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Goya was a brilliant artist, loved by the ruling authority. But, the Muse had other plans.
In 1995 I traveled to Ireland to attend my younger brothers wedding. It was a gracious affair in spite of its disagreeable premise. It was especially good to re-acquaint with old friends and branches of my mother’s family that I had not seen in some time. My mother was in her element, wearing a blue outfit that somehow described her perfectly. She, in my eyes at least, was eternally young and on this day she looked the embodiment of a gracefully aging Goddess; no one would ever guess that the cancer that would claim her life three years later was already doing its work.
I had taken a month’s vacation but after two weeks of partying to the main event the festivities were suddenly over. The bride and groom had left on their honeymoon and all the friends and family had returned to their various responsibilities. A pall began to descend and rather than spend the remaining two weeks in its trough I decided to board a plane for Barcelona. Why Barcelona? Tentatively to continue my interest in learning the Spanish language but that was just an excuse as I was soon to discover.
It is 9 pm and I am sitting in my Fiat rental car outside Barcelona Airport. I am wondering where I should go. It’s dark and I have no plan. I’m wondering why I’m here at all. I consulted my pendulum and without double-guessing its wisdom I took off in the direction indicated. I traveled for about an hour before deciding that it would be best to find a place to stay for the night. I followed a road sign indicating Pension and came to a hotel with a tiny and ‘full’ parking lot. I told the lady at the reception that I was uncomfortable with parking my car on the street. She asked four men who were sitting outside playing chess and drinking wine if they would park the car for me. I believed it was not possible to fit the car into a space until the four of them actually lifted the car off the ground and placed it so tightly into a space that I had to ask, ‘How am I going to get it out in the morning?’. I planned to leave early. They assured me that they would be there in the morning to assist.
Sure enough, next morning they lifted the car back onto the street and after tipping them with some dollars I headed for the Autopista (main highway heading north/south). I decided to head north towards the French border – ‘Maybe I’d end up in France’, I thought. I drove until the mid-afternoon before the pendulum indicated I should exit. I proceeded to drive on endless narrow roads through a dry landscape that appeared almost lunar in places. I was impressed by the mountains, valleys and the sheer variety of a landscape still not populated to the detriment of local charm. Everywhere was old world with life continuing on as it has done for centuries.
After coming through a mountain pass I entered onto a vast plain of vineyards with a straight two-lane road that ended far in the distance at a small town nestled at the foot of a mountain range. I felt immediately that this was my destination and took the magical road to my waiting adventure.
The town was called Carinena and it consisted of one very narrow main street that ran for about 100 yards. On the outskirts there was a bullfighting ring. I walked up and down the main street wondering what to do. I was seriously thinking of continuing on but before doing so I decided to divine the Muse’s intent. It indicated that I must remain here and even suggested where I should stay.
I booked into the best Pension on Main Street and began to live as the locals. Each day I explored the surrounding area returning around noon to become as a fly on the wall as I joined the locals in one of the tabernas for lunch. No one ever seemed to notice me, almost as if I was invisible. Each day, after having consumed more than sufficient wine to wash down the food I was very happy to take the traditional siesta and close the shutters of my room blocking out the intense sun completely to darkness. The tiled bedroom floor was always cold no matter how hot it was outside, this completed the feeling that it was indeed late at night and time for sleep. Routinely I’d awaken around 6 pm to the complete darkness, feeling refreshed and ready to enjoy a brand new day only to realize that the day before had not ended yet. I would open the shutters and the sun would stream in. I felt like I was cheating the Pension owners by having two days in one. It began to dawn on me how very wise the siesta is by not only allowing one to avoid the hot midday sun but also in honoring the natural rhythms of the body.
The town went back to work after the siesta and I continued to explore. At around midnight I would return to my room after having a wonderful time observing the people and enjoying the culture.
On my first morning of exploration I came upon the tiny town of Fundetodas. It was celebrating the 250th anniversary of their most famous citizen, the artist Goya. The town had the feel more of a museum than a place where people actually live. It did however have its Catholic church located, as is typical of most Spanish towns, on the highest point overlooking all as a shepherd watches over the flock.
The center of town was indeed a museum to Goya; his home of origin was perfectly preserved and his work was displayed in many of the adjoining buildings that were being used for this sole purpose. There was a profusion of flowers everywhere but most especially around the outskirts of the town where they grew wild in huge tracts that gave the surreal impression that the town was not real in the sense that the impression of experiencing it was to feel that one had actually become part of a Goya mural in a living landscape.
I began to wonder at the purpose behind my being there. I had little interest in art and up to now my only awareness of Goya was that I believed that Goya was the name of a French perfume they advertise in the United States. So, for want of nothing better to do I began to study the paintings. Most were depictions of religious themes all done in oil with vibrant colors. Some re-enacted and glorified the greatness of Spain’s military might at the time. The remainder were of various personages who could afford to be immortalized by Goya. Then, I noticed a complete shift of focus as I examined the charcoal lithographs: they depicted violent aggression of men against women and were very forceful and unrestrained in their demonic representations. There was nothing safe here and I was suddenly intrigued.
I made Fundetodas the focus of my interest and continued to learn all I could about Goya. In Goya’s day an artist survived on commissions from the Church and any success was measured and judged according to obeisance to Church doctrine. In other words, there was no freedom of expression and an artist could be made famous or reduced to poverty depending on the relationship with the Catholic powerhouse. Goya measured well within Church circles and his great gift was increasingly recognized as more and more favor was gained. He painted what he was told to paint and the idea of an artist giving free expression to innermost truth was never an issue for him, except perhaps, privately, when he must have considered the cost of breaking free against the possible loss of prestige and financial gain.
Eventually, Goya was not given a choice in the matter because the Muse decided that it was going to force Goya to honor his gift by changing the circumstances of his health; he began to lose his mental capacities, becoming increasingly irritable and unmanageable. His physical health also began to weaken making him vulnerable to situations he was heretofore unaccustomed to. Hence, he began to describe through the lithographs the demonic extremes of patriarchy.
Goya depicted a very important truth in his lithographs and to have exposed the evils of patriarchy from within the umbrella was a threat and an embarrassment to the policies of Catholicism. Goya had no choice, he lacked the personal courage to act from truth and was consequently taken in hand by the Muse. The exposition amounted to little in any case - tiny bumps on the Church’s righteous path to be absorbed without due consideration and added to their archives as a mere curiosity.
Some time later I visited the Prado Museum in Madrid. On the outside there stands a giant black statue of Goya with demons surrounding his feet. I was with a tour and the guide was very enthusiastic about Goya. As he was expounding the official standard lines on Goya I began to feel myself getting increasingly irritated.
For reasons of politics and gain the truth of Goya is misrepresented - just as happens all over the world when truth seeks to be known. I left the Prado and visited the adjacent Botanical Gardens. In the gardens the simple truth was everywhere to be seen and the contrast between the ego art of the museum and the natural art of the gardens struck me by the incredible difference of one to the other.
The only absolute art is nature and it serves as a constant standard to be measured against. It seems to me that people will believe whatever suits them as long as it measures some advantage for them personally. Real art and death are synonymous but few are aware of death as a releasing formula. Without this understanding, art becomes just copy or appeasement to measure a demand.
The pursuit of truth is a personal journey and one person’s truth in any moment may not be another’s. To diligently follow one’s truth is always a noble adventure because conclusions always measure to change. By honestly living one’s truth in each moment one prepares an evolving art of personal involution that becomes increasingly receptive to all other forms of art. At some point it becomes apparent that all art is an attempt to disqualify itself; to become clear, as nothing - transparent. This is ultimate reality: the purpose of art.
Why is it important to follow one’s truth - to become an evolving work of art whose ultimate conclusion is to become a blank canvas without identity, without reference; to become you and me as one, all knowing - to become unconditional love. Many of the creative elite have died to realize that even they have bartered this ultimate gem for a thief called Identity.
Such an artist, perfect line
Goya made their world refined
Served them up an ego plate
How they loved his genius gait.
Allowed them to believe in him
Paid his dues, his Christian fine
Painted all their ego’s mind
Paid real well to be confined.
Goya’s mind was out of line
He was meant to serve more fine
Spirit came to confront his plight
Told him he must engage the light.
His ego reared, this can’t be true !
I truly love the female view
But I am man, a better mind
Females are a lesser kind.
“You will paint what is more true
No more wasteful egos wild
You will paint or you will rue
I will force you to be true .
You painted horrors that men do
I forced you pleading to show the view
Even madness I did imbue
You were such a narrow shrew.”
Man is conditioned to Evil’s view
All things measure to help him through
Women have the master view
Goya still is Christian glue.
Went to the Prado, got depressed
So much war and ego quest
Locked in madness for all to see
Art is supposed to set us free.
Goya painting for the best
Dinero building his ego nest
Those who pay are those who'll stay
Goya immortalizes their day.
We must love this art so fine
Goya’s art must be divine
But art and dinero draw a fine line
This is the elusive ego fine.
Left the Prado's dark design
Entered the Botanical Gardens - part of me crying
Want my art to be more fine
Want the art of always dying.
Felt the power of instant time
Beauty inflaming my ancient rhyme
Bursting forth to say 'Hola!'
'Hello old friend, I love you so.'
All true art can not be told
All true art is freedom’s home
Art is love and love is whole
All true art commands the Soul.
Reader Reviews for
"Spain and Goya"
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|Reviewed by Irina Karstein (Reader)
|Goya depicted a very important truth in his lithographs and to have exposed the evils of patriarchy from within the umbrella was a threat and an embarrassment to the policies of Catholicism.
--I've always been haunted by this dark period of his life where he lived in "The House of The Deaf Man."
the contrast between the ego art of the museum and the natural art of the gardens struck me by the incredible difference of one to the other.
--True. I love artwork, but I also love nature. I guess I like both equally, but it is true that the art suffers from too much ego. I never really thought of it this way until now.
|Reviewed by Jerry Bolton (Reader)
|Very well done. Excecptional, actually. You fgave us Goya the genesis with all his warts . . . I did a poem about Goya a while back called "He Can No Longer at the Age of Ninety-six." Actually the poem was thought of becuse of the painting by Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes. I'm happy you reminded me of it, I think I'll post it . . . Here is the address for a FREE download of my novel, "fairy!: A Cautionary Tale," if you want to check it out . . . http://www.lulu.com/content/572010|