People keep finding this site by searching for ‘list of scary things’ in the google which leads them to my relatively unscary list from Halloween which featured lots of things found frightening by no one but me.
At least I assume that other people do not possess irrational fears of Sicilian taxi drivers or the old HBO theme music. I’m not saying they SHOULDN’T be scared, just that they probably aren’t. But seriously, there’s a reason there are so many religious icons all over the place in Sicily, it’s because you need to pray a lot when you’re on the road, either as a pedestrian or a driver. I think I even saw Jeremy cross himself a few times and he’s Jewish.
Speaking of religious icons, we’re going to the National Gallery to see this this weekend and I am, to use a phrase that was popular when I was 12, totally psyched. Look at all that gore! The more I see of the world the more I’m drawn to gory religious art. I like the idea that love of God and suffering were so entwined. Religion wasn’t meant to be easy then. It wasn’t all mega-churches and God wants you to be rich. No way. It was wolves in the coliseum and saints shot through (and through and through and through) with arrows. It was crucifixion and full on persecution. If you were going to devote your life to this new cult you had to mean it.
Which of course lead to fanaticism of another kind and persecution pointed back at other new cults and competing theologies, but by God, it also lead to some amazing art!
In Dublin I saw Russian John the Baptist icon of just his head on a platter. It was bloody and phenomenal, although lacking in a Salome. The DIA has an amazing Artemisia Gentileschi painting of Judith and Holofernes that is properly horrifying. I tried to find another version of it at Capodimente in Naples but it was on tour (as explained by a museum guard who didn’t have much English but got the point across by saying ‘It is, eeh . . . ‘ and then making a circular motion with his finger, at first we thought he was saying it was crazy, but he made the circle bigger and we worked it out). I enjoy her Judith paintings because Judith is so involved. She’s no shrinking miss worried about getting her hands dirty. Nuh uh, Judith knows she has a job to do and she’s doing it, blood spray be damned.
One of the best things about moving to Europe is that I have had the opportunity to see and appreciate art from so many eras, it’s helped me expand my previously limited knowledge. I still love modern and contemporary art, but now I can appreciate works from other eras and movements as well. I remember seeing a Rothko painting for the first time and being shocked into stillness by the force of it and I remember having a similar reaction the first time I saw a Caravaggio and was astounded by the lushness and (in some cases) terrible beauty (although his Judith is a bit too tentative for my tastes, I like her better when she’s more bloodthirsty and involved). The love of one leads to another and that’s pretty amazing. And even more, I’ve been pretty lucky to have the opportunity to follow this twisty path of galleries and museums to explore all the forks and alleys I want.
God may not want me to be rich but s/he certainly wants me to see plenty of paintings.