Sunday, February 04, 2007

"So What Next?" or "Man at the Crossroads" or "I Paint What I See"

"Man at the Crossroads," Diego Rivera, 1933

In a comment made to a blog here yesterday describing the flippant quicksand mentality of our leadership in the face of hundreds of thousands of marchers last weekend against Bush's war escalation of unending deaths now under way in Iraq, Enigma of Watergate Summer asked "So what next?" It was a good question borne out of frustration at our government's ongoing non-responsiveness to the vox populi.

Well, in that I have no answer to Enigma's poignant question, I did find amusement in another event that happened around the same time Enigma asked it. Was it a synchronicity, one of those chance occurrences when two or more seemingly unrelated events occur together, the conjunction of which taken collectively, hint at an answer to a question? In this case, Enigma's, "So what next?" Nah, probably not. But yet, because these two unrelated things occurred around the same time, I'll relate the other next.

See, we received a phone call yesterday from a dear friend in Taos, NM. She doesn't have a computer and was in need of retrieving an old poem that had come to mind. Trying desperately to recall it, she wondered if, given a line or two, we could help her find it on the Web.

In a few seconds we had located the requested poem. It was written by E.B.White and is entitled, "I Paint What I See." While I really enjoyed the poem inspired by Mexican artist Diego Rivera's mural that was destroyed in early 1934 by its commissioner, Nelson Rockefeller, it wasn't until this morning I connected it with Enigma's question, "So what next?"

The history of the mural sited in NY City's RCA Building relates a difference of opinion that developed between Rivera and Nelson Rockefeller over its content.

It seems that Rivera, in portraying the struggle of the working masses, had included Lenin in the mural. (Not the Beatle, John Lennon who was not yet born, but rather the communist, Vladimir Lenin, leader of the 1918 Russian revolution.)

According to Wikipedia, Rivera was not the Rockefeller artist of choice for the project. But Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse were both unavailable. So the Rockefellers went with Nelson Rockfeller's mother's choice, Rivera, whom we are told was one of her favorite artists.

(NOTE: It's not clear, after the mural revealed Rivera's radical concern for "The People" and his leftist leanings, whether or not Mrs. Rockefeller was taken out back and shot for being a fucking Communist. There is no evidence of this. ~Dada)

So what follows is E.B.White's poem as relates to the mural. Fortunately for all of us, after Rockefeller's destruction of the original, Diego Rivera recreated this work in the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City. It was retitled "Man, Controller of the Universe." (Whether or not in tribute to Nelson Rockefeller's power to destroy great works of art, I'm not sure. )

But whether or not a Taoseña's request for the poem about this painting, "Man at the Crossroads" and Enigma's question "So what next?" of a government seemingly unresponsive to its citizens is some kind of vague cosmic clue towards an answer, I don't know. Probably not.

But I do know it's Super Bowl Sunday and I should probably cut the wild speculation about cosmic coincidence and get back to the distractions like watching the hordes of anesthetizing new commercials industry has paid millions of dollars to dazzle us with during today's game.

Here then, is the poem:

I Paint What I See
-- by E.B. White

'What do you paint, when you paint on a wall?'
Said John D.'s grandson Nelson.
'Do you paint just anything there at all?
'Will there be any doves, or a tree in fall?
'Or a hunting scene, like an English hall?'

'I paint what I see,' said Rivera.

'What are the colors you use when you paint?'
Said John D.'s grandson Nelson.
'Do you use any red in the beard of a saint?
'If you do, is it terribly red, or faint?
'Do you use any blue? Is it Prussian?'

'I paint what I paint,' said Rivera.

'Whose is that head that I see on the wall?'
Said John D.'s grandson Nelson.
'Is it anyone's head whom we know, at all?
'A Rensselaer, or a Saltonstall?
'Is it Franklin D.? Is it Mordaunt Hall?
Or is it the head of a Russian?

'I paint what I think,' said Rivera.

'I paint what I paint, I paint what I see,
'I paint what I think,' said Rivera,
'And the thing that is dearest in life to me
'In a bourgeois hall is Integrity;

'However . . .
'I'll take out a couple of people drinkin'
'And put in a picture of Abraham Lincoln;
'I could even give you McCormick's reaper
'And still not make my art much cheaper.
'But the head of Lenin has got to stay
'Or my friends will give the bird today,
'The bird, the bird, forever.'

'It's not good taste in a man like me,'
Said John D.'s grandson Nelson,
'To question an artist's integrity
'Or mention a practical thing like a fee,
'But I know what I like to a large degree,
'Though art I hate to hamper;
'For twenty-one thousand conservative bucks
'You painted a radical. I say shucks,
'I never could rent the offices-----
'The capitalistic offices.
'For this, as you know, is a public hall
'And people want doves, or a tree in hall
'And though your art I dislike to hamper,
'I owe a little to God and Gramper,
'And after all,
'It's my wall . . .'


'We'll see if it is,' said Rivera.

4 comments:

enigma4ever said...

Wow...I loved how you tied All of This together- finely woven like a Navajo Rug....deeply colored threads....And hell yes, I have alot of nerve to ASK ..the Dreaded Question WHAT NEXT.....and I have no answers, no wisdom....It was funny I did not read the post right away- I was actually just absorbed by the painting for many minutes....I loved it , it was full of stories and questions , and even Hope....

I know I am not the only person who lays awake asking these Questions...I know that...

If we stop asking questions .....then we are in Quicksand...as long as we keep thinking and asking and trying to figure out what to do ....then there is a Solution sitting out there...and yes, I believe with all my heart- that if we put our heads together we will get through this....

Thanks Dada....

dada said...

Thanks Enigma. Yes, isn't that painting wonderful? One can get lost inside of it, discovering all kinds of wonderful scenes with subplots.

And I loved the poem by White but, honestly, the whole reason I blogged this this morning was your question, "So what next?"

It all seemed to fit together so nicely and then, hearing H. Zinn on C-Span spell it out more plainly later this afternoon, it's obvious we have a row to hoe and it may be a long one. Demos as any hope for a solution appear to be fading fast.

The longer we take to stop this insanity, the longer it'll take to come back from it...and the costlier it will be.

But thank you for taking the time to write such a nice comment!

enigma4ever said...

The Resistance Movement in France began as a Spiritual Movement- that as long as people could and did protect their Spiritual Beliefs and the minds and souls could remain strong, that led to Underground papers- because as the Germans moved from Country to Country they took all the art and shut down the Papers- or took them over...."foxified" them...So that is why I was so moved by your post- it had a very moving painting and a poignant EBWhite poem...

I too saw ZINN and was stirred by what he said..and I am trying hard to think what to do- I am sorry but a march on the Pentagon in March- that is not it- I think we need a General Strike Day- No spending, no work, etc. Or maybe even a WHOLE week....It is going to come down to Money- that is the only thing Bush cares about- remember after 911 he told us all to go out and spend ????

But we need to do something- cause the DEMS are not going to do it- it is so odd for weeks I got lots of emails from the dems- and then last week it stopped- and I think it is because I have sent no money....

Keep writing and thinking...

azgoddess said...

nice blog post...nicely done...

and i've been asking myself that same question -- whats' next --i've got my list but some of the items seem a bit radical...

thanks for the artist reference -- i'm gonna google him to find more of his works -- as i really like the way he thinks...