As My Maps

Look where we are when we take in this painting: we’re inside the little walled enclosure with everything that’s obvious and everything that’s a muddle in the aftermath of the Incident, the painting’s title. Viewing the arrangement of this aftermath from exactly this spot lets us draw some conclusions.  It seems that the severe foreshortening of the bleeding man is what tells me he’s dead.  The oddly comfortable pose of the reclining man is what tells me he’s not getting up on his own.  The fact that while the blood is still red the matter is already  being addressed by three officers in three different types of uniform tells me that many arms of the law are intricately and potently prepared for incidents just like this one. Three women stand outside the wall bound together in their distress.   The presence of these mourning wailing women gives the painting a classical and allegorical touch. For all the here-and-now of this painting’s frozen moment,  the women remind us that of course this is an endless story. There are always old or brand new offenses, there is always a muddle, there is always bloodshed,  the law always distorts the muddle into right and wrong. When or where have men and women not joined together in incidents like this one?  The boy being led away looks already innocent and guilty and  judged and sentenced, and a grace to his posture suggests he may have been worth knowing before this. You can start to see Tybalt and Mercutio here.

This is absolutely not where I wanted to be right now. What happened was this: dreams can come true, and I get to see Bob Dylan and His Band from the 3rd row of the venue at Jones Beach tomorrow, and Jones Beach is a very lovely place for a Bob Dylan concert. The earth has been cris-crossed with  lovely and unlovely settings for Bob Dylan concerts and this got me thinking about the way that once all this wandering of the earth with band in tow began, we could hear the sense of place change in the songs. I like to give myself excuses to look at the paintings, and I wanted to make some comment about the paintings, unlike the songs, causing me to envy Bob Dylan in a banal way. The paintings bring home to me the profusion of streets and windows and rooms and bodies of water and bridges and skies this man has seen. Frankly,  much of my own traveling life has been visiting places for the purpose of watching this man do what he does when he’s not looking through a window at a bridge with a sketchpad in his hand. I’d like to see these places, all of them.

So I wanted to find a painting that illustrates my envy of having been there and seen that, and introduce the idea that there is a conversation in the songs of the last ten years or more, between footsore restlessness and exhaustion. He’s walking and pacing and marching recklessly to the city, and his sails are set. He’s also sitting alone in falling shadows, and stranded in doorways, and nostalgic for the passions he knew and lost in a Houston he’ll never see again.  The paintings seem a middle way between inertia and self-imposed vagabonding. The paintings contemplate and preserve moments with an appetite for the simple ways things arrange themselves if you look at them from right here in this very spot. I like the way things seem  not entirely finished, as if suspended and quivering.

Time seems to pull its teeth out of Bob Dylan when he paints. Even when he’s painting the awful aftermath of a deadly street fight, which is exactly not the sort of scene I thought I would find when I googled the Brazilian Series. And then this this painting reminded me of another painting of a muddle and a point of view:

And then my thread was gone for good and somehow I ended up with the wailing women in Jeremiah, and Shakespeare’s Verona. It was a fun trip for me. And now, while I restlessly contemplate tomorrow’s concert, I’m imagining Bob Dylan booked in the Marriot hotel on Adams Street in Brooklyn, from whose windows guests can watch people going in and out of New York’s Family Court. I have seen some Incidents on those sidewalks that Bob Dylan could do  justice to with his sketchpad.

And if you are near the 3rd row of Jones Beach on Saturday, come say hello. We’ll try to be more focused next time.


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