Art Appreciation...

In 1924 William Carlos Williams published Sour Grapes: A Book of Poems containing a short poem called "The Great Figure". A few years later in 1928 Charles Demuth painted an interpretation of that poem titled "The Figure 5 in Gold".

In the late fifties and early sixties the painting showed up in elemetary school textbooks; the poem was not included and received only a passing mention. I recall seeing the painting in the text and wondering just what the point was. I mean, 'the figure five'? ...and 'in gold'? Without the poem as a reference, allusions to abstract art just went wafting on by leaving me slightly confused. ...until one day about a year later as I was riding my bicycle by Fire Station 5 and saw the engine sitting on the pad in front of the building. Oh! Okay! Red, gold, five; sure. Still no poem though...

Things evidently lay dormant in the back of this rat's nest I call a brain for several decades; my connection with the art world tended more toward sculpted pieces and the occasional print. Much of that was due to finances, but frankly I didn't have much appreciation of abstracts or even most paintings. Photography came and went as the years passed until a confluence of events and technology allowed me to work in that medium once again. ...and to discover and then expand my ability to translate what I see in this world onto the computer screen.

The other day while I was out and about in the late evening with my camera something happened to bring back that memory from so many years ago. ...and I was able to find the poem and the history of both it and the painting. ...and to add my own abstraction to the genre:

The Great Figure

Among the rain
and lights
I saw the figure 5
in gold
on a red
fire truck
to gong clangs
siren howls
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city

William Carlos Williams
Sour Grapes: A Book of Poems
Four Seas Company, Boston, 1921

Courtesy of 'The Met'

Clovis Engine 31 triggers off an old, old memory...

One last thought from Mr. Williams: "A poem is a machine made of words". There's a concept...

9/11/2005 * || send comment