Thursday, April 3, 2008

zeus under glass

Zeus was tended by gentle nymphs and was nursed by the fairy goat Amaltheia...

Years ago I would take the kids down to the creek behind the Elisabet Ney museum to search for treasure. Specifically, it was (and is) a severed, limestone hand, whose I don't now, akin perhaps to Camille Claudel's exquisite sculpted foot that first enamored Rodin.

I am not clear about my deep connection to this place, except for certain evocative fragments, beside the veined hand: that she kept her husband, a philosopher, in the turret, that she lived a life chiseled out of clean, hard passion (her own), and that once, or twice, I enticed someone to scale the walls and share a bottle of wine on the second-floor balcony (not an easy accomplishment, and not sure one I could accomplish again--who am I kidding, of course I could, and would)

In my twenties I was walking the deserted pre-dawn streets of Hyde Park and caught a glimpse of an elderly woman taking her tea in a wing-backed wicker chair-- How odd, I thought, to have dragged that chair to the West patio of the Ney before dawn to take tea.

One fall I took a figure sculpting class at the museum, and I clearly recall the exhilaration of feeling like God himself as my fingers slid over the smooth surface of the clay, crafting a woman not so unlike the one that held remarkably still for over an hour as we struggled to see her with our hands. By the end of the six weeks, I knew her contours better than my own. So different, though, I imagine the process of slowly chipping away the sinuous form from cold stone, trying to see through the inanimate mineral into flesh.