Monday, January 10, 2011

Canvases and Faces


These three were drawn on January 8, in one brief sitting. The piece that follows, “Faces,” is from Songs and Letters.



“Canvas 144”

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“Canvas 145”

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“Canvas 146”

[click to enlarge]




Faces

The trees are still bare, but their branches are a different color. The sky has changed, and although trees are not mirrors, I think they must reflect the images and light they do not absorb. Their sap, too, is rising, like blood just beneath the skin.

We know, of course, that even the moon reflects the light of the sun. Rocks, soil, terrain — moonlight is sunlight, gracefully transformed.

The sidewalks speak in this same manner, the rooftops, chimneys, and walls of houses, the highways, streets, and bridges that link one city to the next, the fields in between — nothing is silent, nothing stays the same. Everything is changing, and as it changes, it is being born again as something else.

The face you see in your mirror is another miracle. It is a reflection of a reflection — of your life and times and the place you live, and wherever else you roam. It is a reflection of what you think, of what you believe about yourself and about others, and of what it means to you to be alive.

A face is a story, told without words. It is a history that continues to unfold.

Yesterday I saw a man waiting at a crosswalk for the light to change. He was in his fifties and quite tall, and dressed nicely but in worn out clothes. My first thought on seeing his weathered, alcoholic face was that he was an unknown poet, a man who had been pushed by society and pushed too far, until the only thing he could do was wander around town with his latest manuscript tucked inside his coat pocket. This was his comfort and his pain — to hold the truth against the warmth of his own body, and for that truth to remain hidden.

To whom could he show his manuscript? And yet his face was his manuscript, and it was there for the world to read. He was proud; he had not given in; he had endured. He was still enduring. Once again, his need for affirmation and sunlight had driven him from his room into the street. I wonder — what did he see reflected in the faces of his own kind?

March 4, 2006


Update:
In the Forum: ibid, ibid, ibid — splash.

13 comments:

Art by JFM said...

How beautiful your words are and how true William. As life goes on our faces reflect the emotions that we have endured thru the years. Some of us are vain and try to erase the slate clean. Others of us wear our lines and furrows with pride...it is a choice we make for ourselves.

The top canvas reminds me of the beautiful Willow blowing in the wind. The second canvas is that of the sun looking down on the world as it spreads it's warmth. The third brings to my mind the mighty Oak standing strong and firm thru decades of storms and fair weather.

This is a wonderful posting...thank you.

nouvelles couleurs - vienna atelier said...

Hi William!!!

"A face is a story, told without words. It is a history that continues to unfold."

so true.. always nice read you, I'm happy to be back

Two Tigers said...

This is a beautiful passage, William, thank you - one more reminder that we are our own greatest works, and must love both the materials we are given, and the ways in which they can be transformed by how we choose to live our lives. Faces again! Have you ever stared at your image in the mirror for so long it starts to look unfamiliar, like a word repeated until it sounds nonsensical? And then think - this must be how others see me. I think Milan Kundera had a passage about this strange derangement of perception in one of his novels...reference, anyone?

-K- said...

It's that last line - wondering what the man sees in the faces of others that will stick with me.

-K- said...

It's that last line - wondering what the man sees in the faces of others that will stick with me.

William Michaelian said...

You’re welcome, Jan. I like your interpretations of the drawings. For all the reasons you mentioned, faces are endlessly fascinating to me.

Hello, Laura. It’s great to hear from you again. Thank you. I missed you.

Yes, Gabriella, faces again. Faces, then hands, and then faces.... As for your question, I have indeed looked into the mirror that long, many times, and had interesting conversations with the stranger there, who, for whatever reason, always seems to know more than I do. I especially admire his patience, for he’s always there waiting when I return. But it doesn’t quite answer the question of how others see me, because I suspect that image is reinvented in each new person and even on each new occasion. Kundera: I hope someone is familiar with that passage, because I’m not. But I’m interested already....

Kevin, thanks. I thought about deleting your repeated comment, but was afraid the action might delete them both. Your photography, proves, time and again, that you are sensitive to others’ impressions of the people around them. The last line could, in fact, serve as a caption for many of the images you share on your blog.

rahina q.h. said...

don't we all at some time, when we have given up on the 'rat-race', walk around observant of that same race, rather like when you return to your home town after spending some years away, you return more sensitive to every behaviour around you... i love your description of the writer... there was a time when i worked for others, now i work for me and this is tougher.

William Michaelian said...

Ah, another face expert. I think, Rahina, that it’s mostly a matter of attention. Any new situation, or a return to a familiar one, heightens our senses. The trick is to see the new in every situation, even if you’re where you’ve always been. Meanwhile, working alone as we do, we eventually come to realize, or we should, that we are ourselves an inexhaustible subject. And the better we know ourselves, the more we will see and understand in others.

Aleksandra said...

“If you put the pictures of two different faces side by side, your eye is struck by everything that makes one different from the other. But if you have two hundred and twenty-three faces side by side, you suddenly realize that it’s all just one face in many variations and that no such thing as an individual ever existed” .
Agnés goes on to make the further, more powerful remark that “my face is not my self” and defends this idea by saying,
“Just imagine living in a world without mirrors. You’d dream about your face and imagine it as an outer reflection of what is inside you. And then, when you reached forty, someone put a mirror before you for the first time in your life. Imagine your fright! You’d see the face of a stranger. And you’d know quite clearly what you are unable to grasp: your face is not you” .
Agnés touches on the truth that society is far too concerned with image and that the image one portrays is what will either lead to immortality or keep one away from it. In her idealistic thinking, people will be remembered for their selves, not their faces and their outward acts and gestures.
What makes Agnés such a heroine in Immortality is that she accepts truth, but at the same time strives to change truth, at least in her own life. Agnés sees that the fatal flaw in humanity is its extreme need to be recognized, to be acknowledged, to be immortalized. She is disgusted with humanity and,
“she said to herself: when once the onslaught of ugliness became unbearable, she would go to a florist and buy a forget-me-not, a single forget-me-not, a slender stalk with miniature blue flowers. She would go out into the streets holding the flower before her eyes, staring at it tenaciously so as to see only that single beautiful blue point, to see it as the last thing she wanted to preserve for herself from a world she had ceased to love. She would walk like that through the streets of Paris, she would soon become a familiar sight, children would run after her, laugh at her, throw things at her, and all Paris would call her the crazy woman with the forget-me-not…” .

from Milan Kundera's Imortality :O)
did you mean this Gabriela?

William Michaelian said...

I’ll bet she did, Aleksandra. Wow. This passage really gives me something to think about. Thank you!

Two Tigers said...

I was thinking it was Immortality, a wonderful book by the way! Thanks for doing the research, Aleksandra! But now I'm going to have to look through my collection of quotes to see if there wasn't also a more explicit passage somewhere about staring in the mirror until the familiar face turns stranger...I'm also going to have to (sigh!) add Immortality to the Books to Re-Read List!!

Aleksandra said...

Than it must be from Unbearable Lightness Of Being Gabriela. :)
William I did not sleep last night cause of it,I was enchanted,again! How good writer is he! :)
Im glad I did it cause now I am rereading and enjoying!Thank you for your brilliant Faces and Canvases!

William Michaelian said...

Yes, Gabriella, we readers do suffer, don’t we? It’s an acute form of pleasure and pain and anguish.

I’m intrigued, meanwhile, by your collection of quotes....

Sleepless for a good cause, Aleksandra. I do want to spend some time absorbing the passage you so kindly provided. Thank you again.