I’ve been thinking about perspective recently, both in the face of Renaissance art in which the depiction of perspective was perfected, with my own fumblings with drawing, and in the way the city of Venice confuses the eye. Oh, and then there’s life.
From tight alleyways with no sightline, no horizon, you maneuver like a rat in a maze. You come upon a bridge arced over a canal. Pause at the top to peer in both directions, but fanciful buildings curve-cut the canal. Sight ends at a vertical line of stones. But pop out suddenly on the Grand Canal and your sense of the size of things is thrown. The water is wide, the sky startling, preoccupied. Bulbous church domes glow and float, and crazy facades and striped poles repeat in the waves churned by boats determined in their push. The body is unsure of its position. Are you on the ground, or have you taken flight?
My sketches here all seem to be from higher ground, and I thought it was a limitation of my abilities. But I realized that it’s only from the grounded place of my second story window or from the top of a bridge that my eye can settle onto a view here. (Plus, I’ve always loved to look at the world from above — I liked to climb trees as a kid and survey the neighborhood.) (I was also a fan of hanging upside down. Make of this what you will.) The human scale is off here.
In the Scuolo San Rocco, gigantic Tintoretto canvases fill the walls and ceilings. Faces peer down from clouds, dizzyingly.
On the ceiling of a palazzo in Mantova, the naked bums of the sun and moon being pulled by naked Apollo’s naked horse and wagon, everyone’s junk dangling — now that’s some interesting perspective.
These days I awake each morning terrified by this privileged life. The threat of disaster dangles its junk from my ceiling.
But awake and risen, I climb the bridge of the day. The events of the world hurl themselves out over time. Death comes. Life comes. An ant crawls over the newspaper accounts of another killing in another shopping mall. My “work” seems silly. I am embarrassed by myself. I see pictures online of music stars at some awards show. They are dressed in silly outfits. Seem to take themselves very seriously. I feel less embarrassed by myself. I nudge the ant onward. Breeze shoulders the leaves and boughs, puts a cold palm on the back of my neck. From up here in the tree, I can see winter on its way.