Carnival vs. Lent

Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Kampf zwischen Fasching und Fasten (The Fight Between Carnival and Lent) depicts today, the day before Lent. Today is an important enough day in the Christian calendar to go by a few nicknames: Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, “Fat Tuesday,” “Pancake Day.”

Any day that is associated with food, whether because restrictions are about to be imposed or restrictions are to be erased for one special day, by rights ought to have as many nicknames as it can bear.
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Mystical Things

A few years ago I wrote about two artists who played with the question of whether what they are depicting is anything more or less than words on a page or paint on a surface. Both the poet George Herbert and the painter Arcimboldo make art of the question, What is art? Is it what it depicts, an idea about what it depicts, both at the same time (which makes it a third option), or something less than? Is art, by definition, always a misfire, in that a depiction of a thing is not the thing and never can be?

Arcimboldo painted portraits of character types rather than individuals; for instance, a librarian composed entirely of books or a gardener made of vegetables in a bowl. That latter painting depends on the viewer to decide to see the bowl filled with veggies or a human “face.”
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Despair Has No Wings …

To be is to despair and to despair is to remember the thousand tightly missed connections and not-yet completed conversations that will reveal themselves eventually as never really begun. The Surrealists got despair, perhaps better than most. They adopted Existentialism’s finer frustrations and rendered them with comedy, joy, and horror in sometimes strange proportions.

The comedy of coincidence and the tragedy of imminent abandonment dominate their work. Everyone is always alone, and this fact is simultaneously hilarious and horrifying in Surrealist Art.
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