All notes written by Vanessa Baish | Notes on Looking

Beautiful Intervention

Turing the poetics of painting into the poetics of language, or into a poem, can come from admiring beauty. Elaine Scarry argues that, “Beauty brings copies of itself into being. It makes us draw it, take photographs of it, or describe it to other people. Sometimes it gives rise to exact replication and other times to resemblances and still other times to things whose connection to the original site of inspiration is unrecognizable.” It is the feeling caused by an experience of beauty that comes, hopefully, into a new being. Earlier this year, the Guggenheim in New York exhibited a survey of paintings, or works on/in/about canvas, by Alberto Burri. He played not only with surfaces, but with the materials of his canvasses; sometimes besmirching them with dark scorched marks, scarring some with “melted and charred plastic”[1].  Earlier he worked with resin and pigment, adding depth to surface. In the middle period, he worked other textiles—burlap and linen, common household fibers, some of which were manufactured in the town where he grew up—onto, into the canvasses. The most tender canvas has, twisted into a ropey shape and sewn into the upper corner, a nightgown. The canvas itself had been torn or cut to allow the nightgown a place between its two parts. What kind of intervention into the canvas is this? It is a scrap of vulnerability, for which space has been—is it violently? or completely?—made. Sewn into place, the canvas and nightgown/slip have been stitched, or sutured, together. The canvas is the main body. The slip is the vulnerability, the graft. Does the completed work contain a wound?...