The poet on art

Time to continue the March tribute to my mother’s poetry. See the in-house poet if you missed her introduction. Mom loves art as well as poetry, so her poem entitled “Art” is the perfect marriage of the two. I asked her earlier this evening if she could recollect some of her favorite artists or works. She couldn’t think of a thing, her usual answer these days. I pressed her a bit, asking about her involvement in the Blue Water Art Club in Port Huron, Michigan, in the 1950s. She remembered her art instructor, Rusty Patterson, and suddenly came up with Piranesi.Piranesi_Carceri_Plate_III-1

Mom called Piranesi’s work “black and white ink” and said “he drew prisons, with staircases winding about and going up.” This sounded really awful to me. Why did you like these, I had to ask. “I don’t know, they just appealed to me. They were very spacious looking.”

A bit of research on Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) revealed an Italian artist famous for his etchings of Rome as well as the Carceri d’Invenzione (imaginary prisons). There’s a whole stack of these prints (16 total) which are said to record a series of his own visions during the delirium of a fever. Someone else called them visual metaphors for the endless creative inspiration of the past. Whatever they are, I did not find them appealing, or spacious, but that’s just me.


Art is a mixture of paint and oil,
The color of forgotten soil;
The smile of loveliness long dead,
The coffin waiting in the shed,
A face against a windowpane,
A lover in a country lane,
A looking in and a looking out
The silence of an unheard shout,
The sense of an impending doom,
The unreality of a room,
The lights and shadows of all our days
Pinpointed in infinitesimal ways,
Fixed in a painted pantomime
Plucked from the gutter of merging time.
Art is a mixture in the mind
Of images that twist and wind;
Evidence of an exploring heart
Tentative, lest it be torn apart.
Here is a smile, received over there,
Coloring two bits of separated air.
Here is the shadow for this degree of light.
Some form of shading makes up our sight.
Here is the height, and the depth below,
And here is the horizon that makes it so.
Our lives are so bound in intricate ways,
Bordered with gold and indigo days,
Flushed with the sun’s most fetching red,
Of art enough cannot be said.

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One Response to The poet on art

  1. Jen says:

    My dialogue journal from this morning (see my post on the Dialogue Journal) – The Purpose of Art!


    Daughter J. (almost 4) and Son L. (2 1/2) have been painting with watercolors this morning.

    L: Look at my picture, Mom! Wida bita picture!

    J: See, Mom, look at my picture. Isn’t it beautiful?

    L: Look.

    J: It has a little hole, Mommy.

    L: Da my picture.

    J: I like pictures about Mom and Dad, so they feel better, and so they have good pictures, so we can just be beautiful. And decorate.

    L: It’s a ‘pider.

    J: This picture is about, so people feel better. It’s just a big rainbow. There you go, Mom. I’m so happy I give this to you. It’s your thing for doing all your hard work.

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