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05 December 2004 @ 06:03 pm
The Shape of Depression, redux  
This a repeat of an earlier post.  I am posting it again because when I did the first post, I did not know how to create embedded links.

This morning I awoke thinking about Mark Rothko and his dreary paintings. Actually, I first acknowledged that I was feeling depressed which lately is fairly normal for me upon waking. As I begin to regain consciousness, my body feels leaden. Then my mind scrambles to reorganize itself to my waking state. After this flurry of chaotic mental activity, my mind just sort of flops down like a big, immobile chunk of fog. This morning, the fog image was palpable, and that was what brought Rothko to mind. I must have looked pensive as I lay in bed because Greg asked me what I was thinking. "What's going through your mind right now?"  He wanted specifics. Sometimes I can't be absolutely clear about what I'm thinking, but this morning we were in luck. At the very moment that Greg posed the question, I saw something like Mark Rothko's piece entitled Untitled, 1949.

I first saw Rothko's work at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. in the late 70s. I remember thinking that his canvasses seemed too simple. When you stand in front of one of these pieces (they are large), you might be inclined to say, 'Mmmm, so what?' That's what I did. But then, I remembered them, these 'so what' canvasses, which is much more than I can say for most art I see.

This morning, in my early morning Minnesota winter leaden state of depression, I remembered Mark Rothko's work. One reason for this, I think, is associative. I am told that Rothko committed suicide, so I tend to think of some of his work as visual representations of suicidal depression. I have no evidence whatsoever that this assessment is true. I'm not even sure that Rothko actually killed himself, but I do have that mental association. Whether or not it was true for Rothko, it appears to be true for me. When I see these large, square-ish shapes, particularly in the pieces where they are rendered in dark or pukey sorts of colors, it is what I imagine a depressed mind could be envisioning. That depressed mind could even be my own, though I am not suicidal. I am much too self-centered to wish myself dead. I also always feel that in some neglected corner of my mind, or in some neglected corner of someone else's mind, the owner of which I could speak with at any time, there is another way of seeing.

I explained to Greg the connection I made between Rothko's paintings and my own state of mind. Then I told him that I could imagine the large patches of color to be dense and vaporous, and to be large enough for me to enter physically. I thought of driving in a very dense fog, or flying through clouds (in an airplane). I find the match between dense, vaporous material and depression to be apt. I imagined what it would be like to enter a Rothko painting. Standing before it, I would see it as solid and impenetrable. But then, like Mary Poppins' sidewalk or the entrance to Harry Potter's train platform 9 1/2, I would just pass through and discover that it was actually unsubstantial, at least in the way I would expect canvas or some other, yet harder material to be. I would find myself in the midst of a this thick, temperate, soupy steam. I would discover that Rothko's painting had depth, but I wouldn't be able to judge how much, because each movement forward would be an utter and absolute risk. I could be stepping off a cliff, into a gap, or walking into a tree. I'd need to keep my arms out and sweep them left and right. I'd have to walk very, very slowly.

The paradox about this mental adventure is that the act of entering the painting, that visual representation of depression, would itself eliminate the depression because it would obligate me to move and think in the ways I describe above. "It's only in uncertainty that we're naked and alive," says Peter Gabriel (Hear That Voice Again, So). Such raw awareness which renders time and space a succession of  moments, 'now, now, now, now,' is the antithesis of depression.  

Later, after Greg was downstairs making coffee, I realized that a Rothko painting could be, in the way I was imagining it, a portal. In fact, on the first Rothko website I visited after Greg left this morning, Jeffrey Weiss uses this same word in his analysis of the artist's Untitled (Seagram Mural).

I found something else on this website that I had imagined while Greg and I were still in bed. After I'd described the Rothko painting as dense and vaporous and had taken a brief tour of it, Greg asked me how it looked from afar. For some reason, I imagined myself floating above it. As I looked down, I found that the large shapes began to break off into smaller ones. When Greg asked me to describe the pieces in greater detail, I said they looked something like broken cookie pieces.  I'd never seen Rothko's Untitled, 1948 before this morning, but it looks astonishingly like the image I saw in my mind's eye.

On that note, I think it's time for lunch, and dessert...
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
(Anonymous) on March 13th, 2006 03:33 pm (UTC)
"I am posting it again because when I did the first post, I did not know how to create embedded links."

I do not know either! Could you tell me how? I create my first and only blog just this month, and I wanna do embedded links..I think it's cool to know, sort of making me like a teckie..well, almost... please to respond.. bongski_israel@yahoo.com. Thanks so much. Ciao!
pbramante on March 13th, 2006 06:59 pm (UTC)
Creating embedded links
Hi Bongski,

It's easy to create an embedded link.

1. Before you begin typing your journal entry, click on "rich text" at the bottom of the box, to the right.

2. Begin typing your entry. A toolbar will appear at the top of the entry box.

3. When you come to the place where you wish to insert the link, click on the icon in the toolbar that shows a globe with a chain.

4. A dialog box will appear asking you to type in the link address. Do it.

5. Close the dialog box and voila!, your link should appear in your entry.

Let me know how it goes. Happy posting and good luck!