Sunday, March 26, 2006

Negative Capability

My Collage: Little Deer: 03-26-06, based on Frida Kahlo's Little Deer (1946)
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This collage is based on one of my favorite Kahlo paintings, Little Deer. It's done on the back of a postcard bearing the image of Kahlo's work.

One of the most difficult concepts for me to understand has been Keats's "Negative Capability." Keats explained like this:

"...several things dove-tailed in my mind, and at once it struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in Literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously - I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason..."

I suppose another way of saying it is that the artist somehow resolves a paradox. For the artist, there can be no either/or, no preaching, no foregone conclusions. At some point, or points, during the writing two apparent opposites combine to create something completely new.

I think Frida's Little Deer is an example Negative Capability. She portrays a deer wounded by several arrows. Paradoxically, the wounded artist achieves transcendence by painting a portrait of her earthly pain.

In my collage, the woman's presence is set against a cross. The cross is in itself a union of opposites. The vertical bar represents ascent into the heavens, the horizontal bar, the earth. You can actually trace the transitions in human history from earth gods to sky gods by seeing where the horizontal bar is placed on the crosses of the worshippers. In the earth religions, the horizontal bar is closer to earth. The Hammer of Thor has the cross piece all the way at the top. Thor was, or course, a sky god.

The woman in my collage, Little Deer: 03-26-06 bares her heart. Her heart, a halved plum with its seed in tact, has both wings and roots. She must resolve the paradox of her existence: her spirit (wings) and her body (roots).

I find that my best writing comes out of a deep respect for mystery, comes during those moments when I'm capable, as Keats said, "of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason."

Sometimes, during conversations, Allen will throw his hands up into the air and proclaim, "But that doesn't make any sense!"

EXACTLY.

4 comments:

Paula said...

Exactly.
Tao, baby. The moment.
The paradox is, there is no paradox.

Vicky said...

EXACTLY indeed! This is what I love about all art, the lack of absolutism, the uncertainty, the offering to the world of an idea, for the world to absorb as it deems fit. And I, too, love that Kahlo painting. This is a beautiful interpretation, Theresa. How I am loving your artwork.

Vicky

V said...

Theresa, in other words, an Artist, in the widest sense, is she/he who has the courage not to shrink from the anxiety of growth; the anxiety of heroism.
I love your work.
V

emmapeelDallas said...

This is beautiful, and I had to smile when I read what you wrote about Allen throwing his hands into the air and exclaiming, "but that doesn't make sense!" I am highly intuitive, and how often I've been told exactly that, when I've made a decision based on my gut instinct. Businesses are very fond of a strategy called "decision analysis", a linear thinker's wet dream, where options are treed out, so the "best possible outcome" can be reached. I'm not a linear thinker, and decision analysis bores me to tears. On the other hand, I love the concept of Negative Capability, perhaps because it's where I most often reside.

Once again, I'm in your debt. Thank you, Theresa.

Judi

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"I was no better than dust, yet you cannot replace me. . . Take the soft dust in your hand--does it stir: does it sing? Has it lips and a heart? Does it open its eyes to the sun? Does it run, does it dream, does it burn with a secret, or tremble In terror of death? Or ache with tremendous decisions?. . ." --Conrad Aiken

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