My latest excursion into poetry is about one of the most overlooked in the museum. Tucked away in the back of the Perelman Building Atrium, most people think it is just some decorative lighting fixture. However, it is a beautiful piece by Felix González-Torres . He's most famously known for "Untitled" (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), a pile of iridescent candy wrapped in colorful cellophane, located at the Art Institute of Chicago. González-Torres created this piece after his boyfriend, Ross, died of AIDS-related illness in 1991. Visitors can feel free to take a piece of candy with them, as the work calls for an indefinite supply of the sweet treat.
Most of his work deals with HIV and loss, focusing on the AIDS Crisis. It is still a somewhat underrepresented era in terms of education (I certainly don't remember learning about it in any of my high school U.S. history courses), and not often talked about in museums either. Sure, some institutions will do shows featuring artists from that time and their stores, such as the Mapplethorpe retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, which does mention his own HIV-positive status and his eventual death from AIDS-related complications in 1989. However, it is still seen as a taboo subject, especially for these "places of high art and culture."
How can we go about incorporating narratives of the AIDS Crisis into our institutions when it is clearly still seen as a symbol of shame and perversion? Yes, situations are somewhat better now, but the AIDS Crisis is still very much alive, affecting primarily people of color (in particular Black and Hispanic/Latinx individuals at a much higher rate than white individuals). It is a part of our lives, our history, and it affects our art too. If art is supposed to hold a mirror to reality, why do we insist on covering it? Should any of you venture into the Perelman Building (opening back up in early June), or visit any other museum, I implore you to look for the hidden treasures, the stories left unnoticed, especially since those stories are still being told today.
Open your mind, be brave, and be kind.
For "Untitled" (Petit Palais) by Felix González-Torres (1992)
At first I thought you were weaving
to try and reach the heavens
through electric stars, to find
and hold the one plucked too quickly
from the world below. And here
you rest, waiting, but why?
Perhaps the glittering is, alone
a reminder of what lies ahead.
Roads go many ways, but this path
is seldom tread. I can only imagine
what a lonely heart is capable of.
When the world is a window
you must find any light, looking
out to call him home. Defying
death itself, to call forth
the soul of love long gone.m
is a work of art in itself.
Maybe, just maybe, all you need
is to see him in the cluster,
the galaxy, the little palace, coiled
and cloaked in radiance of
the end of the road home.
I'm finally settled into my new job (btw, I got a new job), so now I can more consistently post some content. Springtime has proven to be a much needed cure for my creative blocks, allowing me to spend more time focusing on my photography and my writing. My poetry was a bit slow for a while, but now I'm starting to pick it up again, focusing on works from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, writing in the tradition of Michael Field (aka Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper). Below is a poem based on Benjamin West's The Death of Hyacinth (1771). Onward to more writing!
Open your mind, be brave, and be kind.
Sunburnt roses on my shoulder,
at my temples and thighs,
stinging, caressing with the promise
of another day amid the fields
and running among columns and marble
throngs of heroes.
As the light dances across my skin,
gilded fingers against the glistening
summer sweat wiped away by soft grass,
I hear the whisper of something, someone
forgotten, a lingering touch on my head,
behind the tree under which we lay.
Pulled by the threads, woven into creation
and out again, the sun must set,
but the wind seldom dies. Even silence
of night cannot shield its embrace,
not even while the charioteer rides over me.
A simple breeze, breath, cuts the thread.
One wrong turn, and the pivoting
to meet one’s end at the hand of immortality,
which is no more than a friendly game.
And when you fall, the sun falls with you
down to earth, laying with you
in the soft grass one last time.
Each moment, cradled in your light,
is an treasure priced at one thousand
kisses, cries, clinging to life for one
final time. It this my punishment?
Like so many others who have flown
too close to your heavenly splendor.
How many of my brothers, and sisters
too, have tried to love you, foolishly.
Waxen wings and prophecies aren’t enough
for you, I’m certain. Although I’m glad
the Fates humored me for this long,
and you stayed until the end.
This pain, breaking my tender frame,
seems to me, meek, when compared
to the anguish on your face. Why then,
do you weep for me? You have seen
and loved a thousand years and more
than I could ever dream of.
Surely you have more hearts in hand
than stars in your sister’s velvet sky.
What makes me, a child at play,
more special than the others? Perhaps,
because unlike princesses and charioteers,
my only crime was loving you.
But then, humans are mere pets, toys
for Olympian whims. Our paltry offerings
and rites are aimed to please, and tease
out some grand favor that seldom comes.
All I did was make you happy, for a time,
and our sacrament was nothing but a game.
My body, a mortal frame, filled with colors
of lovers, and you the gilded brush, caressing
me with brilliant strokes.
I suppose I was a reflection of you, hung
on the wall of your world, until the angle
of the universe brought me crashing down.
Enfolded in crimson and tears, searing
and dripping from amber eyes, and falling
to bronzed skin, glittering and cold.
Lips, petals, against mine, one last time
as the earth swallows my flesh, and I grow,
reaching for the heavens and my beloved.
Now I stand, swaying, brushed and kissed
by the everlasting touch of two lovers,
entrapped, eternal, and forever at rest
in the meadow of our love long gone.
All that remains of my fleeting youth
is the sun on my skin, and a gentle breeze.
To See With One's Body and Soul
This blog documents all of my adventures, as well as my development into an artist, writer, and a better person.