Invisible Sleeping Woman, Horse, Lion

By Salvador Dali
(That picture of metaphor)
I make you immortal.
No one can place themselves outside time; only an other’s concept of them, creation of them can be perfect enough to bear time beyond one’s life. The eternal only exists in our minds and even there only briefly; the tick-tock of time in our heads built for calculation can not support the incalculable expanse of the continuous.
You hate it there.
That I would even express you so, embarrasses you, but nothing in this world, of this time solely, befits you. That thought of you, that creation that you have brought to me can not be borne by a portion of time: even the expression of it is, as you have said,”unbearable”.
So I made you invisible
so you could bear it. I made you a metaphor. The Goddess, the Muse, Heaven, silence, touch, forces of nature, flowers, diamonds, sky, life, time: love herself, as even she can not see herself, and every way I will hide you to express you will not be enough. When I look at anything I do, I see the invisible sleeping woman and when I see you in my mind, no one can stop me from braiding violets in your hair, not even you.
*
So that is the eternal for you, for us. What is the temporal expression of you as I am with you in this life? We are in a gallery and walk hand in hand before this Dali “Invisible Sleeping Woman, Horse, Lion”. I would expect your reaction to be similar to “Oh, My (God!)”. At first blush, rightfully so. You would turn to me: you know I’ve been studying Dali and you know I will go on with the slightest encouragement. I say,
“This isn’t about sex. Dali said this is about desire but I suspect it’s actually about his fear of inadequacy with his wife. He always painted himself and his wife Gala into every picture and preferred phantasms, nightmares, to reality in this period. I read an interview with him where he talked about this picture and he placed himself not as one of the sexual characters in the front of the scene but as one of the exhausted characters struggling with the boats, presumably his art, in the background; characters so minor I didn’t even see them before he called my attention to them.
Dali, according to the accounts I’ve read, did not have much of a sex life before he met and married Gala. Gala, on the other hand, had been married previously and had had, shall we say, a “full” life. There is only one, repeated, female form in the painting, so we can assume that is Gala. She is drawn non distinct, amorphous, existing before Dali knew her, or in a dream state. Notice the extreme “endowment” of the male in the couples. Notice the perfection of the male torsos. These are Dali’s fears, fears that she wished for more than he was, wished that he was “endowed” like a horse and fierce as a lion when he knew he was just a fisherman struggling with a boat. The fact that she is expressed as sleeping suggests that Dali knew Gala loved him, but still suspected that she harbored thoughts of the past or unfulfilled dreams.
The reason I spent so much time with this painting, so much research, so much analysis is about a week prior to seeing this painting for the first time, I started a work of my own about sexuality that was a metaphor about lions and zebras, predator and prey. We are so savage with each other, taking what we need from the other, that the only corollary would be a life and death struggle. Which I suppose sex is, from a biological viewpoint. It’s the brutal honesty I love. I know I am a lion and a zebra for you as you are for me. I don’t feel like a spectator to your fantasies, like Dali does, and I thank you for that. There is nothing in our sex that makes me think I am anything more than a victim of your desire, realized, and made perfect. That is how it should be, in my opinion.”
At this moment I look away from the picture, to your smile, noticing for the first time others gathered around us, ashen-faced. I smile at them and wink, saying, “We’re rehearsing a play.” The look comes on their faces, “Theatre People” and they go about their business.
I continue, “It’s the mercy of you. When you are fully upon me, that whole, flawed, frustrating world and the weakness it puts in me, that can not coexist, can not bear up to you. It’s no different than the lion thinning the herd: what else is there for the weakened but decline or destruction, gradual loss or a summary moment, that moment of essence both for the predator and prey when they are both most perfect in their natures and in nature? Beautiful in a way no one would ever consider violence to be, but unfettered, uncensored, unrelenting beauty running wild, trampling any other thought of the world. The lion as most lion, most actualized, pure, instinctual, prescient and historical- all moments of his life having lead to this one, the same as his prey. How is the convulsion of flesh under teeth and claws, that shock of life expressed in a moment, different from the shuddering of our bodies except in degree? The French call a climax “the little death” and I can see truth in it.
I tell you I love you, tell you that you are love to me and what is that to our flesh? Our bodies are not eternal and don’t care for art, the ethereal, the continuous love that is beyond its grasp. Its love is not soft and gentle: it’s carnage, exhausting to bear, filling you, sustaining you, bringing your essence into existence, purifying it, and then allowing the continuous love to come forward into the world. It’s the hierarchy of needs in action: in order for there to be actualization of the individual, the basic needs must be satisfied. Only after the satisfaction of those needs are the higher abstractions of love and beauty fully realized. It is the confusion of continuous love, the abstract love, with the temporal form of love, the form love takes in the moment, the confusion of the spiritual with the physical, thought with touch, that leads to both bad art and bad sex. They both contribute to the actualization of the other but are distinctly different and exist at different levels of the hierarchy.
When a child is born, it is touch that awakens it to this world. Touch is the most basic, unsophisticated, instinctual of all our senses and the most electric. Sight, hearing, even taste and smell, all operate in a learned context; visual beauty varies, as does musical preference, taste in food and scent, but touch is universal in understanding, seeming to operate at a level above or beneath consciousness. It’s only after the instinct to withdraw your hand from flame that we realize that there was flame and the lighting quickness of the reflex tells you how basic and evolutionary that sense is. I believe it is the power of touch that is the prime driver of possessiveness, wishing no other to claim that which is most pleasing to that sense.
I was thinking this morning about the girls, M. and S. They are both extraordinarily sensitive to touch but in very different ways. M., who has autism, doesn’t like to be touched; I suspect that it distracts her from her inner world that she prefers. S., on the other hand, can not sleep at night without being in contact with some familiar touch; a blanket, a stuffed animal or a person that she is comfortable with. Given that they are sisters and that autism has some unknown external trigger, I started to wonder if M.’s autism was not so much caused by the medicine of the shots, as I have long suspected, but by the actual pain of the shot flipping a trigger in her brain, telling her mind that the world is pain and to avoid it. They keep telling us there is no medical link, maybe it is a physical, instinctual link like pulling your hand from flame. They are both so sensitive to touch and pain, it made me wonder: if touch can be the prime driver of attachment to another or to this world doesn’t it make sense that pain could cause detachment? Do you think anyone has studied that?”
I turn to you.
“I don’t know.” you say, still smiling, amused at and by me. pause, “So that’s Dali.”
“One of them, yeah. He’s a genius- they have others… Van Gogh’s, too.”
“You have a book on Van Gogh, too, don’t you?”
“An even bigger book. I love that you get me. So the Matisse, then?”
“I love that you get me, too.”
And she takes my hand.
*
This, of course, never happened just like no metaphor, no dream, no nightmare ever happens. Things are as they are and she is always the invisible sleeping woman.
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