Reds, Picasso, and a Dash of Olf

A back and forth some time in March beginning with my letter describing a visit to the orthodontist, and then on to the movie Reds.  In these letters, we both play off the word mesh from my poem.

Saturday Morning


I am sitting in the orthodontist’s office, having filled out insurance forms among the buzz of inconsequential conversation, the room packed with children wearing a variety of appliances giving the place the look of some kind of bizarre repair shop.  The adults are about evenly divided between jeans and polyester, more women than men, all very suburban with just a slight touch of university types…but I am more impressed by a guy in his worn volunteer fireman’s coat and equally raggedy running shoes, between which his paunch overhangs like a rising bread spilling over the edge of a baking pan.  Everyone else is talking, reading magazines, or staring.  I catch occasional glances my way, and feel like I would like to recite something obscene–maybe loosen up a couple of retainers.

Sunday morning

I almost saw Reds last night, but instead wound up on the fringe of some inexplicable melodrama in and around the Northport Theater.

[This letter goes on at some length to describe how the theater was emptied because of an unidentified threat, perhaps a bomb, and during the egress a girl wandered into the street and was hit by a van being driven by a volunteer fireman, perhaps the one described in the orthodontist’s office.  I do not know if she survived the accident. It continues below after enumerating the questions left from this incident]

…and all the questions yield to my desire to think about you, to shelter my feelings for you from this frontal barrage of the world’s lunacy, this cunning intrusion into our web of coarse and jagged sliver of the larger pattern  that seems to becoming unglued, as though Olf pumped up to giant proportions were claiming it all his own–but not all–we will not let him have our well-spun mesh, though he howl, gnash his ugly fangs, and chew at the edges of our cloth.

(My rational sense intrudes and wonders how I missed placing Olf and his fangs in the orthodontist’s chair.}


Two simple joys: the discovery that WYRS is now stereo, the rediscovery of this pen, a gift from good friends years ago which had disappeared only to reappear in my daughter’s room.

I jut watched a Picasso show on the tube and now with mellow tones drifting from the stereo, I reflect, projecting my sense of self as artist against the images of  this powerful,  tormented, romantic, giant.  Never mind the ridiculous immodesty of the comparison, the obvious differences between one who lived his art and one who consigns it to the occasional, what do I see of myself in this man who loved/feared women, who was apolitical but painted this century’s most profound political statement in Guernica, who savored his sense of humor, who sought balance between his passions and his intellect, who was a serious artist who earned the kind of money usually reserved for the successful hack, who has much to teach but learned his own lessons by reinterpreting ancient and classical models, who never yielded to total abstraction, always an object or figure no matter how distorted–psychological truth or clever craft?–who loved the guitar music of his native country and saw himself as a clown in harlequin clothes–not so much thoughts, but impressions and feelings running through my mind–his art a precipitate of his emotions, unashamedly personal but transfigured by his imagination  to the universal.

Other thoughts, too, not so simple as jazz, pen, or Picasso, that the strand stretches, transforms from golden thread to finely wrought wire that binds so tight it hurts, a good, almost joyous, pain  that leaves me torn between a scowl and a smile, welcoming even the cold which reminds me of warming before a fire on another cold night when inner ice began a serious thaw.


[Carol’s response starts with her own reaction to Reds and then switches to her thoughts on being an artist.]

Tuesday AM


I took a strong interest in Eugene O’Neill & Louise Bryant.  I don’t exactly know where the movie stopped for you [because of the theater being emptied], but those scenes on the beach were so romantic & of course the scene where they first come together–he wants to know where the Scotch is & she’ll only pour him a little at a time & he says, “If you were mine, I’d put you on a pedestal….My companions at the movie were responding w/ “Sure Jack, just what she needs” w/ the know-it all tones of the mocking cynics, and I just looked at her, looked at him saw romance gather in chemistry & need (& even artistry, maybe) & my politics & cynicism did 180 degree turn & melted.  It wouldn’t have mattered what he said–He could have said, “Louise, you’re really stupid,” or she could have said, “Gene, you’re really a lush.” But as my wise young sister said once, for all her tender years–the body & heart have their own language, & politics & sometimes words just don’t enter it–or can’t.  Personally, I like politics & words that don’t mock the heart.

To protect feelings–consider a finely balanced mesh, gold wires so well wrought they only stroke the skin, toss in a few pillows, tie each securely to a tree, don’t forget the cigarettes & the champagne, & we’ll have to do something about food, & climb in–let Olf & co. snarl & stomp the ground into upheavals (he can’t climb trees because he has an aversion to things that grow by virtue of the sun) & unless it’s an earthquake to uproot trees, we’ll only rock & sway in a mesh made to catch the sunlight–And if our little friend gets really obnoxious, we can always toss him cigarette butts & yesterday’s empty champagne bottle.  What better protection than a shared one?

Well, this idle, romantic soul, needs sleep at 230 in the afternoon  More later–


Thoughts on artists–it seems the more time spent around them or their work, the more it feels like some kind of home–which is odd since until this last year I was intolerant & could thinking of nothing worse to do than go & stand boringly in an art gallery while others oohed & ahhed over form & color & line & space.  I’m not sure still that I have much patience for that & the specifics still don’t concern me–it’s something else–like a mood, or a feel, an intuitive, “Yes, this makes sense,” or “No, that really stinks, I hate it & all  the in- between moods which demand (if the mood is there) a musing.  I think it may be a form of kinship–but not outwardly or elaborately, still preferring my own thoughts over any critic’s analysis of line & color.  Artists, though not all of course, I think must have souls like mine–sensitive, easily disturbed, just as easily amused, but also diverse in their pretensions & independence of mind from  the conservative mainstream like the one I grew up knowing, that I really hate to interject myself into the midst & claim for my own.  Gives me  the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it.  I’ve never had an affinity for groups of anything.  But how could anyone who writes or paints or creates not draw comparisons between themselves & artists like Picasso?  I think it must be the feeling–a kindred soul, the only difference (of course) is he could move that feeling in an expressed, a universal one as you said.  (I feel a sigh welling up here.)  (Sigh).  Some of the similarities between self & great artists are startling.  Some, naturally, are not startling at all (we won’t suggest which ones).  There’s just something about the damned elusive expressiveness–Creativity was never a problem–my coherence is.


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