Sunday, October 28, 2012

EKPHRASIS AND A WALK ON THE BEACH



 By: Arlene Walsh

Just when you think you’re fairly articulate, along comes ekphrasis   or octic or limn and blows your confidence out of the water. But that’s OK. Words are a joy to me and new ones are the ultimate unearthed sunken treasure. Still, discovering how much you don’t know tends to rattle.

This weekend, I visited my nephew in Massachusetts. It was raining when I arrived early Friday evening, growing dark, a sprinkling of house and street lights beginning to warm the gloom. We walked down to the beach in the gray mist, solo strollers enjoying nature’s flip side of beautiful weather. We talked non-stop as usual, being extremely close and completely comfortable with each other. Off in the distance a bridge connected our narrow peninsula with a small portion of the mainland. We headed towards it. Across the bay, a faint light here and there flickered in the darkness. I noted how melancholy it all felt. Dan said, “laymen’s terms please.”

Reaction to art or ekphrasis has a subjective component no matter how trained one is in the comprehension of visual art. One of my favorite paintings in our small collection contains a man and two women against a dark background, lit from above by a single, pale light. It almost looks like a room of interrogation. When we were buying it, I felt nothing until I learned the title: The End. Only then did I begin to look more deeply at the image. Only then did I notice that the blonde woman’s head hung down, her face partially covered by her hair giving her demeanor one of despair, hopelessness and possibly shame. I was hooked. But then the question comes: would I have felt the same, would I have looked more analytically were it not for the intriguing title? And if not, then what I’ve learned in art classes from the past holds true: entitling a piece of work leads the viewer to a conclusion intended by the artist, therefore denying the viewer a true interpretation.



Dan’s a talker with a penchant for words, despite his limited education. Like me, he loves them and peppers his conversations with as much variety as he can muster, and sadly, there are times he struggles. I empathize. In our family, the future was entitled ‘Get a Job,’ not ‘Higher Education.’ We were led, never offered other navigational devices to follow. Our futures could easily have been dubbed ‘College,’ ‘Trade School,’ ‘World Travel,’ but for generational reasons, they weren’t so Danny and I each bobbed and weaved our own ways to greater learning and career successes. Now Dan has melancholy and forlorn and melodious in his growing dictionary soon to be augmented by ekphrasis, as is mine. I know he’ll like that one.

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