The Body Electric

When I am lying with my face pressed against somebody else’s photograph …

I used to think that a painting was something you saw with your eyes… that a symphony was something you heard with your ears.  I believed this because it was something my art teachers and music teachers had taught me to believe, all my life.

I don’t feel that way any more.

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*

Late afternoon.

I open a book of photographs I love:  Lukas Felzmann’s Waters in Between.  It’s a thick, hardbound collection of shots — some in color, some black-and-white.  Some dreamy and surreal, others stark in their sense of quiet realism.

I carry the book over to the sofa under the bay window.  Open it to a page of tangled black branches against pale sky.

Then I lay the book down on a pillow.

I am trying to see it a different way …

Or maybe not see it at all.

*

Slowly — very, very slowly — I am coming to a place where I believe that art is something you experience in a deeply visceral way … not just in the eye or in the ear, but in all sorts of stranger places in the body.

I hear a certain snatch of song and I feel it as a kick in the stomach.  Electricity crackles down the length of my nerve endings:  at the back of my neck.  In my fingertips.

Or I look at a particular painting and I feel myself flinch:  the face first, and then the shoulders, arms, hands.

One foot slides backward from the canvas.

The head bows in fear … or love … or prayer.

*

I stare at the open book in front of me.

Where in the body is the soul located?

Where does the brain end and the mind begin?

What — really — do we mean when we talk of the heart?

I run one fingertip down the book’s spine.  

*

And maybe, just sometimes, art doesn’t have to be experienced all at once.

Maybe memory sows it like tiny seeds just under the skin.

Maybe the subconscious plants it deep, like an autumn bulb buried in my chest.

Maybe the message waits:  days.  Months.  Years.

Maybe it comes back to me a decade later, while I’m penning a grocery list or driving to work, and suddenly — without any obvious trigger — the words swim.  The road blurs behind tears.

The seeds put out leaves down the length of my arms.

The tulip inside my heart opens all its petals at once.

*

I lie down with my cheek against a photograph of shattered glass.

I imagine myself there — write my whole body into the story.

Then, suddenly, I am lying with my back to the desert floor, my face to the sky, feeling the broken shards digging into my spine.  

There is a moment where I wonder if I will get up, but I do — shake the bits of sparkling glass from my hair and take a deep breath.

*

I’m not sure, anymore, where the art ends and I begin…

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And I like it that way.  ❤

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41 thoughts on “When I am lying with my face pressed against somebody else’s photograph …

  1. For some reason reading this made me think of that scene in Immortal Beloved, where Gary Oldman’s Beethoven is playing the beautiful Moonlight Sonata, his head lay flat on the piano to try to feel the music, his music, that he can no longer hear.
    (No comment to make you smile today-I shall work on your next post!)

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pingback: When I am lying with my face pressed against somebody else’s photograph … | emoliverblog

  3. The way you describe experiencing art sounds like mindfulness in action. I treasure those tiny occasions when I can remind myself to use every one of my senses to drink in the moment, and even the mundane becomes transcendently beautiful.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. That’s too true! The Visceral thing… There are certain composers or artist that when I hear them Time seems to sees existing or I’ll look at my favorite painting Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion and I feel like I am there

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well, perhaps art should be a truly immersive experience, not something we merely look at or listen to, but that we feel with our whole being. I’m not sure I’m quite there yet myself, although when my son is practicing his guitar and singing in the next room, quite a lot of that bypasses my ears and instead travels in shudders up and down my spine. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well thank you for that! It’s always nice to be remembered. 🙂

      Your blog is so much fun. I just spent a few minutes tooling around there, and already I feel happy and creative. Thanks for that! 🙂

      Like

  6. Change perspectives. The first step to thinking outside the box.
    Most times I go to a concert (Last time was Salif Keita) I close my eyes from time to time to try and separate each instrument’s voice. 🙂
    I haven’t listened to a painting yet. Up on the to-do list.
    Be good
    Bravo (Mike)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Listening to a painting sounds rather wonderful, actually…

      There are SO many paintings I’d love to run my hands across, if the museum guards wouldn’t have me arrested. 😉 So much incredible texture, and so much of a sense of intimacy with the artist and her process, if only I could just touch all those brush strokes… 🙂

      And of course, there’s nothing like the sound of a symphony from inside the orchestra pit. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I understand the temptation to touch. Unfortunately, that is why so many greco-roman statues in the Louvre have black stains. A touch of the hand on a graceful marble hip? We carry germs and fungus with us and they attack marble. (I confess to scolding tourists when I am in museums…) having said that, I have a few 19th century paintings at home. I will wash my hands thoroughly, and touch the strokes. Will let you know. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

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