Wednesday, March 10, 2010


January 27, 1987

I used to look for stones as a child. Dig them from the asphalt if I thought they might warrant a rescue attempt. My parents had a rock path that curved from the backyard along the side to the front yard. The backyard path had small sharp stones that we would pile up on our laps to feel the warmth of them. They hurt to walk on occasionally but the front yard path had larger, smoother stones. Round and smooth mostly. Although the backyard had a few hidden agates and a multitude of quartz, the front path had mostly granite and hard black stones which always eluded a name. Some rocks were sandstones and limestone which we would hunt up to make a hopscotch board on the sidewalk - other specially selected stones served as our markers to throw. We would look for flat stones that would rest and not roll when thrown.

Odilon Redon "Ophelia"
I am drawn to the painting called Ophelia. It is beautiful and daintily painted in muted colors. It was painted in 1905-06, oil on paper, mounted on board. It seems to be a dream that Redon painted. He must have worked in a dimly lit studio and danced while he painted. Ophelia looks down. She appears to be in love. She is in the lower half of the painting. She is cut off mid-waist. The dress below her breasts loses focus. She is wearing a blue dress over a white under-dress it is falling from her right shoulder. The white dress appears trimmed by lace. Ophelia has long blond hair falling behind her left shoulder and in front of her right as she is leaning towards and shyly down in profile.

She has a ring of delicate flowers in her hair. In the background it appears to be a vague landscape. Reddish tones to her left and cooler greenish tones to her right. Yellow and red flowers behind her body and an abstract tree limb - very thin rises from the slope of her shoulder and titled head to the top of the painting, the sky to the left of the branch is grey-ish blue, while the right hand sky is a peachy-green color blending orange at the midpoint of the painting near Ophelia's face reminding me of autumn.

The title, Ophelia, gives the work - or rather reinforces the mystical, mythical beauty of the piece. Upon walking towards this painting, I was distinctly satisfied by the title. Ophelia seems to be of another century - possibly the 16th century. A worker, or servant, well dressed but not splendidly.

Ophelia appears to be awaiting (or possibly seducing) her lover. She at times looks a little sad and forlorn - maybe he is never going to show up.

The lines that Redon used in his painting of Ophelia are delicate and pliable. They are softly and irregularly placed about her outline and dress. Small bits of color brighten up the composition - small, thin, areas of excitement within a soft and subtle painting. The blending of the oil colors helps give me a sense of peace. Had they been used without blending, placed side by side, the feeling would have been totally different. Ophelia seems to be outside - the light having a blueish tint to it, it must be during the middle of the day in the shade of the woods.

The composition seems flattened. She does not seem to be out in the open. This adds to the cozy feeling of the painting. Very few cast shadows are present - Redon used shading on the contours of her dress - her armpits, and behind her neck on her left where her hair is falling. This shadowless-ness increases the feeling of her being in a shaded area.

Although I say she looks as if she is in the shade - she appears well lit and the picture is bright, if not a bit muted, not quite pastel. The color of her hair and skin are very much the same - reminding me of warm butterscotch but chalky.

We seem to be on the same eye level - Ophelia and I. She does not appear as much as a goddess or villian. She is someone we can relate to. I want to know her.

Both of these entries are from school. The first a writing prompt. The second an analysis of a piece from the visiting exhibit at the Minneapolis Art Institute. I find it remarkable that one day, I could be in a physical fight with Cris, and the next day, calm and relaxed. 

My feelings have always been short lived. I feel "calm" as my default when I am alone, or in a comfortable place. The week before I was diagnosed with Asperger's, I made a Mood-a-Meter in my classroom to visually represent my state of mind (because students are often afraid of me at first). I have my "normal daily moods" Calm-ish, Manic, Tense, Nauseous, Snappy, and Irate. On the fringes, some less common moods - on the calm side: Numb, Hopeless, and Despair; on the irate side: Crazy-eyed-Serious and the least common of all Dangerous. My students kept asking me, "Where is your Happy?" I was confused, "Calm-ish of course, aren't you happy when you are calm?"  After my diagnosis I realized why I had no "Happy". I have a limited emotional "vocabulary". It had never occurred to me that I felt anything different than those around me. I have since realized that I actually FEEL emotions - I mean I physically feel them - as a sensation. I feel the adrenaline released from my pancreas, I feel hormones secrete from my thyroid. Do you "feel" your emotions? or are they more intellectual? I bet you never thought about it before.

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