Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Hello, Dali

It's 3 a.m. and what's eating me? Something very much like this Dali I used to keep hanging on the wall.

Fascinating piece of art.

Under, around, within each image lies a different image, sometimes obvious and sometimes not. Most of the larger picture is created from smaller, more commonplace objects and images; one often must step backwards to really sense the image in totality.

Even with that benefit, it doesn't always make sense.

Separate, active, detailed worlds exist on either side of the central image - but that center is so large, so compelling, it eclipses everything else. Too much to take in, all at once. A viewer is drawn to what looms largest and shines brightest.

Yet the darker detail summons a sense of unease; we instinctively recognize making a potentially imperiling choice by ignoring the swirling, industrious nightmare background in favor of the soothing, placid central fantasy, a face of such calming reassurance that we cannot look beyond it even when we should. Two worlds so sharply in contrast that they can scarcely exist together.

I had to take it down.

It's a testament to human failure in seeing and processing events and images not by scale, but by importance and danger. The picture mocks our limited ability to understand, our unconscious drive to seek out benevolence, and our potential for drowning in frightening, frenetic details.

Social programs, the safety net of American life, swept away. Billions borrowed from Asia. Tens of thousands dead. Civil liberties cast aside by an unapologetic cabal. Katrina victims, forever entombed in wet, forgotten homes. The drumbeat of war with Iran growing louder now. UnChristian religious zealots, leading a charge. No health insurance. Terrorists. War profiteering. Job losses. Heating bills. Auto fuel. Christmas presents. Surveillance. Education. Foreclosures. Outsourcing. Freezing.

At 3 a.m. in George Bush's America, there's just no place for the imagery of a Salvador Dali painting and the conflicting human responses it evokes.

After all, we're living in it.
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