the tune without the words
Julian Schnabel directed a movie entitled “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” In my opinion, it is one of the greatest works of art, whether it be marble or oil paint or clay or cinema. There is a touching scene in the movie, in which a young, healthy man tenderly shaves the beard of his aging father. It is such a beautiful scene, it stands out in my mind like an exquisite painting. The movie goes on to address life and death, pain, and beauty. When Julian Schnabel was asked why he created the movie, he told of how his father’s death stirred some difficult themes in him. Julian went on to say that he made the movie because (I’m paraphrasing) “I couldn’t not do it.”
I couldn’t not do this painting. And yet, it was a difficult painting to do. I think it is a beautiful piece, a quiet and contemplative piece. It is intentionally metaphorical on many levels, though I won’t limit the viewer by saying what those metaphors might be. It was begun about eight months ago, then leaned against the wall of my studio for six months. I picked it up two months ago, and worked on it on and off for several weeks, then I stopped. Then I worked on it all day, everyday. If you read this, right now, chances are that in the back of your mind, there are tsunamis, civil wars, recessions, the passing of a loved one. Before the glass has been finished, the strings have snapped, the book is finished. It’s hard to understand.
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.