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  • John Diamond-Nigh

Clippings in a #house-bound time

Updated: Jun 2, 2020

May 31

#Masks of course are everywhere. Encountering a friend last week, she laughed––it’s so nice to, well––not see you. Masks #conceal, but we often forget how much they #betray of our #secret selves. The spookiness, at Halloween, arose not just from the gargoyle surface, but from the mordant disclosure of who we really were. Brenda was a wolf. She was a wolf in grade 2 too. Later on, I never dated Brenda, beguiling as she was. In this drawing by #Breughel of #beekeepers at work (1568), the masks of course are protective. But they are also enigmatic, weirdly proto-modern in their blank effacement. No one quite knows what Brueghel was getting at, except, as a baseline, to elevate the mischief, diligence and nobility of the #peasant class in a slightly discordant key. As a country boy, I dabbled with bees, had a hive or two, intending to sell but in fact eating most of the honey myself. Learning to do so, I would visit an elderly Amish beekeeper whose mind, alas, was giving out. One day he wasn’t where he usually was. Up in the equatorial attic of his bee house, I found him completely naked except for his hat and veil, his body encrusted with a million bees. Never forgot that image, as if the bees were clinging in a cinder of adieu.

May 30

Partly because #books have sustained Lynne and myself so beautifully over the last few months, the book, the #library and that island incense that books give off have not only occupied my thought but taken their place as a motif in much of my new work. In this recent #sculpture by #Anselm Kiefer, installed at #Rockefeller Center, books are scattered at the base and a serpent coils up in a quest to attain the secrets of the ascendent book. It's wings spread, that book is poised to rise among the skyscrapers. Kiefer exploits to the fullest these parallel ascensions, mythical and modern. It is, he says, a primordial plea for the world to go higher, deeper, get its act together and survive.

June 1

A friend listed what he does each day like canonical hours. I love #lists. I spider-weave them all over my notebooks. Titles for works, bravura intentions, kooky words, gifts for Lynne, names of flowers––a tiny, impulsive genre, no bigger than a banana peel. There’s a gulf, always, between what we imagine we’ll do and what we actually get done. That in itself is #magical (Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?––from one of my favorite #Browning poems, #“Andrea del Sarto”). What joy it is to stumble across an old list, like a corroded artifact, a pressed leaf from some garden in Spain, and remember who we were and what we were thinking, feeling and hoping then.

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