These days I swim in a jellyfish bloom. Quite graceful from an aquarium standpoint, rather hazardous if you’re the one splashing.

People have tentacles and you never know when you’re going to meet one unexpectedly. We float through life, trailing long legs of personal history, swirling them about. Some people call this baggage, but baggage doesn’t twist you around and deliver a red whelping sting if you rub it the wrong way.

I’d be just fine if people lugged around suitcases. Bags would fly free with me too.  I could pile them up in a corner and look through a valise or two when I needed an explanation for a person’s odd behavior.

But no, most people are jellyfish-y.

And when they swear, “That’s impossible,” it’s usually a long tendril of memories past, wrapping around your neck, giving your lips a clamp. You reply, “In your experience, you’ve never seen this happen.” Of course there are obstacles to the “impossible.” Could be the wisened voice of reason; could be hoarse fear. Or both. Untangle yourself from the jelly barb and move on.

I’m rooting for these soaring ones above. They’ve broken the surface of the sea and taken off. Jellyfish rockets. Going for something I can’t see yet. Maybe the “impossible.” Their past history tendrils fly behind them banner-like, in possible propulsion. Foolhardy. Brave.

The sun’s pierced through and the clouds drip, drip, drip. Not ideal conditions for a launch. But I forecast luck and a favorable wind for these few. Cutting the sky with their rising hue.  They have decided to take up flying, a thing once pronounced most definitely impossible. I’m doing a Monday morning cheer (also once thought impossible)

For these wild, color-drenched people. I certainly forgive a sting or two.

The wizard behind the wizard

Joan Miro, Detail of Photo: This is the Color of my Dreams, 1925, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 

Photo: This Is the Color of My Dreams, 1925
Joan Miró (Spanish, 1893–1983)
The Pierre and Maria-Gaetana Matisse Collection, 2002
© 2011 Successió Miró / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

I’ve never stopped to consider the color of my dreams.  If you asked me, I’d probably say just black and white.  Miró painted his blue. This painting isn’t what you’d normally expect from him, but he’s a Surrealist after all, so all bets are off.  It’s a simple composition like the two paintings previous, Tantric Art and Cy Twombly’s (blog post Passed Over).  And I think, quite a daring distillation.

We watch this lone washed spot of blue, deeply cryptic and cool. We read the words, enticingly enigmatic. Two simple mysteries at work here. A simple mystery? Ironic, huh? I tend to want a complicated mystery. Smoke and mirrors. Yet here, Miró distills his dreams to a single, curious blue. How could he do such a thing? What about all those disturbing images of teeth falling out of my mouth, or showing up to class naked, or avoiding being squashed by the big toe of God, or gasp, waking up in the arms of the wrong lover?

Because we dream that we are very complex and interesting people after all. Doesn’t your inner-soul cavern protect ancient runes?  That only the wisest seer among us can decipher (for $150 an hour). Yet with a wave of his brush, Miró banishes our mystery in a cloud of blue smoke.

Curiosity is this blue spot, motioning us to pull back the velvet curtain of our dreams, of our “self.”  Because we already know what we want to know about ourselves and others. It’s finding the courage to be curious. To ask. This painting, once enigmatic opens to a simple reality. Revealing that the wizard behind the great Oz is a blue you or me.

A boudoir photo perhaps?

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Nude Maja  Prado Museum, Madrid Spain

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Nude Maja Prado Museum, Madrid Spain

So how about a racy photo for your Valentine?  This lovely lady certainly agrees.  However the Inquisition did not, and confiscated this pair of peek-a-boo paintings. Which do you think the church disapproved of?  Or approved of so much that they decided to snatch them? To quote Monty Python, “no one expects the Spanish Inquisition, ” and naughty Goya had to answer to Senor Inquisitor in 1814.

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Clothed Maja, Prado Museum, Madrid Spain

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Clothed Maja, Prado Museum, Madrid Spain

The reclining naked lady has a glorious history in art but not so much in Spain (Velasquez painted Venus 150 years prior, but only a back view). The “odalisque” (in art speak) has been painted since antiquity, but normally in the context mythological stories or biblical allegory.  Goya tried to pass this off as Venus and thus sanitize it for the Inquisition, but no one was fooled.  Why would you paint a fully clothed Venus?   Nah. . .This was Godoy’s (Spain’s power broker at the time) mistress giving us a “come hither” look — definitely not in the tradition of spiritual purity. These hang on the same wall at the Prado which gives you chance to study them side by side, although the clothed one probably hung over the nude one in Godoy’s palace.

No surprise, Goya spent much more time on the nude lover.  Her body transects the plane of the canvas on an almost perfect diagonal giving a sense of motion to the relaxed figure. Which also puts the pelvis front and center.  Hmm… certainly not Venus here, lads.  And I love the lacey pillowcases, don’t you? Is it just me or is she sucking in her tummy?

Oooo…is that Prado you’re wearing?

Woman in a black Hat Kees van Dongen. Oil on canvas, 100 x 81.5 cm. 1908. San Petersburgo, State Hermitage Museum

Woman in a black Hat Kees van Dongen. Oil on canvas, 100 x 81.5 cm. 1908. San Petersburgo, State Hermitage Museum on display Prado, Madrid

The Prado in Madrid is Spain’s version of the Louvre. Lo siento, Espana, no one can top the Louvre. But that’s no reason to miss this national treasure.

I wish I had done a leeetle more research on Ms. Prado Museo though, because it is, well. . . labyrinthine.  I foolishly started at the beginning, where your teacher always tells you to start.  Right? Don’t. Unless you like antiquities and Flemish art.  You know all those shiny still life’s of fruit and flies.  Lots of men in puffed sleeves and feathered hats.

You must know exactly what you want to see so you won’t get “museum eye.”  You know, that glassy far off stare when you know you should be enjoying this if you were cultured, but you’d really like a Sangria instead?

So here are my top pics.  Forgo the first wing of the museum and vamonos  to the new part (the expansion) for the good stuff.  Of course if you like Goya, you should go straight to his galleries because he was the court painter of Spain for forever and you really can’t beat his  lace.  But lots of royalty here (now where did I put that tiara?)

I will put in my plug for the El Greco galleries.  They are tremendous.  Not everyone likes him, but I Heart him big time. Lots of saints in silks.

They are rearranging much of their collection (which is what all top-notch stylistas do) so just ask someone if you get lost.

Hermitage section IX has the fun twentieth century art. My great Prado memories were here, close to the inside cafe where my friends spent most of thier time. . .drinking Sangria.

BTW don’t you just covet her eyebrows?