Tuesday, March 10, 2009
beautiful and terrible
for a few weeks, i've been looking at this painting of an angel speaking into joan of arc's ear. i'm not sure what it is about the painting that is so moving to me, but it speaks into my ear. there are artists whose work do this to me - 20th century southern fiction writer flannery o'connor; bach (thanks dave madden); 20th century american painter georgia o'keeffe; irish rock band u2; 19th century american poet emily dickinson; the biblical books of Genesis and Jeremiah and Mark. when i read, or look at, or listen to, this art, I can feel it: something mysterious is happening, and this art is so honest about the human experience that it's no longer just human. the poem, or short story, or painting, or song, slips into a place where the spiritual, the beyond-this-world, the god-in-this-moment, is present.
what is it about this painting? is it that we know joan's story, and she ends her life burned at the stake by a fearful political-religious empire? or is it that we can see that she is, in this moment, no longer anchored in the life in which the rest of us live? or is it that we’ve sensed that it’s both beautiful and terrible to be whispered to by the angels? or maybe it's knowing that i've felt those moments, too, and that they always fuck my life up and invite me into those beautiful and terrible spaces, and i'm never quite safe again?