Tuesday, September 05, 2006

203. GREAT ART - Lawrence Raab

Lawrence Raab - Great Art

There's so much I don't want to look at,
big religious scenes especially,
big historical battles,
almost anything, in fact, containing
large numbers of people.

Three or four people—that's the right number
for a painting. Then you can think
about what they might mean to each other,
why they're standing around that beach
at sunset, walking toward that mountain.

Or they're at home: a woman sewing, a child
playing, a dog, a man at the door,
much more ominous, I'm sure, than the artist
intended. And I like that, imagining
this isn't what I was supposed to feel,

the way I'm pleased with small imperfections,
stains and wrinkles, erasures particularly,
where you sense the artist changing his mind.
And sometimes a shape's been painted over,
although the ghost of it remains.

In Vermeer's Girl Asleep at a Table
she leans on one hand, dreaming
perhaps of love. Behind her there's a mirror
in which nothing is reflected. Once,
x-rays have shown, this was a portrait of a man.

And we would have understood, given
the conventions of the time, he was the subject
of her thoughts. Why take him away?
It's better, I want Vermeer
to have decided, not to show that much.

Let her keep her dream to herself.
Let the light be our secret.

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