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17 July 2005

I know what I like

I know nothing about art. But I love it. You know like, visual art...in particular, painting. It's just one of those things. I want to learn, but, honestly where to begin?

It's the human condition. I mean...well. Here--I love Italian (the language, guys) and could probably speak far better than I do; if only I would simply open my mouth. Whenever I call Cavalli Book Store I always mean to place my order in Italian, but I don't. There's fear of course. Those of you who have experienced my pushi...persuasiveness on behalf of Bakery of the Poets may not believe it, but I am a very shy person.

No, seriously, I am.
Stop laughing.

But the Italian inhibitions aren't related to bashfulness, it's the keen awareness that I don't know what I don't know, that weighs down my tongue. Am I sure the verb is sto and not sono? Is the tense past or present? Feminine or masculine? I don't know enough to be sure, so when that incredibly impatient sounding guy comes to the phone, I order in English when I long to speak Italian.

It's the same thing with art, I am not at all conversant in its language. And that's always been okay. I've liked what I liked and when the shape of my own ignorance threatened to step between me and enjoyment of the art form; I simply backed off for a bit and waited until I no longer felt quite so stupid.

With literature it's different. I've read so much and written so much that when a narrative doesn't work I have (by now) an instinctive understanding of the reason. I may not be able to fix it, particularly when it comes to my own work, but I can usually say where the writer went wrong. And when something really works, something that makes my mind feel like it's floating on big fluffy clouds (Austen's Persuasion) or makes me feel as though my chemical makeup is being altered (Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway). I know why and even if I don't know know, I understand.

When it comes to visual art, I am at sea. So can anyone tell me why, yesterday, when I saw John William Waterhouse's Psyche Entering Cupid's Garden; some tiny knot deep in my stomach (one I hadn't even known existed) relaxed and unraveled? Or why, when I saw Daniel Gerhartz's River's Edge; I suddenly wanted to cry?

--dB
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