Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Strangeness in the Proportion

Odilon Redon, The Eye Like a Strange Balloon Mounts Toward Infinity, 1879

"There is no exquisite beauty," as Poe reminds us, in Ligeia, "without some strangeness in the proportion..."

This is Odilon Redon's The Eye Like a Strange Balloon Mounts Toward Infinity. It's a work of 19th century Symbolism, some would say.

Art bears aloft the inarticulate, whether we will or no.

Like musical instruments
Abandoned in a field
The parts of your feelings

Are starting to know a quiet
The pure conversion of your

Life into art seems destined

Never to occur
You don't mind

You feel spiritual and alert

As the air must feel
Turning into sky aloft and blue

You feel like

You'll never feel like touching anything or anyone

And then you do

Redon was a quiet, reclusive artist who at first worked a dark symbolic magic in charcoal (finding work illustrating translations of Poe) and then, after his marriage and a move to the country, celebrated mystery in triumphant, but no less mystical, pastels.

Mary Jo Bang's written an inconclusive, post-modern poem inspired by the balloon image.

Artists are people driven nearly against their will to express they know not what by whatever means at their disposal. The amazing part is that such a personal mystery unfolds as an expression not just of an individual but of an age, and the best, for all time.