Monday, December 03, 2007

Cathedral and art musings...

Sunday, to Exeter at 110 mph! It’s a rental… Went to the Cathedral. It looks small and dense from outside, but as always glorious inside. The fan vaulting is a joy to gaze at, peaceful and powerful at once. As always, a marvel that they were laid out and built by men who had no conception of area, volume, or angles. They didn’t even have the numbers to do the math if they had thought of it!

Perhaps one day people will look at a Saturn V and make a similar comment.

Some think of these as means of social control, saying to people in mud huts “Look what our God can do!”

But I don’t know. The people did the actual construction work, and they would have known that the priests needed them to do it. I’m still inclined to see them as cooperative efforts of praise. To my eye and mind they are too graceful and welcoming to be the work of slaves.

Another thing occurred to me, reading about and thinking what it must be like to be an artist. Last week I was in Salisbury Cathedral, and yesterday the one in Exeter. Both are magnificent beyond description.

But I can imagine someone who designed one coming to visit the other. "Oh, this is so much better than mine! This vaulting is more delicate, and there is so much more light! I am awful!"

Whatever drives us to our best natures also shows our worst to us in the harshest light. That's the deal. Like violence or evil, the artistic end of the bell curve can't exist without the self critical. You wouldn't rather be stupid, insensate, and accepting of the ordinary, would you?

It seems to me that artists- people who envision, express, and make those real- must have it rough. That thing inside them has to be like the steam in an engine, expanding almost beyond control, driving them with a force they can't really contain. If they don't convert it to something, they will blow up like a boiler would.

R. said tonight that a particular artist was "disturbed", meaning mentally ill. But I wonder if artists are innately disturbed, that there is somehow too much inside them- the disturbance is internal and an element of who they are. A couple of people in my own life have been like that. So huge in the present moment that there was neither past nor future, just now. It's great to feel that way- sometimes I almost can again- but it's awfully strong.

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