Beauty Is Harsh
Thoughts and Ongoing Inspirations
All transformations are invested with mystery and are of shameful nature. Metamorphoses must be hidden from view, therefore the need for the mask. Secrecy tends towards transformation; it helps what one is, as well as in becoming what one would like to be. In unmasking oneself there is pity and terror. The mask one wears is a finely spun net, an artwork of hide-and-seek. It also constitutes the otherness in our existence, the want-to-be.
In James Ensor's painting "Astonishment of the mask Wouse" there are costumes of clowns strewn across the floor and masks of Death and Harlequins. A large female figure, dolled up with a long-nosed mask and holding an umbrella, looks on. More masks adorn the walls.
The scorpion in the mask of kindness asks the frog for help. The frog agrees to take the scorpion across the river on its back. In midstream, the scorpion stings the frog. As they both sink, the frog asks, "but why did you do that? Now we'll both die!" "Because it is my nature" is the scorpion's answer - inevitably the true nature surfaces.
"It expresses the sacred, inner path, which binds the outer consciousness of man, his intellect with his spirit". It is the unchanging psychic situation, the concept of binding and fettering, of corsetting and keeping in place. The endless knot is one of the eight emblems of good luck in Chinese Buddhism and longevity. The labyrinth of knotted cord is symbolic of life's inextricable tangle. To undo the knot is equivalent to finding the center in oneself.
Mexico's Indians celebrate the Day of the Dead, with a feast of drinking and dancing by the graves. Life and death are inevitably linked - knotted together in a ballet of the senses.
So is the male and female elemental in the opposite's existence. Likewise the Goddess Sekhmet in Egypt had the body of a woman with the head/mind of a lion. Often the Androgyne appears in myth as a male-female twin, like Artemis-Apollo, the moon and the sun united.
My grandmother left a box full of the most exquisite gloves. My mother would point out the fine quality of the leather, called "filet". Grandmother's hands were very small and fine-boned with long fingers. She never held anything heavy; but she banned the corset from her life and danced with Isadora Duncan, ate raw-grained cereals and associated with the suffragettes of her times.
In the lithograph by Max Klinger entitled "Entführung" ("Abduction"), a dragon comes flying through a broken window, a glove in his bird's beak. Two helpless, naked male arms are reaching through the broken glass, trying in vain to capture the lost possession. In the foreground is a rosebush.
The dragon, symbol of "things animal", represents the quintessential Beast stealing the female's skin of virtue; he robs the innocent of the protection of the glove as symbol. A gauntlet, both feminine and bellicose - think of throwing one's glove, demanding satisfaction. To keep one's glove on when shaking hands is impolite, means you have something to hide, that you don't wish to be open. Not to touch another's skin - to remain private and guarded. Taking no risks, like the wearing of a condom.
What does "The Palace of the Pedic Pleasures" offer its clientele? Is the shoe the erotic foot's pimp and procurer? The shoe and the foot have been sexual symbols throughout history - the shoe being the vulva, the foot the penis.
The bride tosses her shoe to the bridesmaids for good luck, and the bride's shoes are tied to the departing car or vehicle. Or the bride forever preserving her wedding shoes. In Cinderella, the shoe of glass eventually leads to the prince.
Chinese footbinding, seen by us as a cruel tradition, has fascinated millions of men into an uninhibited orgy of ecstasy and passion. The exercising of fetishes as fashion has existed not only in Chinese culture. The human character likes to bend and reshape; we prefer illusion to reality, especially where it enhances the erotic.
All over the world, transvestites delight in squeezing their feet into women's high-heeled shoes in order to impersonate the look and gait of the female. High-heeled shoes are a symbol of helplessness and sexual empowerment.
As fetish, the corset serves both as a symbol of union and as a symbolic obstacle. It separates the lovers, yet incorporates emotions of conquest and surrender, hesitation and yielding. The corset is magic because of its opposites. It creates a dynamic between restriction and movement, immobility and flow.
Becoming a bird oneself, or being accompanied by a bird, indicates the ecstatic journey to the sky and beyond. Like the Phoenix and the hawk/Horus of Egypt, these birds pass through the fire and are reborn with wings.
My birds are the Angels of the secrets of the night; they are also the angels of the human desire for fulfillment and the lure of love. To die means to fly away in the form of a bird, your soul. Bird and soul are brothers and sisters of the sun and moon, the male and the female principle.