Back to Painting

My time in India is winding down. Tonight I head out to Ooty, a beautiful (and fantastically named) hill station near Tamil Nadu’s border with Kerala. I’ll spend a day there and then one in Kochi, Kerala. Then back to Chennai. I leave Wednesday night!

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This trip began with a fascination with the bronze icons of medieval South India. As a painter (or drawer, or whatnot), my interest in sculpture was one that I couldn’t quite explain.

Tanjore

Literature on the bronzes never strays far from descriptors like “sensuous,” “sinuous,” “graceful,” and “delicate.” These terms are perfectly suited to the Chola bronzes, but perhaps the reason that they deserve mention is because they are so rarely found in sculpture. These are the qualities of virtuoso painting, executed with a delicate brush by a careful hand, more often than they are the result of strenuous casting and chiseling.

Somehow, in all of my travels to temples and palaces and forts and museums, I have felt constantly pulled back in the direction of painting. This may be owing to personal disposition more than anything. A few years ago, I remember my professor Steve confiding to me that “painters tend to be pretty private people,” and breathing a sigh of relief to have found my niche.

As far as art experiences go, visiting a monument (especially an Indian monument) is anything but private. It means being surrounded by massive crowds and aggressive souvenir-hawkers lurking around every corner.  It is, however, an experience that I’ve felt privileged to participate in—for the most part, the Indian “tourists” that I share these sites with are religious pilgrims rather than art enthusiasts. By definition, temple-going is a social activity, and fundamentally different from time spent in the quiet galleries of a museum.

New friend at Ellora Caves.

Ellora

Typical… at Hampi

Ellora

A week or so ago, I visited the Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad. It was one of many dusty Indian museums I’ve been too—overflowing with unlabelled stone relics, odd exhibitions of Western art collected by one maharaja or another, and often hilariously translated wall text. But thankfully, the Salar Jung Museum had a fantastic collection of miniature paintings, and I spent an hour looking at them while it rained outside.

Illustrated manuscript from an exhibition in Mumbai

“Southern winds cool in the Himalayas”

I was so grateful to re-encounter the intimate little worlds that unfold in Indian miniature paintings. These paintings sparkle like gems on the museum wall—and I think it is to their advantage that they accommodate only one attentive viewer at a time, owing to their size. The intimacy of each painting’s content is echoed by the physical intimacy required to view them.

Prakash Maharana, Patachitra artist at DakshinaChitra.

Jain painting at the Government Museum, Delhi.

The fidelity of these paintings to private worlds and pastimes made me think of two texts that I’d recently reread at the same time, both of which I think are superbly instructive when it comes to being an “artist” of any genre, and being truthful to personal experience:

Henry David Thoreau, from “Economy”:

“In most books, the I, or first person, is omitted; in this it will be retained; that, in respect to egotism, is the main difference. We commonly do not remember that it is, after all, always the first person that is speaking. I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well. Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrowness of my experience. Moreover, I, on my side, require of every writer, first or last, a simple and sincere account of his own life, and not merely what he has heard of other men’s lives; some such account as he would send to his kindred from a distant land; for if he has lived sincerely, it must have been in a distant land to me.”

and from David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech, “This Is Water”:

“Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute centre of the universe; the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centredness because it’s so socially repulsive. But it’s pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute centre of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.

Please don’t worry that I’m getting ready to lecture you about compassion or other-directedness or all the so-called virtues. This is not a matter of virtue. It’s a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default setting which is to be deeply and literally self-centered and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self. People who can adjust their natural default setting this way are often described as being “well-adjusted”, which I suggest to you is not an accidental term.”

And so, returning soon to the United States after 5 months spent immersed in Indian temple ritual, folk dance and music performances, and visits to archaeological sites, I am leaving India with a serious eagerness to return to the painting studio.

Painter’s Materials, Mumbai Museum.

A sculpture will always be a “thing,” with an insistent “thingness” or physical presence in the world. But paintings have a certain magic to them, in that (while being physical objects) they create alternate worlds with entirely independent logics from our own. When we can peek out of our own private worlds, through a small frame, and into another world, that is where the magic lies.

Fairfield Porter

 

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The Domestic Goddess

There’s a common tendency in Indian travel lit to dwell on the country’s allure as the ultimate cultural conundrum. It’s described as a land of Seussian otherness; complete with vibrant costumes, nutty architecture, and rituals that defy reason.

Okay, it’s mostly true. My daily life now includes the occasional unannounced demon-taming ritual:

But one effect of having lived in India for four months (!!!) is that from a distance, American popular culture now seems just as incomprehensibly diverse.

For the love of God, we are producing such bizarre bits of reassembled cultural detritus as this:

A still from “National Anthem.” Watch the video.

And validating them with 4 million views.

For the record, I am a faithful member of the Lana del Rey fan-club. I found her fumbling of sudden celebrity difficult to watch. Perhaps the rise and fall of Lana del Rey tells us more about the audience than about the star. We were ready for an icon like Lana del Rey. We were ready to accommodate an emphatically pre-feminist image of the American woman—with the accompanying pearls, bouffant hair, and masochistic torch songs—Lana just wasn’t the woman for the job through-and-through.

Lana del Rey

Of course, this can’t signal some wholehearted wish to return to Jackie O and sweater sets and cake-baking. Posters/stationery along these lines speak to our more confused relationship to the iconic housewife:

namely that…

a)      American culture has never completely severed its fetish-y love for the image of the “perfect housewife”, but…

b)      where the image persists, it’s almost always balanced by a healthy dose of snark (or in Lana’s case, an undertone of darkness).

So, what has led me down this odd little line of thought? As is often the case, I think Britney Spears speak to the condition of troubled young-womanhood with more poignancy than I:

Thanks Brit!

To be a young woman in India is to be asked about my marital status on a VERY regular basis. I’m afraid that if I were considered as a potential bride, my marriage prospects would be rather sad.  I wear my hair down like a brazen harlot, I “roam around” cities alone, and my cooking and cleaning skills place me about as far from “domestic goddess” as one can get.

My friend Ganamani, a lovely Indian bride, at her wedding ceremony in June.

My domestic insufficiencies were not something that caused me great anxiety back in the US. But I do think that the Lana del Rey phenomenon speaks to some feeling of loss among young American women.

Hanging out, peeling potatoes behind the kitchen at DakshinaChitra.

I don’t want to get too “women’s studies” with this and induce vomiting but… in a post-feminist culture, where women (theoretically) have infinite choices for self-presentation, I think it must be natural to yearn for an utterly pre-feminist skill-set.

Although I am pathetically unable to spell her “good name,” we all call this woman “Chechi,” which means “sister” in Malayalam, Kerala’s official language.

This weekend, the kitchen caretaker Chechi (mentioned in the last post for her past prickliness, she has now befriended me in the most ecstatic and motherly way imaginable) invited me to accompany her on a visit to her home in Kerala, the small state that covers the southern tip of India on the west coast. Most of the time was spent in and around her home in a small village outside of Kottayam, visiting with family and neighbors, learning recipes, and tending to the house and garden.

Chechi dresses impeccably ALWAYS, even for kitchen work. Here she is at the post office.

I was struck by the powerful vision of womanhood that Chechi champions—a mastery of the domestic without a shred of irony or an ounce of weakness. She’s this independent little lady, a widow who seems capable of almost anything. Sure, Lana’s frocks and acrylic nails are delightful in their way.  But I am so grateful to have had this peek into the world of such a strong woman, a master of the kitchen and home, and a true artist of life.

Some pictures from my time in Kerala with Chechi and an ever-growing gang of village ladies:

Chechi showing off the berries on her backyard coffee tree.

A neighbor lady, teaching me how to draw water from the well.

Kerala water had the most incredible sweet taste!

Ingredients for an awesome spicy chutney: green chilies, garlic, and salt.

Crushing the chilies for our chutney!

Chopping up “tapioca” roots to steam for lunch.

Getting dressed up in a Kerala sari.

My brief stint as an Indian woman. In an old massive nightgown borrowed from Chechi, a Kerala-style white sari, and the gold jewelry of all of the neighborhood women. Plus kumkum (the red dot) and a bindi.

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“Be Well and Appreciate”

I hope that my time in India has helped me to develop a thicker skin. People here are just as likely to tell you “you’re looking dull today” as they are to compliment you on your new dupatta or chappals. You take it in stride.

A tiny, tough lady from Kerala who looks after the kitchen had pronounced her distaste for me to the whole museum staff (and made it quite clear through withering stares). The other day, she came in while I was hanging my show in the gallery, and tearfully shook my hand saying (through a translator) that I “had expressed what was inside my heart.”

I think I’ve said it before, but it warrants saying again: the ups and downs have been extreme. And while the delights and mishaps of my time here won’t go unremembered, they’ve made me appreciate the few things that remain constant: being woken up by the sun at 5:45, bumpy rides on city buses packed with sari-clad housewives, the ocean, the cows and goats, children leaning out of car windows to wave and yell “hello,”, idlis and coconut chutney at Saravana Bhavan, riding in (4 seater) autorickshaws with 10+ Indian men crammed in around me, sweet milky tea in the library around 4, a downpour in the evening.

When my Grandpa emails me from Illinois, he ends every email with “Be Well and Appreciate.” I’ve been thinking a lot about what this phrase means and whether or not I am actually living up to it. Maybe the wisdom behind this advice is that personal well-being and the ability to recognize and appreciate beauty in the world are inextricably linked. If we hope to be capable of standing in awe of some sublimely beautiful artwork or landscape, we must first make sure that we are attending to our own well-being, giving the most mundane rituals of our daily lives a degree of care and attention.

I continue to think about the T.S. Eliot quote, “people to whom nothing has ever happened cannot understand the unimportance of events.” So, perhaps this will be dreadfully boring, but I am going to do a post or two about tiny things, the “nonevents” of my life in India. My daily routine, sights that are now commonplace, the smallest of appreciations. Here are a few excerpts from a pretty uneventful day after a busy few in the gallery. Things that made me happy today:

Image

Repaired chappals. My friend/guesthouse neighbor/museum intern Shruti showed me how to use coconut oil to soften the leather. I am AMAZED by the millions of uses of coconut oil here. Coconut is a huge staple in the cuisine, coconuts were a major part of ritual in a wedding I saw last week, women use the oil to condition their hair and as a skin treatment, the list goes on….

Tiny notebooks, purchased from my favorite “stationeries” shop for 10 rupees each:

I try to keep track of what I’ve done each day (with varying degrees of success):

Handmade paper from Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, a “French” city a few hours south of Chennai on the coast

Drying laundry on the balcony outside my room. Flower from the tree in the courtyard. Hand-woven dupatta (massive scarf) from Kanchipuram – the city of 1000 temples.

Fisherman at work, evening.

At my show opening – Indian friends Nivedita (left) and Shruti (right). Will miss these two!

Another friend

Black coffee. A rarity. At the “Bekal” restaurant at DakshinaChitra. With Shruti.

The men of the restaurant. Prabhu and Murugesan.

More soon.

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Jesus, why are you so dreamy? (In defense of Balthus, by way of Hinduism)

I’ve long had an uneasy love for the work of Balthus (aka Count Balthasar Klossowski de Rola).

Balthus, Katia Reading

In Balthus’ canvases, lush painting is hemmed in by the painter’s unflinching devotion to geometric order. His subjects are caressed by a dreamy indoor light, often captured in cozy interiors, completely alone. There is just enough awkwardness and distortion to push ordinary domestic settings into the realm of fairytales or storybooks.

We get the sense that we’ve stumbled in on a painter enraptured by a beautiful (and yet completely unaware) subject. And here is the central problem with Balthus:

Balthus, the Golden Years

His subjects—painted with undeniable eroticism—are girls of maybe 8 or 9 or 10. The delicate touch of Balthus’ brush is not motivated by paternal benevolence—we can sense behind it a deep well of unrequited desire.

Balthus, Girl and Cat

If we deem this desire “lust,” the implications for Balthus’ oeuvre are not good. We’ve cast a sinister shadow over paintings of masterful execution and insistent mystery. We’ve made it nearly impossible to be a whole-hearted lover of Balthus.

I think there must be another reading of these works. One that is flexible enough to accommodate the painter’s sublimated desire, without allowing it to tarnish our appreciation of his painterly virtuosity.

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Seemingly misplaced eroticism is a strangely recurrent theme in art history, particularly when it comes to depicting the divine. There are those creepily sexified Mannerist Madonnas:

this painting haunts my dreams!!! (Madonna Surrounded by Seraphim and Cherubim, Jean Fouquet)

The incomparably attractive Krishna:

The subtle sensuousness of Gupta period Buddhas, draped in nearly invisible clothing:

And there are far too many dreamy Jesuses to count.

Why should God be so dreamy? Is it not a paradox for the sublime, supernatural, unknowable power of God to reside within the confines of one particular human body?

Be still my heart!

Hinduism confronts this paradox head on. At its very core is faith in a divine presence far removed from our material reality and its endless cycles of birth and rebirth. And yet Hinduism’s sacred texts vividly describe the appearances and personalities of the deities, along with stories of their triumphs and misadventures, all emphatically human in scale.

Durga looking cute

As humans locked in the material world, we can only be taught in the language of our experience. Hinduism’s solution to this problem is to begin with the human form, and distort it beyond anatomical possibility. In sculptures of the deities, we find bodies that are too sinuously curved, too elegantly poised, and too sweetly attractive to possibly be flesh-and-blood.

Shiva and Uma

In so exceeding the human form’s potential for beauty, they create an important metaphor for spiritual practice: while God may speak to man on his own terms, divine truth far exceeds the reality we see around us. It is in the small differences between our reality and the distorted image that we catch a glimpse of something beyond.

Uma-Parvati, consort of Shiva

With all of these gorgeous images of God, it is important to insist that we are forever the viewers and never the “tasters” of these artworks. The pleasure of a Caravaggio still life comes not from tasting the grapes but from a more distant engagement with the image. In “Singing the Body of God,” Steven Paul Hopkins accounts for the eroticization of Vishnu in devotional poetry by a similar sort of distance:

“We are not invited to sensually ‘taste’ this form of god, to enter into a relationship of “I-You” or “we” with him. We only behold his majesty. This is true even when (the poet Desika) alludes to a Sanskrit-inspired style of “head-to-foot enjoyment” (kesadipadanubhava), reserved in other contexts for eroticized descriptions (102).”

So, through a deliberate separation of devotee and god (or viewer and artwork) erotic physicality is overcome (or at least muted) by metaphor.

Shiva

I think that this should help us to reevaluate the unsavory lustiness that at first seems to motivate Balthus’ paintings. Perhaps Balthus as a practitioner of some non-Hindu form of kesadipadanubhava. A simple reading of his “head-to-foot” enjoyment of his subjects would be to call it purely erotic. Instead I think, the painter’s (and after him, the viewer’s) distance from these his subjects saves them from the pornographic.

Balthus, Girl with Cat

It is in the formal qualities of Balthus’ painting—the tightly enclosed rooms, the murky light, the tight compositions—that serve to make his subjects remote and forever untouchable. In the end, our enjoyment (and hopefully, Balthus’ too) is never physical, instead becoming almost devotional as we wonder at the mystery of the subject’s interior worlds.

Balthus, Figure in Front of a Mantel

In my talk with Dr. Nagaswamy back in April, he was emphatic about the simple idea that there must be “something beyond” for us to call an object an artwork. Balthus’ work is figurative—it speaks to us in the language of our material world—but in picturing a deliberately distorted take on our world, it hints at “something beyond.” If we are able to overcome the very human instinct of squeamishness in the presence of his work, that mysterious divinity is the ultimate reward.

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To be Buoyed

A month back, in the small hours of the morning, my friend Sid and I went swimming in the Bay of Bengal as the tide went out. The moon gave us just enough light to see the crests of breaking waves, the line of the distant watery horizon, and the other’s dark head silhouetted against the water.

(Milton Avery)

On my first dip into the sea, the greeting was anything but welcoming. I was slapped about by heavy waves and met with facefull after facefull of seaspray. After pathetic attempts at walking upright with my feet on the sandy bottom, I lost my balance and surrendered to floating.

(Mark Rothko)

Buoyed by the warm saltwater, I floated this way for a while  - toes grazing the bottom, head bobbing up and down easily with the cresting and receding waves. Above, I could make out bits of constellations through Chennai’s smog. Far out at sea, freight ships entering the harbor made a string of tiny lights connecting the city with the dark horizon.

(Milton Avery)

It was a moment of complete egolessness and equilibrium with the natural world. I felt divinely safe. It was difficult not to think of this oft-quoted bit from Emerson’s Nature:

“Standing on the bare ground, my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball – I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me – I am part or particle of God. The name of the nearest friend sounds then foreign and accidental: to be brothers, to be acquaintances – master or servant, is then a trifle, and a disturbance. I am a lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I have something more connate and dear than in the streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature. ”

I think there must be a way to access this Emersonian brand of bodily immersion in the world at any time. To feel the comfort of being buoyed by the surrounding environment, like “water in water” (a la George Bataille) in any place – in the crowds of an Indian city, in a New England living room, in front of a blank sheet of drawing paper.

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One of the pleasant surprises of working and living at DakshinaChitra (a museum of South Indian art and heritage) has been developing friendships with the diverse museum staff – the young interns and the researchers, the gardeners and the caretakers. And unlike their equivalent staff in a (hypothetical) American museum, these people each have very individual and often very intense relationships with religion.

There is the middle-aged groundskeeper Jose, a born-again Christian from Kerala, who says that he found God after a bad car  accident, when he awoke from a coma by concentrating on Jesus’ name. Or Nivedita, a young woman working in conservation, who chants the Hare Krishna mantra constantly throughout the day and sends me text messages like this:

“the material activities are like seeds, which keep bearing the fruits of action (karma). Just as seeds in a pan lose their potency to sprout, karmic reactions are rendered impotent by regularly chanting the holy names of Krsna.”

She often tells me that while chanting the Hare Krishna mantra, she can feel God taking care of her “like a little baby.” From what I can understand – it is a feeling not unlike Emersonian immersion – reassurance by means of surrender to the divine (whether it is God or capital “n” Nature).

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Last night, I waited for dinner and for the return of the electrical current in DakshinaChitra’s pitch-black dining room. As I sat across the table from Jose, he started to pray out loud to God. What began with “Oh God, why have you forsaken me?” (prompted by the mosquitos and lack of electricity) led to a somber plea for mercy and direction. He was asking God for what Nivedita describes and Emerson exalts – to renounce the individual ego and be cradled by the environment.

Jan Vermeer. The Lacemaker.

Vermeer’s “The Lacemaker”: Not religious per se, but there is a certain pious humility to it.

As Jose quietly delivered this incredibly humble message to God, I sat in silence and my mind flooded with images. And for reasons that I still do not fully understand, the first images that came to mind were the quietly sublime interiors of two French painters: Édouard Vuillard (1868 – 1940) and Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947).

(Vuillard)

Bonnard

In their low-key interiors, Vuillard and Bonnard both achieve an unexpectedly divine harmony in their arrangements of pictorial space. The figures are so simply rendered – the effect being that they feel almost anonymous, and yet miraculously familiar to the viewer. Held in two-dimensional space by patterned wallpaper, draperies, cushions and couches, they are cradled – one might even say “buoyed” –  by their environment.

(Vuillard)

(Bonnard)

(Bonnard)

These paintings capture something of the magical promise of painting. A painting can be an escape into a comforting imaginary space, where an unruly environment is ordered and domesticated to securely embrace a figure. The simultaneous simplicity and intimacy of Bonnard and Vuillard allows us to seemlessly slip into these little domestic heavens, if only for awhile.

(Vuillard)

(Bonnard)

I can’t claim allegiance to any religious dogma in particular, but there is something of the divine in these artworks. I am not sure whether I have faith in God, but I have faith in art’s ability to help us forget our bodies and environments when we need to, and it’s promise to teach us how to be in the world when we are ready to listen.

(woman in front of a Milton Avery painting)

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Life or Theater?

in Kallidaikurichi:

Having stayed with a Hindu family in Kallidaikurichi and now spending days exploring the labyrinth-like temple complex of Meenakshi Amman temple, it is so apparent how closely the rhythms of everyday life are synced up with those of the deities.

deity fashions

Gods are bathed and dressed, receive food as offering, and are paraded from place to place in palanquins, borne on the shoulders of devotees.

Vishnu atop Garuda, adorned to the max for a procession that lasted from 10 pm – 7 am the next morning.

bathing at the sacred Thamiraparani river in Kallidaikurichi, southern Tamil Nadu

later that evening, a Vishnu sculpture is bathed in milk before being dressed for a procession through the village streets.

Right now the Chithirai festival is happening in Madurai, in which the dramatic narrative of the goddess Meenakshi’s marriage to Lord Sunderaswarar is celebrated. Each night recreates a different chapter of the saga – a coronation, a marriage, a royal visit, and entertainingly – a scene in which Meenakshi’s brother, arriving late and finding that he has missed the marriage, stops short of the city and storms off. It’s a bit like theater.

pujas performed at Meenakshi Amman temple this morning – a trident (symbol of Shiva) is bathed and then paraded around in a mini palanquin.

50-foot wooden temple car containing the newly married Meenaksi and Sunderaswarar- pulled through the crowds of Madurai

Then there is “prasad” – food that has been offered to a deity before being eaten. Often quite quite good. And a really direct example of how the Hindu devotee aligns his body with his faith.

mmm, prasad

Without a religious practice, I’m trying to learn from the beauty of daily rituals in South Indian life – religious or otherwise. Thinking often of Foucault’s call to “make your life a work of art” and the beauty of the mundane. I suppose this is where it all relates to my own work. Some recent (badly photographed, yikes) drawings:

and a final shot from Kallidaikurichi – Vishnu-Garuda exiting the temple.

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“He is ambrosia untasted, butter in milk, juice in the fruit”

My project is a bit like a treasure hunt. A quest to find where exactly the supreme delicacy of the Chola bronzes (among other masterpieces) survives in India’s living tradition.

In reality, the subtle grace and serenity of those sculptures is about as far as one can imagine from the frenetic pace of daily Indian life. Even inside the temple, medieval stone sculptures are slathered in bright pastel paint or encrusted in centuries of oil. Catching a glimpse of a bronze icon means seeing a tiny metallic face nearly swallowed up by mounds of garlands and jewels. There’s a wild beauty to it, but it is a definite contrast to the quiet sweetness of the Chola bronze.

A week in Kallidaikurichi – “city amidst hills” – gave me the incredible opportunity to slip into life in a traditional South Indian village as it prepared for a series of processions and other festival activities. I really loved playing with the young brahmin boys in the temple, and photographing them when they stood still for long enough.

The beauty of these boys on the brink of adolescence seemed like such a delicate thing – and made me think of the poems of the medieval Tamil poet-saints, said to have inspired sculptors during Chola times. These are all hymns sung to the Lord Shiva, and are full of really delightful and vivid odes to male beauty. Quotations follow.

Photos are mainly from Kallidaikurichi, with a few from the city of Madurai further north, where I am currently staying to see the annual Chitrai festival at Meenakshi Amman temple. All text is quoted from translations in “Poems to Siva” (http://www.amazon.com/Poems-Siva-Princeton-Library-Translations/dp/0691067678).

“When shall I see and worship the young man
who lives in Kanapper of green fields?”

“You who wear the dancer’s anklet
on your beautiful feet,
dwelling in Tiruvanmiyur,
where devotees, deep in meditation,
worship you with sandal paste and cool water
and fragrant smoke from aloe sticks,
explain the wonder of your taking for your color
the sunset’s brilliant hue.”

“He shares his form with the Goddess
whose shoulders curve gracefully like the bamboo.”

“He’s my bright diamond,
good days, and auspicious stars,
ardent planets too.
He is ambrosia untasted,
butter in milk, juice in the fruit,
melody in song.”


“He came to us singing songs in varied rhythms,
and took us by force.
He shot the arrows of his eyes at us,
with speeches that stir up passion
He skillfully seduced us, made us sick with love.”

“If you could see

the arch of his brow,
the budding smile
on lips red as the kovai fruit,
cool matted hair,
the milk-white ash on coral skin,
and the sweet golden feet,
raised up in dance!
Then even human birth on this wide earth
would become a thing worth having.”

“Now he is gone,
taking my beauty with him,
leaving me pale as the kumil flower”

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