Focal Points

So many important and/or interesting links this morning, I will confine my comments on each one to a paragraph or two.

First – because I believe aesthetics is generally more basic than politics (though often only because politics is one of the many expressions of aesthetics) – here is a link to a sampling of Leonard Nemoy’s Shekhina photographs: his visions of the female manifestations of the Divine, (so phrased because as far as I have been able to find out, Nemoy does not use the term “Goddess” in his description of his work). A couple of folks including Linda justifiably grumbled that my commentary of May 17 linked to a story about Nemoys’s photographs that had no illustrations. This was true, but it was the news item I was interested in, more specifically the semiotic significance of the photographer’s intent, and the lack of illustration was not for want of trying: I merely neglected to mention I had Googled “Leonard Nemoy Shekhina” and come up with bupkes, while “Sheknina” itself -- Hebrew for the female manifestations of Yahveh -- merely linked to a number of sites on Judaism. A subsequent, more thoughtful search, finally under “Leonard Nemoy Photographs,” predictably led to a bunch of Trekkie artifact-sites but also linked to the gallery’s own webpage, here.

I would be dishonest if I did not add that I am vaguely disappointed with Nemoy’s work. His photographs are technically perfect – exquisitely so – but only two of the images shown here (the left-most and right-most frames in the second row from the top) evoke even slightly the physical reactions Robert Graves describes as indicative of both true poetry and the presence of the Goddess: “...the hairs stand on end, the eyes water, the throat is constricted, the skin crawls and a shiver runs down the spine...” Having some knowledge of such matters myself, I regard Graves’ description as unsparingly accurate. Which makes me once again curse the crippling limitations of my own poverty as expressed in the fact I have no scanner nor any other means to transmit visual images and thus have no way to share the few surviving prints from “Glimpses of a Pale Dancer,” work that accompanied me to New York City as part of the book proposal and thus escaped destruction in the 1983 fire. So unless you knew me in Manhattan c. 1969-70, when I first began articulating these images, or unless you lived in Bellingham in 1971, in the Seattle area during the mid-1970s or in Tacoma in 1981, and thus saw examples of my “sandwiches” or photographic collages in various galleries (when the work bore the titles “Premonitions of the Celtic Twilight” or “Divinations in an Equinoctal Fire”), you will have to take my word for it that first-time viewing of this material does indeed often produce the reactions Graves described -- and powerfully so (or so I have many times been told). Though I suspect not even the most profoundly moved viewer experiences anything quite as enrapturing as the phantom electricity that coursed through my body when I stood in the amber gloom of my darkroom and first watched these images emerging on paper coated with alchemical silver – the emulsion emitting a slow, barely audible sibilance of exhalation as the vision became real.

Next on the agenda is a combination of politics and art – a Hindu site that quotes beautifully from the Upanishads, and with an irony that is sometimes as cutting as a tulwar, documents Islam’s 1300-year war on civilization – something with which the Hindu population of the Indian subcontinent has had long, bloody and intimate experience. This is probably another instance of preaching to the choir, but I found the site usefully informative, interestingly composed and compelling enough I bookmarked it. The site is named Satyameva Jayate which I suppose is Dravidian, and which the author says translates as “Truth Alone Triumphs.” The link is here.

On the subject of Islam and its innate and infinitely vicious oppression of women, here are more details on the growing resistance to Canada’s attempt to “celebrate diversity” by imposing a limited form of sharia on Canadian citizens who are of Islamic extraction. Canadian women – including women who have survived the beatings and mutilations characteristic of Moslem upbringing – are rallying to battle this outrage imposed by Canadian political “correctness,” and it appears even the Canadian feminists (who not long ago were condemning Western Civilization as a phallocentric culture of rape, slavery and exploitation) are finally beginning to wake up to the reality of the Islamic threat. The link is to The Toronto Star, which is normally so self-righteously “multicultural,” you get the feeling it would have advised the 1939 Czechs to refrain from expressions of nationality lest they hurt the feelings of the “visiting” Germans. But not now, at least not here.

Lastly, I cannot count the number of times I have called some company to complain, request technical information or perhaps even place an order, and the telebot who flung untold humans out of work and now answers the phone demands I choose a language: “for English, press one.” I find this demand both infuriating and insulting, exactly as if we were the downtrodden subjects of a land conquered by people who speak Some Other Language. It doesn’t help that for many years I have been aware of the undeclared (and genuinely unholy) alliance between Cheap Labor Republicans and Big Bureaucracy Democrats: an alliance that is selfishly destroying the United States with virtually unrestricted immigration -- all in the name of depressing wages, expanding social services and thereby guaranteeing the continued omnipotence of both plutocrats and bureaucrats. Michelle Malkin is furious about it too, and the resulting denunciation – an example of Malkin at her caustic best – is available here.

posted by on May 24, 2004 01:59 PM

I'm trying to find something in these images that says he has some form of understanding of the presence of life and art beyond mere surface, our's being a world of surfaces in which we tend to view ourselves refracted and reflected back through the stylistic media of fashion photography, in this case, appearing too much like in an issue of Vogue, or Bazaar, somehow more in line with Victoria Secret's adds showing profane angels, than anything having to do with the divine. There is no indication here of the sacred, beyond the obvious clichéd poses designed by a marketer in order to sell books. In short it all seems very tiring and so familiar. Perhaps his long stay in Holywood has seeped so much into his eye that he cannot escape it. Then there's the retro 40ish feel to the poses. Retro has been in for quite some time now...this is very calculated photography with an eye to sales. We'll see how quickly it goes to the remandered bins.

Posted by: Brian Weaver at May 25, 2004 12:01 PM

Not only do I agree completely, Brian, I think the Vogue/Harper's simile is perfect. Early Richard Avedon, even. (Believe me, it wasn't because of the magazine's highly touted but mostly nonexistant aesthetic radicalism I always thought the second word in the Harpers title should be spelled "Bizarre.") Very often the only difference between artwork that is really just expertly applied technology and Art, capital A, is the artist's ability to think outside the proverbial box, which includes the very difficult task of transcending the relationship of one's self to one's background, thus objectifying both, and turning the result into just another element of content and form -- ultimately no different from a tube of paint or a can of film. More than anything else, I think that was Nemoy's failure. Had he accomplished that -- the transcending of self and background -- the fashion-mag style wouldn't matter. (Indeed there has been at least one photographer who did fashion work and also genuinely advanced the horizion of the aesthetically permissible: Man Ray. There probably have been others as well, but this has been a long and wearisome day, and I can't think of any more just now.)

Posted by: Loren at May 27, 2004 09:22 AM