Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Beautiful People Are Courageous

Edgar Degas is well known as a painter of the human figure. One immediately associates him with ballet dancers, portraits, women at their toilette, laundry women, cabaret singers and racecourse scenes. His work epitomises life in Paris, where he was born and where he spent his life, mostly in Montmartre. Degas, in fact, poured scorn on his fellow Impressionists who painted en plein air, maintaining that 'real artists finish their work at home'. It comes as a great surprise then, to discover that when Degas held his first one-man show in Paris at the Galerie Durand-Ruel in November 1892, it was made up entirely of landscapes. 'The sudden eruption of landscapes at a one-man exhibition of monotypes partially overlaid with pastel at the Galerie Durand-Ruel in Paris in the winter of 1892 is therefore all the more curious. No oil paintings were shown - a departure from Degas' practice - and the fact that one-man shows were something Degas had never done before only adds to the curiosity.'

Edgar Degas: The Last Landscapes

Edgar Degas Houses at the Foot of a Cliff

The landscape I miss most is a window
from a small clothing store on the north side.

I guess it was a resale store that sold
high-end, high-fashion men’s and women’s clothes.

It was the most beautiful front window
of any kind of store I’ve ever seen.

Every week the window display was new,
and there never were manikins or props,
just men’s and women’s clothes arranged in space
held in place by monofilament strings,
sometimes shaped by inserts in the clothing.

There was a fancy mall a block away
from the brick building around the window
but I have no memory of the mall.

And I remember the old brick building
only as four fragments around the glass
above and below and next to both sides
of the window in front of the display
of men’s and women’s clothes arranged in space
carefully, thoughtfully, beautifully.

I remember thinking people I saw
going in and coming out of the store
were beautiful people too but I don’t
remember any specific person.

I never had the courage to go in.

I know I’m not a beautiful person.

I never photographed it or drew it.

I know I’m not a beautiful person.

The building is torn down now. The store’s gone.

I don’t know if the people who designed
the window displays work someplace else now.

I can write carefully and thoughtfully
but beautiful people are courageous.

This is as close as I will ever get
to men’s and women’s clothes arranged in space
carefully, thoughtfully, beautifully.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Et In Arcadia Ego

Fons Et Origo

Cordon Sanitaire

“So how much myth is good for us?”

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