Ekphrastic Writing by Janée J. Baugher

Saturday, August 01, 2020 1:02 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

After Henri Matisse’s 1954 gouache cut-outs, Snail

When a painter is dying, he’s not necessarily incapable of creating. Long before Matisse’s snail, Picasso and others were using found materials such as newspapers and cigarette packages and incorporating these things into their painting. Real objects adorning an imaginary space. Like artists are wont to do, Matisse studied the minute, snails in this case, in their ability to spiral or to grow linear at will. While he was on his deathbed, he considered the oft-dubious relationship we have with the external world, and how it can be a great comfort to shell up. So, he asked for paper and scissors, and he began the snail’s composition. Onto a white mat, he framed the area in asymmetrical strips of orange paper, then he cut out eleven shapes of sundry colors and arranged them. How not unlike we are to Matisse’s elder self, a snail. Constantly configuring ourselves in our arrangement to our environment, until one day we find the fit, that instance when we can be as content as block of light-lilac, purple, forest green, lemon-orange, navy blue, olive green, rust orange, and black—in each color where we can be who we are, content in that imprecise relationship to ourselves, our bodies.

Janée J. Baugher

Janée J. Baugher is the author of the poetry collections “Coördinates of Yes” and “The Body’s Physics,” as well as the guidebook, “The Ekphrastic Writer: Creating Art-Influenced Poetry, Fiction and Nonfiction” (McFarland, 2020). For more information, visit www.JaneeBaugher.com.

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