Thursday, December 28, 2006

Madonna of the Spirits

Madonna of the Spirits

Madonna of the Spirits (2002)

From "Madonna" by Jane Miller and seen in Ploughshares:

As pop star, Madonna functions as an archetype directly inside contemporary culture. It goes without saying that her huge success taps an obsession with Christian mythology. She exists in the form of a Black Madonna, not unlike, for example, the polychrome wood statue in Sierra de Montserrat, in Spain, said to date from the twelfth century. According to legend, the figure was found by shepherds in a cave. On this mountain west of Barcelona, the Black Madonna is visited by thousands of pilgrims yearly as the patron saint of Catalonia -- a major tourist industry. "Our" pop Madonna -- the surety with which she gives herself away! -- has revitalized, with élan, with control, with pleasure, powerful iconography (one of the most powerful curses one can snap at another, in Spanish, is still "tu madre"; the same is true in Black America). The plastic joy Madonna takes in her illustration of the myth surfaces near the southern French coast, in Vence, in the Chapelle du Rosaire, decorated by Henri Matisse at age seventy-seven as a gift to the Dominican nuns of Monteils who had nursed him through an illness. There, lemon-yellow and sapphire-blue forms float in a large stained-glass window behind a simple altar. A forty-foot crescent-adorned cross rises from the blue-tiled roof. On the side wall, simple black figures painted on white tile. The Madonna holds an infant whose arms are outstretched to simulate a cross. Matisse says,

"What I have done is to create a religious space. . . in anenclosed area of very reduced proportions, and to give it solely by the play of colors and lines, the dimensions of infinity."

This sounds, to me, like one definition of poetry. Like Madonna, any serious artist is responsible to the archetypes and icons of the species.

I'm not really a fan of Madonna's music -- and, in fact, I've never paid much attention to her. However, I did write a short poem about her once:

Madonna Leaves Her Clothes On

and I
so slowly came to see
she has
a lovely voice.

And, now, it seems I've posted about her.

Uh-oh. On the path to obsessive fanboy toyishness?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


So proper with her white gloves
tightly clutching that portfolio
of women's fashions, taking a trolley
to downtown Cincinnati, she was
the only high school student
among grown-ups to attend
the Art Institute for special lessons
on commercial drawing.

The sweep of lines curved
to give dresses that elegant
texture of auburn tans
only cotton could convey
in the mystery of the late
forties when people still
believed there were rules
that governed good taste.

She is nobody's mother now;
she has departed for a time
before we were born, before
she ran away from home
to marry the man about to be
shipped overseas to war,
when there was still hope
for a career that could pay her way
through college and help
survive the depression.

Dr. Mike
[Disposable Poem December 30, 2006]

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