June 2, 2014
For many years now, I have an original piece of artwork from Lotte Reiniger, which is part of her silhouette animated film made in 1935, called “Papageno,” which is based on Mozart’s popular opera “Die Zauberföte” (The Magic Flute). The work is in my office, and I look at it often while writing my memoir. The piece is important to me for numerous reasons. I have an interest in animation, especially from the 1920s to the late 30s, after that, I lost interest because in my thinking the earliest is the most dynamic, and afterwards its history being repeated over and over again. The other reason why I like this specific work is that it reminds me of the Tarzan film series starring Johnny Weissmuller. In the time of my childhood, I used to watch these films on a Saturday morning, which was in competition against the animated children programming on the other channels. My loyalty belonged to Cheeta, Boy, Jane, and of course Johnny. As well as to the Reiniger artwork.
Oddly enough, I purchased this piece without seeing the final film. It was years later that I came upon the film, and it reminded me of the romance between Tarzan and Jane, and the playful sexuality among the two. The silhouette figures make the work more dreamlike, but also it is quite erotic to me. Porn is a subjective category, what works for some, may not work for others, but Lotte’s film is like dipping into the pool of sensuality and I’m reminded of this every time I look at her piece on my wall. It wasn’t that long ago, while I was resting between writing, that I was listening to Charlie Watts’ “Live Fulham Town Hall” album and glancing at the artwork. I noticed something that was quite shocking at the time, and this was the fact that there are two silhouette figures on a tree limb on the lest side of the picture. The odd thing was now, there was only one, and the remaining figure is sitting on the tip of the limb. What happened to the other figure?
I went through a book on Reiniger’s work, and saw the piece I have, and yes, just to ensure that, there were two figures on that tree limb. I went to the kitchen and made myself a tequila sunrise, and came back to my office. I even took the picture off my wall to look behind it. Just in case the figure left the image, and somehow was hiding behind the artwork. Not there, of course! I took a place, with my drink, to figure this out logically, which is an error on my part, because my whole life is either controlled by the role of chance, and without a doubt logic has never been part of the picture.
I have often felt that art lives within pages of a book and of course as an object on a wall, but that was only a theory - now I’m seeing something else, that is making me re-think about how static one’s life is, and how that is expressed through art. That night I couldn’t sleep, and I was lured into my office in the middle of the night to examine the work again. I, at first, sat in my chair and was looking at the work in absolute darkness. Of course I couldn’t see it, but I sat there and imagined what it would look like. I’m aware of the great Oscar Wilde novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and I guess I was in a tad fearful that I was looking at Basil Hallward’s portrait, and like anyone else who wakes up in the middle-of-the-night, comes upon a fear that is deep and terrifying. I held my breath and turned on the light to examine the Reiniger, and what surprised me the most was the figure was back in the picture. I took my art book out and looked at that as well, and the figure is exactly placed and position as in the book. I now wonder if I suffered a mild insanity attack of some sort, or perhaps I entered a dimension like in the comic book Superman’s Bizzaro World. Nevertheless, after needing to examine the picture, I decided everything is well with the world and went back to bed.
The funny thing is that I avoided the office since then, and had the cleaning lady to bring my laptop to the living room, where I am typing as I address you. Sometimes we have no control of art, and art is what leads us by the hand or mind… I often feel alone, and I can imagine myself being embraced by Jane and Tarzan, as I wonder through the maze that is my head and heart.