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  • Dorian Winter

a purgatorial tea party with degas and rodin (prose poem)

Cupid and Psyche, 1905 - Auguste Rodin

i was 17 and in a highschool art class and thinking about rodin. i was mindlessly indenting my skin with fingerprint presses, like a newborn criminal at the interrogation desk, and thinking about myself frozen in marble at the back of the classroom. i shuddered to notice the brief tenderness stored in the elasticity of my skin. i know that i’m not marble, because if i was, things would be easier. if i was marble, i could outsource my uncanny social behaviour to a talented artist, have him wield mallet & chisel into something of brief, humanlike verisimilitude. maybe, if i let him, i could become a real person. let the minute detail of plush dermis and knotted muscle surface where it hadn’t previously.


Edgar Degas, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, 1878-1881

or maybe i was thinking about degas. and to make me, you need everything, you need beeswax, clay, metal, wood, and rope, and you have to pray on your dirtied knees that time won’t unravel me like a second-hand ribbon. i’m not a little dancer, though. when you look at her, that sculpted breath of a ballerina’s prime, you see a surgeon trying to carve viscera out of clay, bone out of a metal armature, and the illusion of skin using half-molten wax. you see somebody trying to make a living being, flushing the skin of a newborn human object until she’s herself again.


when the critics saw the little dancer, they hated her because she was too real. she was simply a half-starved working-class girl preserved in a specimen jar of armature and wax. when people saw rodin’s “cupid and psyche”, they could only cheer. because one artist, alone in his studio, was pregnant with the idea of bringing the real world into the gallery. and the other was more interested in building his own, ideal world for the old, idealist critics. there was either a veneer of potential reality, or else the mallet would strike and lobotomize you into believing in marbled fantasy.


i was 17, and still thinking about what it means to be real.


whether my lifeless body will be in a purgatorial tea party with degas and rodin is not something i can be sure of. but there, like the cough of a paintbrush dragged through my offal, will be one sure demand branded in my skin.


make me real. don’t make me art.

 

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florencequin27
21 ene

The final line of the poem resonates deeply, leaving an indelible impression on the reader's emotions. Its poignant beauty captures the essence of the entire piece, and the author's mastery in crafting such evocative words is truly commendable.

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Dorian Winter
21 ene
Contestando a

thank you <3

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maihimeileila
21 ene

"if i was marble, i could outsource my uncanny social behaviour to a talented artist, have him wield mallet & chisel into something of brief, humanlike verisimilitude." Wow! Beautifully written! And Degas' dancers are all both so heartbreaking and gorgeous, having in mind the lives the real ones have typically lead. Beauty is terror, I suppose?

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Dorian Winter
21 ene
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thank you for your kind words! yes, it was so shocking when i learned the backstories of the ballerinas that dega painted and sculpted, and how picky his patrons were when it came to representing "beauty" (especially in the face of ritual abuse towards the young dancers). "whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it." :)

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