the rest of the page an open space, inviting an image or a drawing.
* Carson, Anne, translator and editor. If Not, Winter: fragments of Sappho. Vintage, N.Y. 2003.