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Little Forces

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Apr. 16th, 2012 | 07:04 pm

This is the Hallucinogenic Toreador, which means, “the bullfighter that you see in your imagination.” Can you see the woman in the blue bathing suit on the yellow raft? That’s Dalí’s way of saying that the tourists are ruining Port Ligat. And here, where the artist has signed his name: Gala Salvador Dalí.  He wrote his wife’s name first, to show that she inspired all of his paintings.

In Museo Sophia Reina, the labels are less explanatory than my fifth-grade self on Student Docent Day, my whole gifted program class each given a painting to memorize, me with the longest one, a page and a half single-spaced. The parents and teachers and the unsuspecting public subjected to our practiced spiels followed floor paths of red and green tape from painting to painting, stopping off at the ones with a sweaty-palmed grade-schooler standing in front, carefully not fidgeting in our dark pants and white shirts.

Now, here, the paintings must speak for themselves. Miró. Dalí. Francis Bacon. Misti and I have only two days to share in Madrid, Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon, and we are not going to waste it on minor paintings by minor artists. For us it’s the Lichtenstein special exhibit, the Guernica room, Surrealists, only as much as our attention spans can handle before going back to the room for siesta, late dinner, coffee, and the street of clubs that beckon with Spanish techno and Euro techno and American techno which is really Euro techno at its heart, remixes and dance mixes and Kylie, Kylie, Kylie.

Here, there are three Venus de Milos. The first Venus de Milo is next to the cliffs. See how the fabric draped over her hips is also part of the cliffs, and at the same time, it makes the cape of the toreador. Notice how they fade into the background and become less complete. This is Dalí’s way of showing that classical art is disintegrating, and it reflects his painting, The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory, which you heard Mark talk about over there. Dalí thought that if you looked at atoms, you could understand God. He called that Nuclear Mysticism, and that’s why a lot of his paintings have things not touching each other.

I ask Misti if she wants to see a bullfight? It is Spain, after all. She does not. I do not. I hear only the expensive tickets are in the shade, and we are both nearly broke, I’m charging the hotel on my card. As much as we are the kind of friends who do that for each other, Misti still carries a backpack filled with shame, despite her transition to big-girl luggage with wheels, to traveling in skirts and the pretty sandals that hurt her, so she will not look like a hippie any more.

Misti is also a vegetarian. Compromises have been made in Morocco, where it is almost impossible to get food that is only vegetables—you would think a couscous country would have dishes that are only vegetables and grain, but even the lentils are flavored with fat. A bullfight would not be a compromise. It would be a capitulation. I wish I felt that strongly about something, anything, that I could stick to my guns on one thing, one lousy thing that I wouldn’t give in on, no matter what. That I could say why I came to Madrid, why I hope she’s here, too.

The toreador has a pink cape with gold sparkles, and the curve of the arena above him is also the curve of his hat. Here, below him, you can see the bull’s shape emerging from the cliffs.  The straight lines sticking out of the bull’s shoulder are banderillas, long spears with hooks in the end that the bullfighter’s assistants use to distract the bull and tire him out. The bull is kneeling, which means that he is very tired.

Guernica, what we came for, the one thing in Madrid I really want to see, is huge and black and white, a surprise to me. I have been imagining blood and gore and Bosch-like excess, but it is spare and cubist and terrifying.

Misti comes over to me, and says in a whisper, “It’s Picasso.” 

I don’t know why she’s telling me this, is it a joke I’m not getting? I give her the “and?” look. 

She says, “You’re looking for Guernica. This is by Picasso.” 

I say, “Misti, Guernica is the name of the painting. I know it’s by Picasso.” 

There must be something in my tone, because Misti looks around the room of people gazing at Guernica, gazing at a painting finally freed from bulletproof glass with the change of government, a painting whose commissioners’ sole instruction was “Make it big,” a painting famous enough to be our reason for this museum, and says “Oh.” 

I have already shamed her once today, refusing to put our things in a pay locker when there was a free coat check, saying in front of the clerk who almost certainly spoke very good English, “They’re employees of a national institution, they don’t make their living robbing bags.” In Morocco, it’s a legitimate worry.

Notice the collar button here at the toreador’s neck. It’s painted so realistically that most people think it’s real. You can see that it’s not by moving to the side of the painting and looking for the edge of the button. This is Dalí’s way of getting the viewer to question their perception of reality.

We see one more room of paintings after Guernica, that’s all we have eyes for, we’re cloudy with images and need ice cream to revive. I recognize them from down the hall, the first glimpse through the doorway. There’s something snobbish in knowing a painting’s artist from across the room, Vermeer or Hals, Renoir and Monet (Impressionists are easy) and sometimes Judith Leyster, but Dalí is the easiest. It’s not the brush strokes or the colors or the subjects alone, it’s all of those, recurring images, recurring themes, the nurse from boyhood and the cliffs of Ligat and the Venus de Milo and drawers in bodies and Dutch merchants and Gala, Gala, Gala.

We stand for a long time in front of Bust of Gala, her head an island of light in the low right, the rest of the board black as ink. Our hands are by our sides, obedient guests, respectful friends.

I softly read the signature aloud, “Gala Salvador Dalí.”

Misti looks at me, and I say, “do you know why?”

I hope to ask the right question, I hope not to shame her yet again, to presume ignorance instead of enlightenment as is my wont.

She does not know. She would like to know. 

I say, “Gala was his wife. He wrote his wife’s name first, to show that she inspired all of his paintings. As if she was part of him.”

We turn to the painting again. Her pinky finds my pinky and we squeeze.

Below the button is the toreador’s tie. See how the vertical dark line of the tie leads your eye to the blue water below. The water is in the place that the bull’s blood would be, but it’s a swimming cove in the cliffs instead. There are more Venus de Milos here, hovering as though they are each separate atomic particles. Dalí imagined that nuclear forces stopped them from touching each other.

Outside the museum, we eat ice cream, Magnum bars with truffle and dark chocolate and the little paddle-shaped stick inside after the last and best bites. While we sit on the bench, the men turn to us like sunflowers as they pass. I cannot kiss her, so I take her to a sex shop. I cannot kiss her, so we siesta from eight to ten at night. I cannot kiss her, so I dress her in my dress. We make up, tell each other, you’re beautiful, you’re beautiful, you’re beautiful. 

At the first club, I realize, this is what the man feels like. She’s lovely and fun and smart and I can’t keep my eyes off her breasts and I’m afraid to kiss her in case it’s wrong, in case it wrecks everything. The pounding techno reverberates in our chest, disintegrates the last of the barrier between us. We hold hands, we dance together, we see the sunflowers turn towards the only blondes in the bar. We walk hand in hand to the big club, the twelve-Euros-cover-even-with-our-discount-flyers club, the club we really cannot afford to go to. We’re on my money. I have already told her not to pay me back until the fall, I am already hoping drinks will be bought for us. They are.

And in the end, we walk home as the sun rises. I make Juan Carlos say the “star light star bright” rhyme in broken English and Catalan, and she falls behind with Santiago, so far behind they finally call us on Juan Carlos’ mobile to find out where we are. We are on the way to the hotel. We are in that hazy morning place after dancing all night. We are safely away, safely averting danger, the kind of danger that comes when you kiss someone you really like instead of someone you met in a club.

Here is the curve of the toreador’s face. His chin is the stomach of the second Venus de Milo.  His nose is her breast. His eye is her face. Below his eye, you can see a single tear. Perhaps he is mourning the fate of the bull, or perhaps he is sad that the tourists are ruining Port Ligat.




whipchick wishes Misti a very happy birthday. One day, Beautiful Girl...

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Comments {32}

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whipchick

Concrit - Theme!

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 16th, 2012 11:12 pm (UTC)
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I had a tough time with the prompt ("the weak force") this week, and I'm especially interested in hearing -

1) whether the theme was used clearly here

2) whether the way it was used was successfully executed

3) whether that was an interesting way to use the theme, or if it was "reaching" too much.

If you're a reader who isn't an LJIdol-er, a quick explanation of the literal meaning of the theme is here:

http://therealljidol.livejournal.com/555915.html?thread=59099787

and a bit more is here:

http://therealljidol.livejournal.com/555915.html?thread=59105419

And of course, any comments are always welcome :)

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Ellakite

Re: Concrit - Theme!

from: ellakite
date: Apr. 17th, 2012 12:22 am (UTC)
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I am flattered and honored that you chose to use my explanations of the Weak Force as part of the inspiration for your post... especially since doing so technically violated one of your rules. (You know which one.)

On the other hand, great advances in Physics have been made whenever someone discovered that the previously accepted "Laws of Physics" had apparently been violated. They usually hand out Nobel Prizes for discoveries of that nature. Your post is of such high quality that I believe the comparison is apt.

PS: I was going to start this post with one of my usual flippant, self-effacing jokes... but in the end I felt it would be improper to comment on your work in anything but the most serious of terms. This technically violates one of my rules... but under the circumstances, I believe that is apt.

Again: I am honored and flattered. Thank you.

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basric

(no subject)

from: basric
date: Apr. 17th, 2012 02:51 am (UTC)
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It was lovely. I enjoyed reading it.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 17th, 2012 04:11 am (UTC)
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Thanks :) I'm heading for yours tomorrow - need to read you in sunshine!

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(Deleted comment)

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 17th, 2012 04:12 am (UTC)
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She was totally his muse - I was just in the Dali museum in Florida this week, and most of the female faces in his masterworks are hers, and he painted her over and over - my favorite was a very small, index-card-sized full-body portrait of her, which Dali carried with him all the time. How beautiful to be able to put one's great love on paper and have her there always.

Glad you enjoyed - thank you!

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similiesslip

(no subject)

from: similiesslip
date: Apr. 17th, 2012 03:49 am (UTC)
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Sounds like some perfect days to treasure:)

I really, really like the line about danger after kissing someone you like. Such risk!

You really have a way, turning your phrases so they are simple thoughts but said in amazing ways.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 17th, 2012 04:13 am (UTC)
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Thank you :) I had a rough time this week, so I'm glad there were still some sparkly bits. BTW, still thinking about your intersection last week - such a strong voice.

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Jenn

(no subject)

from: kickthehobbit
date: Apr. 17th, 2012 04:50 am (UTC)
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I relate to this too well.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 17th, 2012 04:53 pm (UTC)
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Thanks, and yeah :)

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Rowan

(no subject)

from: mzrowan
date: Apr. 17th, 2012 12:14 pm (UTC)
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Your writing is so good that last night I had a dream about it! It went like this: I was on a passenger plane and was handing out copies of your stories. The plane started its final approach to the airport, which took the form of flying through arched colonnades under buildings.

Then suddenly, there was a troupe of aerialists hanging sparkly silver silks from the archways for a performance. We were all so distracted by your stories that we ran into one of the hanging silks (all the performers saw the plane coming in time and got out of the way -- and then hurried to pull the other silks in our path away). It was touch-and-go there for a moment, but we managed to land safely. The end. ;-)

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 17th, 2012 04:54 pm (UTC)
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That's an awesome dream! I'm glad you're enjoying - you're one of my only LJ friends who isn't in the writing contest, and I've been hoping it hasn't been too many long-ass entries for your friends page :) I love your photos, btw!

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A Karmic Sandbox

(no subject)

from: karmasoup
date: Apr. 17th, 2012 06:52 pm (UTC)
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I can actually relate to both aspects of this piece... one, I'm a huge Dali fan, and have been to the St Petersburg museum a number of times (which is where I discovered I look very much like Ana Maria, his sister, and his first and primary model from his earlier works); I've always loved disceting the complexity of his works, and, also, just to appreciate them for their beauty... they are appealing on so many levels. And, two, I've more or less had this trip with my own "Misti," on more than one occasion. I feel a strong connection to the hesitance at "shaming" her... it's frustrating when your own knowledge, intellect and experience can be overshadowing to someone you care about... it's hard finding a balance of being yourself without constantly reminding them of it, and hoping they don't tire of it, or you don't. And, I feel that "this must be how men feel" moment so often there are days I practically forget what gender I am. I really long for a world where none of it mattered. Great job bringing these deep reactions about.


On another concrit note, and one you didn't ask for, but not related to the theme... the Guernica anecdote makes a great point of the second occurrence of the "shaming" issue, but it sort of breaks up the flow of the Masterwork summary, being right in the middle of it, it's a disruption for the reader, wondering if you'll now be moving on to a different painting... I'm wondering if that point might could have as easily been made with a picture of an exchange that did not involve a different painting? When we moved back into the Masterwork, it took a double take or two to collect my place (and my thoughts) again. If not possible, though, perhaps formatting might work to accomplish clarification on the same leve... maybe indentation placement? A minor detail, of course... just an unsolicited penny's worth.

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m_malcontent

(no subject)

from: m_malcontent
date: Apr. 18th, 2012 04:58 am (UTC)
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This was very good...The segment beginning with Outside the museum all the way to the end was especially strong.

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tigrkittn

(no subject)

from: tigrkittn
date: Apr. 18th, 2012 01:23 pm (UTC)
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" I hope not to shame her yet again, to presume ignorance instead of enlightenment as is my wont."

This theme really struck a chord with me; trying to find that balance can (and often does) color a whole relationship. It's always interesting to find someone else writing so thoughtfully about something I didn't realize anyone else even noticed!

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dblicher

(no subject)

from: dblicher
date: Apr. 18th, 2012 01:35 pm (UTC)
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At first I read for the art. I kept reading for Spain. Then I finished to honor the narrator and her weak and strong gravitational pulls. I think it's a perfect use of the prompt! After the slow, deliberate museum tour, I was a little thrown by the rapidity of the getting-ready-for-clubbing paragraph ("I can't kiss her, so..."), but, you know, having to read such a heart-rending paragraph twice isn't such a bad thing. Loved the repetition in it. Clearly your poet's ear was very active in writing this lyrical piece. Just lovely. Thank you. I'm sorry your week was rough. Write or call if I can help.

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The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors

(no subject)

from: halfshellvenus
date: Apr. 18th, 2012 08:16 pm (UTC)
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I loved ellakite's comments, about the interpretation of the prompt and how it was present throughout.

It's clear that as devoted and attached as these two are, there is always that possibly of ruining it-- whether momentarily (accidentally creating shame) or more permanently (making a romantic move on someone who potentially doesn't expect/want it).

The descriptions here were lovely, both of the trying-so-hard students at the beginning, and of the paintings/spain/setting.

My father dragged us all to a bullfight in Mexico, and I never want to do that again. A vegetarian could only feel the same way I do, except possibly moreso.

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Myrna

(no subject)

from: myrna_bird
date: Apr. 18th, 2012 08:19 pm (UTC)
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I enjoyed how you weaved in the guide's descriptions of the painting interspersed with your own thoughts and feelings. I always feel like I have been to visit a place myself when you take me there!

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copyright1983

(no subject)

from: copyright1983
date: Apr. 19th, 2012 03:17 am (UTC)
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Once again, you've absolutely nailed it.

If I had to bet on one person, *right now*, to win the whole thing, I'd have a tough time picking anyone but you.

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ecosopher

(no subject)

from: ecosopher
date: Apr. 19th, 2012 10:11 pm (UTC)
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So very well done. I could feel the longing and the desire; how I remember the beginnings or not-quite beginnings of a relationship and wanting so badly to do the right thing.

I could feel the weather, too. Great job.

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java_fiend

(no subject)

from: java_fiend
date: Apr. 20th, 2012 12:51 am (UTC)
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Love this piece and I love a lot of Dali's works... I had no idea that his wife was his muse like that. I love that you can open up these worlds to we who aren't quite the world travelers that you are! Thank you for that... you've given me a lot of things I'd love to experience should I get to travel!

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