Of restlessness and vague desire

“Disillusionment is not necessarily bad. Strictly speaking, disillusionment is freedom from illusion, it is the ability to face and absorb a greater portion of reality–a foundation for wisdom and maturity”

 From “Moral Teachers, Moral Students” by Rick Weissbourd

A tapestry is pretentious; only the very rich could afford one. A tapestry is complex; its construction requires skill sets wholly separated from one another. One; Craft is manifest in the weaving and the other; art is in the cartoon, a word which meant a preparatory work, made by and artist as a guide for the artisan.

But that was before John Leech’s 1843 drawing, “Cartoon no.1: Substance and Shadow.” After Leach, cartoon meant a visual satire taking on folly, evil or both. Leech’s cartoon takes offense with the dissonance between pretense and poverty, between art and life. He inverts the cartoon–tapestry relationship. In his work tapestry (art for the rich) informs cartoon (art for the rest of us).

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Here, pretentiously post-modern, not presciently modern like Leech,  I, too, put a tapestry into a cartoon. The tapestry shares the stage with my usual actors; Art, Mr. Arbeit and Ms. Amour. Art is at stage right, brush in hand, whine (sic) discarded, pallet (sic, again) cleansed; he’s good to go, but just not yet.

“For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;
… Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.”

From “George Gray” in Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters

The tapestry is center-stage between Art and the happy couple; connecting and separating them. In a trompe l’oeil effort, Art (stage right) aligns his real mug with a painted table in the tapestry connecting his studio with the illision of domestic bliss. He fools us, but does he wish to fool himself as well?

Mr. Arbeit and Ms. Amour (stage left) are not fooled, the set for them is a gallery, not a studio like it is for Art, it’s a place to consume not create. They’re about to exit the illusion, but not before we pose a second question: Are Ms. Bliss, the woman in the tapestry and Ms. Amour drawn from the same actress?

Ms.’ Bliss and Amour are posed the same way, so they could be. Different costumes, different roles so they might not be. Ms. Bliss encourages the deception; she appears to turn to share a cup. While Ms. Amour, arm in arm with Mr. Arbeit, with flirting foot, denies it. Suspend disbelief once to accept my drawing of the actress playing Ms. Love as real. But you’d have to suspend it twice to believe Ms. Bliss, a flat, as such. The first is possible, the second unlikely.

Remember from Freud: In your life, a quest for meaning in love and work, be content with “common misery,” don’t expect bliss. And more from “George Gray:”

“To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire…”

Be careful what you wish for.

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