Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Tomoko At Rest" by Helen Gotlib

The image is a nine color wood block print, which measures 22 x 28" inches. The artist, Helen Gotlib, has a website here, and an online store here.

Immediately I recognized part of a face near the center. A feminine brow, cheek, and closed eye. But as my gaze moved outward, all logical assumptions were thwarted. Where I thought there would be a shoulder faded into dark, blue mist. The place I expected a hand appeared more like seeds and straw taken up in a great gust of wind. I looked closer and what I took to be hair, an ear, and part of a nose became increasingly abstract. Twigs seemed to be stuck in or growing out of the ear and head in odd places and directions, and a curly lock which stopped and started again in a strange fashion obscured the nose. I began to wonder if I was looking at an anthropomorphized landscape. Perhaps this face was meant to represent one of the ancestral spirit beings from the Aboriginal Dreamtime.

But, no, the links to landscape are mere visual suggestions. That feminine brow, cheek, and closed eye are clear. More than anything else, this is the image of a girl's face. It's just that the image only comes together when viewed as a whole. Trying to make sense of the details and edges leads to dead ends because the image in its entirety is one grand sweep.

I have come to interpret this image as the girl caught in the midst of a dream. Dreams take us outside of ourselves. We can be anyone or anything else. Dreams present experiences that seem as real as reality but which can defy the laws of physics and logic without questions or even funny looks. Dreams don't have to make sense, and very often they don't. After waking, we forget all the details, and sometimes even the overall impressions. They are difficult to describe to others. Dreams are a domain of feeling and intuition. There, something can seem incredibly profound merely because we feel its importance, not because it possesses any explainable merits.

This print reminds me of both dreams and Mark Rothko paintings in this sense: I instantly felt the profundity of this image and continue to feel it after considerably more looking and thinking. But I still can't explain why.

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