Is Est Suum Ingenium
It is their innate character. Ahab and his whale, the artist and his mermaid, the frog and the scorpion story if you must.
Another painting in a painting; it’s a mid-ocean storm at mid-day — mid-life– and the safe harbor at sunset — nearing his end. The artist could read Moby Dick again; could re-read some mermaid tales to catch some details, some insight. For now, all he knows is how they all end.
Just revenge? (pun intended) It can’t be that simple. To regain what was taken by destroying the taker makes no sense. Ahab lost his leg to the whale and replaced it with the jaw of another whale. The artist replaces what he’s lost too; he draws it and has it. However, it’s not enough for either.
There is something still missing. Neither self is whole. Whaling, for Ahab, and drawing for the artist are desires; they require a lack of the desired object and the process of each is an attempt at possession in which the desire is destroyed. It makes a sadness, not a joy, in the consummation.
It seem that neither self can be whole. there is no thing that can complete them. There are objects of desire but, like the Midas touch, possession kills the desire — you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.
Mermaid tales never end well except in Disney world. There’s the Heinrich Kley sketch of the diver in his old-timey suit attempting to kiss a mermaid titled ‘Love’s Labor Lost’ that first appears to be about two alien, but visible to each other, worlds. She has legs, tho’ and nothing seems to be lost, their embrace successful. It’s more love’s labor optimistic, love’s labor futile.
[Why did the old girlfriend make the frog and the mermaid plush toys for the artist? The frog was a portrait and the mermaid, topless and legs sewn together, his “mate.” He still has the frog, but the mermaid is as long gone as the G.F. She joked that the amphibian pairing was a lost cause; the frog could easily get to but never past second base.]
The mermaid would be the frog’s — and the artist’s — objet petite a, that which is always to be separate; a metaphor for what was lost from his “self” when he gained “self” consciousness; when he “stepped back” to look at himself. The drawing of mermaids is the artist’s futile attempt to re-present this objet petite a: a that-can-never-be-presented
Sunset and the old artist paints. He draws an old artist painting. But he can’t seem to bring himself to en plein air. He can’t paint his here-and-now. He paints his what-was changed as if it could be. No out-theres grace his canvases. They are mere Sturm und Drang.
Is est meus ingenium.