Posted in art, Irony, poetry, women

Portrait

“Mademoiselle Boissiere Knitting” by Gustave Caillebotte

Old woman, bent with needle,
spinster, maiden, Mademoiselle,
intent on plaiting fictions.

Each stroke demands restraint.
She is compliant,
bound in proper bonnets, sturdy bows,
and stems an urge for wild unraveling.

Yet blushing cheeks,
nacreous rainbows in her purls,
their molten, platinum shimmer,
betray a piqued suppression.

Too late for one revolution,
too early for another,
she can’t escape the irony—
that immortality’s fabled truths are
are belied by deft impressions.

©2021 All Rights Reserved

Posted in art, creativity, film, food, human nature, music, writing

pəʊ-teɪ-təʊ, pəʊ-tɑ-təʊ

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Opinions. We all have them.

In the absence of empirical truth, we generally feel comfortable with our opinions, and feel justified in expressing them.

I’m no exception. I can think of a handful of writers, all of whom are regarded as masters of their craft, whose work leaves me cold. Similarly, there are dozens of musical pieces, all standards in the classical repertoire, which make me want to scream, “Make it stop! Make it stop!” As for film, there are those directors whose aesthetic completely escapes me. I’ve sat through every new, critically acclaimed release of theirs ready to give them a fair viewing, only to come away with exactly the same reaction: “Why?” And do I even need to get into art? Please.

The reality is, some creative work will always resonate, trigger the viscerally positive reaction we crave, often for reasons we might never completely understand, and some will not. We will always love some works, yet not others. In fact, there might be those we will hate….

~~~

Months ago, I happened to mention a book I loved to a fellow bibliophile. He made a face, then proceeded to give it a critical shredding (some of which rested on a distaste for the characters), which left me feeling like a complete imbecile. Correction: an imbecile with no taste.  I shouldn’t have felt insulted, but I did.

Some time before that, I became engaged in a discussion with a young woman about a particular director’s work. Every time I began to explain why I disliked the films, she interrupted, enumerating all the ways my opinion was wrong. As her argument heated, I understood it was more than a defense of the director’s work; it was an attempt to defend herself.

At that point, I stopped her, “Look. I’m not claiming the work has no artistic value, no worth. I’m just telling you it’s not for me.”

“Oh,” she looked at me, a bit startled. “Then it’s just an opinion.”

I said, “Exactly.”

And she smiled, “I guess that’s okay then.”

~~~

I’m always a bit amazed (although I shouldn’t be at my age) by how fragile our egos can be, how heavily invested they are in our critical faculties, and how easily they can be bruised. I suppose the more literate and educated we are, the more we pride ourselves in being able to view creative work objectively, and distinguish what is brilliant from what is commonplace.

But can we truly divorce ourselves from our tastes?

I still recall a conversation with a well-known conductor after another conductor’s performance of a Wagner Prelude. When he asked me what I thought, I said, “Not much.”

He then wanted to know if my opinion of the music was influenced by Wagner’s politics—a natural question, since both of us are Jewish.

I shook my head, saying, “No. It’s his endless sequences. They bore me to tears.”

He nodded, and with a wink said, “I know what you mean. The only way to conduct Wagner is to the end of the piece. You can’t take your time.”

We both laughed, but I couldn’t help but wonder if a better paced interpretation would have made me like the music better. I tend to doubt it.

Sometimes opinions on writing, film, art, and music are not apt to be changed. We often hold fast to our tastes, what pleases, what displeases, and use our training to analyze the reasons for them.

~~~

I was going to say it would be nice if we could view differences in artistic taste with the same detachment as we view differences in culinary taste; but then I’m suddenly reminded of a recent disagreement I had with an acquaintance over oysters.

No detachment there. When I said I couldn’t stand them, she went into a tirade.

That’s when I walked away.

©2018 All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in art, family

Things

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Minton China Waste Bowl ( 1812-1815)

What are you saving?  Keeping in that drawer, or cabinet, or closet for the right moment?

I was brought up at a time when parents taught their children that there were play clothes and party clothes, school clothes and just-sitting-around-in-the-house clothes. We had  stainless flatware and silverware, everyday dishes and good china, heavy-duty glasses and crystal; and in every case, the latter was reserved for special occasions.

Recently, I read an article advising people of my generation to re-evaluate our treasures, their necessity in our lives, because our children will be overburdened by the task of disposing of them when we die. Pleasant thought…no? According to this expert, our kids don’t want our finery—the silver, china, and crystal. Nor do they want the carved and beautifully made antiques we hunted for and prized. Those things don’t fit their light-speed lifestyles. They’re too delicate,  require too much care.

And I find this terribly sad.

But I also think my generation is responsible.

We made our kids—because our parents made us—think about these things as too good or fragile for daily use. We passed on the belief that the things we valued were not serviceable, and that the damage to, or loss of any of them was a tragedy.

And that is so wrong-headed.

Sterling should be used every day, at every meal. My mother-in-law did that, and as a result, her silver never tarnished. Its patina, like its design, grew warmer with use, the love of being used. And fine bone china should also be put to service. It wasn’t meant to lay hidden in a credenza, or gather dust on cabinet shelves. It was meant to be eaten off of, enjoyed.

Likewise with crystal stemware. If you can afford to have it, it should be filled with wine or water or juice or soda, and every drop that comes from it should be savored.

I understand we all have different tastes. And I also understand that antiques need care, sometimes repair and refinishing. But eventually, so will every piece of furniture. It all wears. A new bureau or table may look simple and fresh when delivered, but eventually its veneer will wear. Its joints will dry, its surfaces will stain, and its hinges will fail.

And that good clothing we were conditioned to save for special occasions? That elegant dinner out? Night at the opera? New Year’s Eve party? By the time those occasions arise the clothing may not fit, or moths may have had a good meal out of it.

Nothing lasts forever.

So, for anyone who’s reading this and thinking their parents’ treasures are too much trouble because they can’t be used all the time, remember: that’s just plain wrong. And your parents were wrong for making you feel that way. All of those things were meant to be used. So use them. And when you do, remember who used them before you, especially if they passed through many generations.  And when those things break or fall apart, if they can’t be fixed, then be sad and say “Goodbye,” and think about how much joy they gave you.

Loss is part of life.

So live.

©2017 All Rights Reserved