MY BRUSH LIFE

by Jacek Gulla

3 of 8.

—–I do well understand these artists, who scoff at inspirations mythological. Eight or so of age, didn’t I myself, too, throw them, antiquity enclosed in one ear worn book, out with the household trash? The book was entitled Diossos, about a boy training for marathon race in ancient Greece. Reading it was so lively an experience, ports seen through boy’s eyes, stretches of obstinate solitude and effort, that till this day I bathe in sunlight of that tale. I am not sure, did I really saved the book in the end, sorry though it looked for all the tear and wear, or is that only my guilty conscience talking, still at work today, painting live color into its linear, black and white illustrations, whatever I remember of them.

—–A person close to my heart sounded a sour note when she looked at the Mythology panels. You paint yourself, whatever you paint, she observed. Not at all, I should have had replied. It’s the Greek proportions. I share them with Narcissus and Dionysus, nothing of my fault or pretense. I wouldn’t be bragging. Cracow of my youth supplied the ideal for comparisons, in shape of an Apollo plaster statue. Nearly life-size, it stood in one light-forsaken shop window, advertising skills of artificial limb maker. A day wouldn’t pass without me giving it a studious attention, divine body in counterpoint, wrapped in all sorts of belts and prop ups, making me repeat in mind final lines of a poem by R.M.Rilke, “with every turn this stone stares at you. You must change your life.” Back home, if no one else was in, I would take to the mirror, strip, and train on how our anatomies, god’s and mine, resemble one another to the last curvature. If I had a nerve to draw my own nude for some Roman copy, I bet it would pass the exams flying. The problem was with the poem. How was I to change my life, why and towards what, if I really had to? It only added to my resolve to succeed, but lacked applications. Was I to drop my brushes for good, perhaps? This was one thing I knew I couldn’t do, no matter what perfection demanded. And indeed, since these long gone days I manage to hold on to them for dear life, as the saying goes, for my own life that is, and for the life of my Mythology, to use the example at hand.

—–One of the dark, desperate hours I lived in NYC. I was sitting in the Chinese gazebo in the Central Park, with no other place to run for shelter against impending rain. 3 am. What would Apollo do in my predicament, I asked, only to realize how little is known about them Olympians since the day of Homer. Does Ovid in his Metamorphosis say anything new about their fates? Just as these questions troubled my mind, a gust of wind brought from the Park a somewhat wet newspaper page and plastered it right across my face. Good, I said, I have something to do now other then bothering about myths. The light was faint but with effort I begun reading what turned out to be an answer to my silent queries. Gods grow mad with ageing, it said, but, like Tytonius in love with ever young Aurora, they never die. In a tearful blink of eye I found myself transported back to the shop with recycled Apollo, this time to see the god wrapped tight in straight jacket, such as are put on patients in psychiatric wards, for everybody’s safety.

—–Given his perfect body, it occurred to me to ask, should I expect similar destiny goes with it? What if it does? There is madness and madness. Madness of Apollo draws from what he sees in the lights of his divinity – Midas preferring Pan’s pipes over his exquisite lyre – and madness of Pan, from who he is, when he can perform no longer. Which sort will be mine to cope with? Perhaps there is even more to fear, being declared insane and institutionalized for some perfectly understandable phobia, while true reasons are held under wraps? How can I prepare, if it is possible at all? Will I be able, if necessary, to detach myself from my own story to the point of being just its stoic observer? And the poem, you must change your life. How does it apply today, with most of my life done and over with, with destiny even gods obey for the rest of my years?

—–Brushes my witness, whatever happens, let’s see!

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