Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Shadow Play and Ashcans

Salome - by Robert Henri, 1909


Before Jolie stuck her leg out,
before the Oscar’s ‘pose and pout,’
an ‘Ashcan’ painted Salome:
naiveté with shadow play.

She’s daring but she’s puzzling, too.
With Henri’s brushstrokes, she comes through,
yet doesn’t give too much away:
naiveté with shadow play.

Of daily life, this group, The Eight,
would find the louche and then translate  
to canvas.  That’s how they’d portray
naiveté with shadow play.

What woman then, did Henri choose
to be his Salome-like muse
performing in his dark ballet…
naiveté with shadow play. 


Notes:  The form is Kyrielle, which is one of my favoritest forms!  How my poem came about was that I was thinking about the Ashcan Artists.  Yeah...I know...not exactly something most folks consider casually, right?  But that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.  Why?  Because...

...as I reviewed some Internet images of their artwork, I was drawn to the Salome painting, which reminded me of the meme making the rounds regarding Angelina Jolie's leg. I started playing with the words - and voilà!  This poem was born.

Now, about the Ashcan Artists, aka 'The Eight.'  Some years ago, I had written a long short story called 'How I Found Peaches' which was published in 2005, in a now-defunct journal called Vermeer.  The subject of the Ashcan Artists came up in the story because of an artists' model who may or may not have been a ghost.  Long story, like I said.

Anyway, to explain the Ashcans' work a little further, here's an excerpted bit of conversation from 'Peaches' which occurred at the Art Museum, between Kalbi, a young art student, and Peter, my perplexed narrator:

     "You ever heard of The Eight?  Or the Ashcan Artists?"

     "Can't say as I have."

     "Well, first off, when people hear 'Modern Art' what do they think of?  Picasso?  Maybe Braque or Gris, right?  Well, there were these eight guys that were called the Ashcan Artists - they painted around the turn of the last century, roughly.  And they had this major impact on the art world.  Unlike other artists, their work was meant to depict "real life" so they painted everything - even ashcans.  That's where the name came from.  Right?  Their work tended to be realistic and gritty, you know, and they painted a lot of New York in that day and age.  Even the squalor.  Especially the squalor.  But these guys, well, their work ranged - they did landscapes and portraits and everything in between.  Like, theatre stuff and street scenes and pictures of little kids playing and more.  An artist named Robert Henri sort of led this group.”

Henri painted Salome (above.)  

If you want to read more about 'The Eight,' check out this site: Ashcan School, and this site: Ringling Docents.  

And as for Salome's story, well, that's for another time...

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