Thursday, April 05, 2007

Favorite Women of Art #4: The Rokeby Venus--Velasquez (1648)

This one is perhaps obvious, but is there a finer picture of a woman ever painted? Even Henry James found it impressive (although he and I have in common that we have both gazed upon the original of this painting, when he saw it it was still hanging in the Rokeby castle, where he was a personal guest of the owner). Velasquez is another of those creative masters people like me whose intellectual faculties are easily wearied are attracted to like cats to boiled lobster, who produced superficially easy and perfect works that one cannot imagine having ever possessed any possibility of completion other than as they are. In the modern world the main drawbacks of this kind of perfectly executed presentation in art, music, writing, filmmaking, etc. where it occasionally manifests itself on general subjects is that it threatens to allow people who are not particularly clever or interesting to feel happy or otherwise good about themselves as participants in a more exalted life such as is offered by the artwork, which does not quite do. As it is impossible to keep such art as is naturally pleasing to masses of ordinary people a secret in today`s world, the connoisseur classes have had to invent and to keep inventing new notions of beauty and achievement in every artistic field to keep them esoteric; in which, as they have always been able to do whenever pressed by the mob below, they have evidently succeeded to the satisfaction of most of the sprightliest minds of the age who care about such things.

During the long period from the time I was 16 or17 until I finally matriculated at a college I could somewhat handle when I was 20, I had a lot of wild ideas about what was going to await me when I got there. One of them was that I was going to have sex with a lot of bohemian girls who looked like the Venus in the picture above (I had absolutely no concept of morality or self-control as something that might be desirable where this area was regarded at the time, but that is a subject for another post). For any readers I might have who have had hundreds or even thousands of sex partners, when I say a lot I mean a lot for me. I thought it not unreasonable that over the course of four years I might get to have 20-25 different girls, seeing as other people had so many more, and when in the privacy of my own thoughts or my room I seemed to myself to be just as good as most of them were. Indeed, if at one of these times before I went when I was making these calculations somebody had told me that I was never going to be particularly cool and that I was not going to have anywhere near even 10 girls once I got there I probably would not have bothered going. I`m not kidding either. Now this doesn`t mean I`m not glad I went anyway now, all in all, but I`m trying to demonstrate that it is only such crazy delusions--and I really do have them still--that enable me to get out of bed and carry on and progress at all in life. Even in the midst of realizing some colossal overestimation of my abilities and consequent social disaster, whatever possibility looms next--a new school year, going to Europe or moving to some new city, going to the writing conference--before I go I am absolutely convinced that this time I will finally be ready, my preparations of reading and thinking and writing will finally enable me to combat successfully with other capable men and women. I will be at long last be among the smartest, the coolest, the most accomplished in my chosen field, the most engaging conversationalist, the wittiest with the ladies, etc, etc, in the whole place; and inevitably within the first half-hour of the new setting it is clear that none of this is the case at all, that I am completely overmatched and out of my proper element (God knows what that might be though) compared to just about everyone else, and that if I do talk to anybody who is not also a complete freak they are going to think I am a disturbed misfit and run away from me. And then, when the ordeal of the failure is over, some new possibility for the future arises immediately in my mind. In the first half of my life I was sustained by the idea that someday I really would find myself in a place and position where I would be cool, and where it would be worth being cool; I have finally within the last year I think come to terms with the fact that I am never going to have the social life I want to have, that I am never going to have really high level conversations replete with palpable intellectual or sexual tension with other human beings. Now, and really for the last ten years the main sustaining delusion is that I really am and someday really will be for real a real author of real bound books. The jaded experts assure all failures and wannabes that the accomplishment of their wishes will neither make them happy nor change their perception in the eyes of the world, for unless you do something legitimately magnificent, the world does not care. I am not such a trivial being as to seek happiness, or imagine it is the object of life. My work is important, however, including this blog, even if there is no one capable of liking it that is currently alive, otherwise I could hardly bother doing it, as I hardly bother doing anything else. It seems to me somehow that it has to be made...what else is there?

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