I have wanted to kill myself a hundred times, but somehow I am still in love with life. This ridiculous weakness is perhaps one of our most melancholy propensities; for is there anything more stupid than to be eager to go on carrying a burden which one would gladly throw away, to loathe one’s very being and yet to hold fast, to fondle the snake that devours us until it has eaten our hearts away?

-Voltaire, Candide


Art by Gary Bonner*

Shyness is a curious thing, because, like quicksand, it can strike people at any time, and also, like quicksand, it usually makes its victims look down.

A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket.

The Fall of Icarus by Peter Paul Rubens, Circa 1636

     

Why A Man Cannot Have Wings

Because he will crash land on his head, assuming it to be

The strongest part of his body.


Because someone will put up a sign that reads:

Do Not Step on the Cirrus Clouds.


Because it does not even take a man hundreds of feet above

Sea-level to learn contempt.


Because there will be new categories of handicaps: bow-wings,

Ostrich disease, scaly feathers, carousel flight syndrome,

Or at a freak show: The Amazing Wingless Wonder.


Because he will have a new weapon, gravity,

And everything he releases becomes a missile,

Even glass marbles, books, the fatal music box.


Because he is lonely enough without being able to

Frame the house he lives in between his forefinger and thumb.


Because then the sky will shed its metaphors of freedom

And become another path for him to carry his burdens.


Because there will be a popular form of suicide:

Flying into foreign airspace and being gunned down;

All it takes is a nose-tip to press an invisible blue button.


Because each death in mid-air, each comic comet plunge,

Will be another enactment of the fall of Man.


Because in concentration camps people will break wings

And use the feathers for quills to write sonnets

And pillow stuffing for innocent dreams.


Because he will have less to fantasize about, less of miracles

And the word ‘levitation’ will not exist.


Because there will be children who will empty their bladders

Under cloud cover in an attempt to make yellow snow.


And because he might get the wrong notion that he is closer

To heaven, when he has not even come to a mile

Within the presence of angels, despite the resemblance.


Alfian bin Sa’at

Self Portrait by Ilka Gedő, Circa 1947-49

     

Self Portrait by Ilka Gedő

Ilka Gedö was a Hungarian woman artist whose career was stunted by the political disasters of the twentieth century. Only after her death did her work become internationally recognized. In her teens, prior to the German occupation of Budapest, she attended a private art school. At age 23, she was forced to live in a “yellow star house”, where she drew portraits of her fellow victims. After the war, during the Communist regime, she depicted workers in a factory. Her pastels of shadowy workers in a mysterious light, bent over tables or sinks, dotted with flecks of gold, did not impress the official comrades. More and more her drawing style developed into a search for her subject, which she encircled with nervously vibrating lines, reminiscent of Giacometti (whose work she discovered only later).

The present self-portrait shows a woman marked by her internment. Unlike her drawings from the Ghetto, which are more reminiscent of Steinlen or Vuillard, the present portrait leads stylistically to Gedö’s later work, when lines became autonomous fields of energy.

Look close at the lines. Stubborn and hypnotic.

The Rape of the Sabine Women by Nicolas Poussin, Circa 1637-38

      

The Rape of the Sabine Women

The painting depicts one of the mythical episodes surrounding the history of ancient Rome. The city has just been founded by Romulus, and the Romans wish to ensure the future prosperity of their young nation. As there is a lack of women to provide the necessary offspring, they plan a mass abduction. With this in mind, they invite the neighboring Sabines to a feast during which they seize the women and drive off the men. Three years later, the Sabines attack Rome in revenge. But the conflict is prevented thanks to the women, who stand between their brothers and their husbands (to whom they have become reconciled). Thus peace was achieved between the two peoples.
 

Poussin has chosen to illustrate the scene of the abduction. Romulus stands on the left, dominating the proceedings, in a pose directly inspired by Imperial statues. In the central section, the painter emphasizes the panic and confrontation between the men and women. This all takes place against an architectural background in linear perspective, which gives the work its vanishing point. Also of interest is the way the artist has organized the figures, using two diagonal lines that start from the edges of the picture and join up where there is a gap in the landscape, thus making the work more dynamic.

Self Portrait by Henri Decaisne, Circa 1820

Self Portrait by Henri Decaisne, Circa 1820

The present painting appears to be a self-portrait. Two later self-portraits depict the artist as a bearded man with the same turn of the head, strong nose, and most of all a distinct frown and intensive stare. “Le beau Flamand” he was called in the Parisian studios, an epithet which would fit the present portrait. 

The significance of the chain, however, remains enigmatic.

Judith with the Head of Holofernes by Peter Paul Rubens, Circa 1616

      

The account of the beheading of Holofernes by Judith is given in the deuterocanonical book of Judith, and is the subject of numerous depictions in painting and sculpture. In the story, Judith, a beautiful widow and chosen by God, uses her charms to enter the tent of Holofernes, an Assyrian general out to destroy Judith’s hometown. Overcome with drink, he passes out and is decapitated by Judith; his head is taken away in a basket (often depicted as carried by an elderly female servant).

“Frankenstein would want your mind. 
Your lovely head.”

– Alison Goldfrapp