"A portrait is not an identificative paper but rather the curve of an emotion" -James Joyce

Thursday, July 18, 2013

What Kind of Tree?

Loveliest of Trees

LOVELIEST of trees,
the cherry now 
Is hung with bloom along the bough, 
And stands about the woodland ride 
Wearing white for Eastertide.  

Now, of my threescore years and ten,         
Twenty will not come again, 
And take from seventy springs a score, 
It only leaves me fifty more.  

And since to look at things in bloom
 Fifty springs are little room,  
About the woodlands I will go
 To see the cherry hung with snow. 

-A.E. Houseman

     I have had this poem memorized since grammar school.  I grew up in a house where whole chairs were designated to house books, and poetry was something that was always available.  This poem has had different meanings for me throughout my life.  Recently I asked myself what it may mean now, and what it could mean with regards to my work.  At first, it seems like an old man lamenting the passage of time.  Why then would I care at a young age?  As a young man the hanging cherry took on an even more simplistic meaning, perfect for any adolescent.  Recently while jogging the words were scrolling before me as a means of keeping my mind off of my poor breathing.  The meaning became much more evasive as I thought about it.  Could it have merely been aesthetic, that it sounded good?  Was the meaning more to do with it's simplicity and my ability to memorize it?  Could the cherry hung with snow simply be a recognition of old age and possibly a form of self memorialization?
     I used to want to paint everything.  The landscape, big ideas, things the whole world would understand and admire in a familiar way.  I wanted to be Max Beckmann and make grandiose statements about freedom and life.  These are the Springs, and they bloom with incomprehensible companionship.  They are a collective part of a large system of beings that seem at first daunting and limitless in their relationship to each other and to the world.
     Moving forward, I know what I am capable of painting, how much I am available emotionally to witness, how much time it takes and that I have.  I only want to paint what is in front of me.  There is but one idea that I have, and I have no idea what it really is, other than that it is singular in feel.  It is a concentration or focus on a thing, the cherry hung with snow.  It is understandable, the opposite of symbolic, yet symbolizing so much about where I am at this point of my career and life.  The open narrative that poetry allows is something that I hope to achieve in my work.  How lovely it would be for a painting of mine to have more than one meaning at different points of one's life?  This is the opposite of universalism.  Why would the truth of my life mean anything to you?  What if though truth were the meaning?  What the hell is a woodland ride?  Why does this guy think he will live to one hundred and twenty as the poem implies?  What if all of this meaning is manufactured by me?  What a beautiful tree indeed.

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