A golden moment. Gustave Klimt’s the Kiss (Der Kuss).
Their love, multilayered and complex. Intricate symbols lavish the lovers’ robes. Haloed in gold leaf, they kneel among the flowers afield outside space and time. The man, a kiss to her cheek (not mouth) the woman, in repose, her eyes closed. In a dream? In bliss or just tired?
The tenderness is palpable, yes. The sacrament of tenderness. It’s much lauded in the relationship between mother and child. But what about lover to lover? Tenderness– more than affection and less than passion. Kindness intensified by desire. Desire mellowed selflessness. Opening the soft underbelly of us in a gentle offering of acceptance.
Tenderness trumps sacrifice as the ultimate gift of love, in my book. Because sacrifice demands a repayment (often implicit) that most of us are often unable to afford. And it’s terrible to be penniless in love.
The difficulty receiving such tenderness is also hinted at in the painting. Is she worthy, is she unworthy. Does it matter? Will she kiss him back? Can she accept his supplication without shame, loathing or regret?
The love deacon passes the offering plate today, my friends. Maybe you will keep your gold, maybe you will give it.
I hear the thwang of Cupid’s arrow near and offer up my favorite painting of love as a target for today’s discussion– Thomas Hart Benton’s Romance, on display at the Blanton Museum in Austin, Texas.
I’m immediately drawn to the intense turquoise blue of the sky, embraced by the tree branch and her vibrant poppy red dress. The statuesque couple contrasts with the dream-like landscape surrounding them. They walk, hand in hand, eyes closed. The the moonlight casts its spell; wafting clouds swirl to the ground.
I’m again caught up in the depth of the jewel-like colors intensifying this dreamy, atmospheric feeling (almost Surrealist with echos of El Greco). His shoes are off, hers are on. Is this a new romance? Are they courting, walking though a neighbor’s backyard, blind to each other’s faults (love is blind)? Each experience intensified yet dreamlike in the thrall of eros. Their feet don’t seem to be firmly planted on the ground.
Or is this an old love, deep and unscarred by time and circumstance. What they have is beyond sight, a heartfelt soulfulness. At peace with each other. Such that they know each other’s thoughts. The hard work of running their farm, a silent testament behind them. Do they walk side by side, even in their dreams?
The mystery here is the mystery of love. What drives it. What sustains it. How we get it; how we keep it. It’s a million immutable questions that must be answered one at a time. With our eyes closed.
So what can you get your sweetie this Vday to show him how much you care? How about a $23.6 million dollar, 9 foot high stainless steel heart pendant? Complete with bow. Sorry no gift wrap for this baby. This is Jeff Koons’ Hanging Heart in Magenta (there are five others in different colorways). A little above your budget perhaps? Well that’s because this piece garnered the highest price paid for art by a living artist in 2007. The next year his magenta balloon flower sold for a cool $25.7M.
“I realized you don’t have to know anything and I think my work always lets the viewer know that. I just try to do work that makes people feel good about themselves, their history, and their potential.” Jeff Koons
Some think he’s a high price manufacturer of artsy kitsch. Each time his art changed hands, the prices skyrocketed. A Koons “art bubble”. Art as commodity. (Koons is a former stockbroker) Now the recession has hit, his violet heart sold for only $11 million. Look honey, its 50% off!
As a former machine shop owner who knows a little about stainless steel, I can tell you this work is fascinating for its sheer perfection. The balloon-like heart is a 3D mirror that reflects you, the viewer. However, as in a fun house mirror, your image distorts into various shapes as you move around it, following its curvatures. Light refracting. Images bending. Now, I don’t know whether Koons will last as a cultural icon like Warhol, but I do think this is very clever. What reaches our hearts without a little distortion? The play of light on the heart’s surface, the play of love – – an ever changing game of desire and perception. Reality curves as it bounces through our various colored consciousness.
Still, I’ll leave the chromium plated psychoanalysis to the people who can afford it and opt for the plebeian (but tasty) standby Godiva chocolate this V-day. Cheers!