By Patrick Dennis
I am an artist and I’ve been thinking…
I’ve made a huge mistake. I just went to see a movie that made me question whether I was enjoying a great ride through life with lots of colorful bumps and swerves and scenery as turmoil and triumph blew past me like gusts from the velocity of my travels, or… if somehow I had slipped down the proverbial rabbit hole into just thinking that this has been the fully realized life I know. In that case I would need to address my biggest fear: is Salvador Dali my real father? Going to see the movie Inception was like having a really scary but fun flashback.
At least that’s how I think a flashback would be if I had ever innocently over-medicated with the help of a trusted friend, then woke up from a lively dream involving wigs, fur, Jesus and floating carp only to find myself in a desperate search for my clothes. I’m pretty sure it would be inappropriate for me to recollect any of my own alleged experiences from a medicated state here because it would scare our readers under 10 years of age.
But as I was saying, this movie experience was so vivid it pushed on the limits of my paranoia much like a very artistic dream, nudging me to question my sanity or what I perceive to be a relatively stable existence as an artist. I think the same thing happened to Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard and we know she got ratted out by Max, and then hauled away to the loony bin.
When I was watching the movie, I found it necessary to disassociate myself from the story so that I would stop tapping my foot and biting my nails and I started thinking about art. In particular I wondered if this could have also happened to Salvador Dali. Well, of course I know he could never have read the story by Christopher Nolan, but he could possibly have been traumatized by his conversion to Catholicism, which is very similar. This could partially explain his inexplicable appearance on the 1960’s era television show What’s My Line, which was surreal in itself except that it did include a passing reference to confession.
Apparently once Dali embraced Catholicism, he began to see himself as a classicist. Well, now it’s quite obvious that he was traumatized or at the very least delusional because that’s pretty much the last word I would use to describe him. His “Sacrament of the Last Supper” in the National Gallery of Washington, DC is all the proof one needs. Dali was deep into Freud’s influence for many years, which also kind of explains his weird genius. He often incorporated psychoanalysis into his own works when he was not obsessing over Diego Velazquez, who died at least a century before. He was much more than a dramatic maniac with an unnaturally elongated waxed mustache or the paintings of floating or melting timepieces his is famous for. He produced! He created works of art for more than 60 years of his lifetime, becoming one of the most famous artists of the 20th century.
Being an oddball worked for Dali, even with the ladies. After his first one-man show in Paris in 1929, he immediately joined with other surrealists led by Dadaist Andre Breton, and then took the wife of poet Paul Eluard as his lover and muse. You just know that poor Gala never imagined in her wildest dreams how she would be portrayed on canvas.
The High Museum is hosting Dali: The Late Works exhibition through Jan. 9, 2011 featuring 40 paintings he completed between 1940 and his death in 1989. I plan to go, but not until I have recovered from my experience at the movies because I don’t think the two experiences would mix very well in my already dubious state of pseudo-stability. I’m just glad I don’t need to travel to St. Petersburg, Florida to the Dali Museum. They are re-imagining the building to approximate Dali’s take on architecture, which I’m sure will get lots of attention since they’re spending $35 million on the renovation. But I’m not so sure it could ever be ADA compliant or a restful experience for seniors, since I’m sure it will have floating staircases, unreadable clocks and melting doorways. The High Museum is much easier to maneuver, and you don’t have to worry about the building dissolving around you, triggering a not so pleasant flashback or Dada issues.
Patrick Dennis is an artist, gallery owner and President of the Atlanta Foundation for Public Spaces. He lives in Atlanta. Email: Patrick@affps.com