Monday, March 19, 2012

The Art of Being Two People.

Above is a 1810 Goya painting called "Bullfight in a Divided Ring'. This is what is on and staring at my sleepy face when I turn on my laptop in the morning. I chose it as my laptop wallpaper for many reasons. The most compelling is my love for this strange and most beautiful painting. I discover little secrets about it every time I look at it. Each time I turn on the laptop to do whatever I had in mind to do, this painting stops me cold. I stare and stare at it like a hungry chubby child in a candy store. Goya is one of my painter heros. His work is from every part of his mind and experience. And a part of his experience is the long running history of the Spanish Bullfight. And this is where the title of my post comes in. I'm torn about this subject matter. Part of me is fascinated by the pageantry and the spectacle. Imagine the balls it takes to stand in a ring with just a sword and await a twelve hundred pound, pissed off bull to charge at you. It's like the famous quote of Hemingway, "Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter's honor". On all things bullfighting, Hemingway says it best and Goya shows it best. The problem is that while bullfighting may seem like a semi-fair fight between man and beast, it is not. It is still a forced and sadistic death of an animal for entertainment. The Picadores horses that are also in the ring with the Matador are blindfolded and attacked repeatedly by the massive and angry bull. Yes, the horses get some padding but I hardly think that is enough to make the slightest difference when that bull is charging over and over again at that blindfolded horse. I have been to a bullfight a very long time ago and I was surrounded by people who were trying to get me not to run away and throw up. I managed to disassociate myself and and by the end of the thing I was completely desensitized and an "Ole!" cheering zombie. It was only later that I realized that I had lost a part of my ethical soul. A little piece of it died that day by being able to stay through and watch such sadism. I have never seen another bullfight again, even on film. But alas this is where I am two people on this subject. Because you see, I love the art that comes from this horrible and despicable ritual. The bullfighting paintings of Goya and Manet are some of the most raw and soul curdling works ever painted. Manet's 'Dead Matador' so touched me viewing it as a child that I painted my own version of it called 'Dead Housewife'. This back and forth struggle does not end well. I'm constantly in mental pain and guilt when I indulge myself in any of the pageantry of the bullfight. While I would never attend another bullfight, I do love looking at all of the beautiful accoutrements that go with it, the clothes, the esthetics of the ancient bullrings, the strange rituals. But then I think of what all that beauty is for...

Edouard Manet, Dead Matador, 1864

Lola Scarpitta, Dead Housewife, 2006

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