A Mere Two: Art and Life

Posted: March 29, 2012 in Current Events, Life
Tags: ,

In an attempt to get used to incorporating hyperlinks into my blog posts, I wanted to share some undercurrents that are, well, currently active in my life.


The past week I’ve been really moved by two artists, one past and one present.  A website dedicated to the work of Bruno Schulz has introduced me to his wonderfully intimate style of sketching and writing.  I would describe my favorite ones as romantic surrealism.  It refers to the emphatic way Schulz’s work highlights what Nella Cassouto calls, “active femaleness.”  There is a stout feminism that circumscribes his work, a world where women have all the power and the male lies prostrate at her feet.

Being a momma’s boy myself that grew up in the company of sisters, I identify with the blatant submission toward women.  And as a male that leans toward romanticism, the sheer power women have over us resonates.  Like his sketches, Schulz’s writing is replete with intimacy and candor, almost as if he is letting you in on a secret:

I liked to stand between my father’s legs, clasping them from each side like columns.  Sometimes he wrote letters. I sat on his desk and watched, entranced, the squiggles of his signature, crabbed and a whirl like the trills of a coloratura singer. Smiles were budding in the wallpaper, eyes hatched, somersaults turned. To amuse me, my father would blow soap bubbles through a long straw; they burst in the iridescent space or hit the walls, their colors still hanging in the air.  Then my mother materialized, and that early bright idyll came to an end. Seduced by my mother’s caresses, I forgot my father.

–The Book

The other one is the Brooklyn based artist Vik Muniz, whose recent documentary Waste Land (the trailer can be seen here) struck many chords in me.  His depiction of the lives of catadores at  Jardim Gramacho, Rio de Janeiro’s largest landfill, provoked many questions in me about my own place in life.  And, what I’m doing with what I have.  It would be impossible to capture these characters here in words.  Suffice it to say that when even on the brink of subsistence, one can have dignity and hope.  This, it seems to me, is what Muniz’s art accomplishes so beautifully, the dignity and hope of “the least of these.”

The truth I gather in these two artists is how they manage to capture a vast swath of humanity in one fell swoop, as they say. Thereby leaving the viewer with an abiding sense of  inclusion.

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