Work in Progress
The house in the ancient city where I grew up looked out over the Opera, right by the plaza, where the fountain spilled endlessly, recycling seawater. The House bent around the corner, set on two streets, forming an L. The House was like a person I had to interact with, not a space to inhabit. Half of it was locked away, confiscated by the Communists, used by the Opera to store costumes. The rest bent in long corridors, letting in puffs of light, noises, and smells as the House pleased.
The House allowed me to stay in it.
I invited myself into the City. It called my name.
The City was, is, ancient; so old that the oldest golden jewelry in the world was buried in tombs underneath it. Everything that could ever happen had already happened in it. But it hadn’t happened to me.
The Bay of Varna
In the right spot on the beach, next to the hot springs forming a pool within the seawater, close to the tiny zoo, you could see the jeweled lights of the city dangling in a curve. It was the landscape of my childhood and youth. The bay morphed in my young imagination into Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights: the lovers in the warm, steaming water of the shallow pool, the snowflakes melting as they fell; the exotic, listless animals boxed in barbaric cages; the urban electric glory reflected in the Black Sea.
It’s nice to be chosen. Especially when you are young. It makes you feel special.
Collections are about choice: what we decide to collect, how we select, what we select. We usually focus on the process of collection and the collectors, but what about the one collected? If a butterfly had a choice, would it choose to be pinned? I was voluntarily collected. Or more precisely, I didn’t volunteer: I thought I was being selected of my own free will. I didn’t know I was part of a collection. I was being chosen because I was special. And who doesn’t want to be special?
In the beginning, you are blinded by your own dazzling, unique experience. But after a while, your eyes adjust.
The gesture of Cupid urinating on Venus
Lotto’s painting is a curious one. Cupid is peeing on Venus on purpose. It’s not the accidental urination that happens when a mother changes her baby. He’s not even a toddler--he’s old enough to know what he’s doing. He smiles smugly. His face is deprived of childish innocence. Yet his very young mother isn’t upset. She doesn’t even acknowledge him. She’s looking at us with an inviting smile while touching her left breast. She’s not nude; she’s naked except for the few rose petals on her hair-free pubis and the see-through ribbon under her breasts. Whose desire does she represent, whose pleasure?
Cupid isn’t just her son, he’s the sons of all women. Cupids are allowed to stay infantile while playing adult’s games.
The Fruit of Knowledge
It might have been a grape, or it might have been an apricot. There was an apricot tree in the tiny yard of the House. It was struck by a lightening in a July storm and fell into the kitchen. The grapes died as well, eventually. Only ivy grows on the House now. Small shiny green lizards sparkle between the leaves. Innocence doesn’t go away all at the same time and wisdom doesn’t move in all at once, if ever. I’m not saying you shouldn’t eat the fruit of knowledge. I’m just saying be prepared to be sick.
I was very sick for a very long time. Things came out of me that I never knew were inside me.
Girls rarely have wings; they wear feathers for decoration. And very pretty some of those feathers are. The girls are part of the Carnival and walk in an endless parade through the City. The men whistle offensive things at the girls and teach the boys how to do it. The girls think these are whistles of appreciation and keep walking. The wives of the whistlers stare hatefully, as if these were not their daughters.
There are only two stencils: the naked girl happy to be peed on and the woman (that would be a girl, dressed) with a baby. The only women with wings are the Sirens, those cannibal monsters.
How precisely does a girl become a Siren?
The water came gradually. It rose from within the House and the City. The House started filling. So did the streets. There was no hurricane, no tsunami. My landscape became the only landscape.
Do you like me now?
Run, jump, swim, just move. It is not a real place, distances can’t be judged. You’ll know when you arrive.
I wasn’t born of the sea foam like Botticelli’s Venus. Egg and sperm made me and I was born in blood. Not many things on my way were clean, but I washed a lot. I’m dressed now, mostly. This is my garden and I use it as I please.