Friday, May 29, 2015

Rossetti & His Women ~ Mad, Passionate, Obsessed, Delightful

Artists are weird. I am weird. I've always known this. This past week I have been reading about artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his adherents in the Pre-Raphaelite art Movement. Rossetti is well known to the public today as his women have been extensively reproduced as posters, book covers and so forth. But what a story lies behind those paintings! It would be hard enough to imagine this story much less live it. The above painting is the second version of "Lady Lilith." Rossetti took his first painting of Lady Lilith which showed a former lover as the model, Fanny Cornforth. He now much preferred his new model's face. She was Alexa Wilding. So he painted Alexa's face over Fanny's body. But this story pales next to the ones which follow.
The top model when Rossetti founded the Pre Raphaelite movement was Elizabeth Siddall. She posed for another founder's most famous painting, "Opehlia" by Millais in 1850, above. Rossetti was besotted with her from then until they married in 1860 and even more so when she died in 1862. Siddall had delivered a still born child and shortly afterwards killed herself by taking an overdose of laudanum (morphine and codeine). Rossetti was so distraught that he buried all of his unpublished poetry with her. Years later he had the poetry retrieved from her grave. But the most interesting thing he did about Elizabeth's death was to create his most popular painting, shown below.
This is "Beata Beatrix", painted between 1864–1870, depicting Beatrice Portinari, from Dante Alighieri's poem “La Vita Nuova,” as she dies. Rossetti modeled Beatrice after his late wife Elizabeth. The white poppy represents the laudanum, the means of Elizabeth's death. Rossetti said the painting was not supposed to represent her death but rather her sudden spiritual transfiguration.
From this Rossetti moved forward with other women as models, usually using someone with whom he was having an affair. Fanny Cornforth, above, he said was his housekeeper for several years while he was having an affair with her and painting her. This is one of her more well known poses "Bocca Baciata". Rossetti considered her the ideal of eroticism.
But his other model, he saw as an ethereal goddess, above. This was Jane Burden Morris, the wife of Rossetti's colleague and business partner, William Morris. Morris had left theology studies at Oxford to follow Rossetti's lead in becoming an artist. Morris subsequently became famous in his own right and today is mainly known for his textile designs. He revived the entire English textile industry. Both of these men were entranced by Jane, one as her lover and the other as her husband. This triangle was never broken. Rossetti deluded himself that Jane was kept by her husband against her will. Thus he painted her as Proserpine, Queen Guinevere and Desdemona, all women characters who fueled this same delusion of his, that the women were captives of their husbands, like Jane. The above is "Prosperpine" which he painted in 1874. Notice that Rossetti enlarged the faces so that they dwarfed every other element in the paintings of the women. The below is another painting of Jane, "The Day Dream," painted in 1880, just two years before he died.
The major collector of the paintings of women, Lowry, and also president of the Rossetti Society in England, had this to say about these paintings: "They are not real women. They are dreams. He used them for something in his mind caused by the death of his wife. They all came after the death of his wife." He may have been onto something because in the next painting, although Jane is the model, she has his late wife's auburn hair. This is "Pia de' Tolomei," inspired by a tale of Dante Aligheri about a woman whose husband imprisoned and later poisoned her, Rossetti's favorite delusion about Jane.
Rossetti died in 1882 at age 53 (born 1828). He was forced to stop living with Jane in 1874 after her husband William Morris broke off with him as a business partner. Then he developed a drug addiction to chloral hydrate. He also became an alcoholic. The two made him mentally unstable as well. His overall health declined as well with paralysis of the legs and kidney disease. He did manage to keep working right up until 1881 even though he had become a virtual recluse. These are images of him. They go clockwise from being a young man up to middle age.
One of his very last paintings, thought to be completed the year before he died, seems to encapsulate all of his romantic ideas and obsessions. This is below, "The Blessed Damozel." The entire painting is to the left whereas the blown up center of it is to the right.
I wrote a complete art history presentation on Rossetti for TPT which is located here.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Choices: To Be Or Not To Be Via the OR

There are plenty of choices each of us are facing who are in the senior category. These run the gamut from whether one should get married again to whether one should sign a pull the plug document...and continue to fan outwards from there. Tonight I am thinking about a certain kind of choice that most of us are facing though and that choice is surgery. Increasingly we are told of one or another type of surgery that we need to seriously consider getting and there we are: To be cut or not to be cut? We will probably not be if we don't get cut is the worst of it.

I am generally good at going ahead and saying yes and getting it done. With the knee, however, I put it off for years and tried to handle it by getting various shots to handle the pain. I ended up with a hell of a vision problem as a result. The cortisone for my knees ended up in my eyes and caused a horrible swelling and loss of vision. For a short while I was thought to be going blind. Today I am still working on the vision problem but it is much, much better. And I finally got the knee done. As you know, that has not been a good event overall.

I had boned up on some of the complications of these knee replacements before the surgery. One woman I met did experience the blood clot complication. She lived but some do not who get the blood clots. Another man posted on a knee forum that both of his testicles had swollen to abnormal size after the knee surgery and he was confined to a rehab center for a long time until the testicular swelling came down. He was in total agony. It was an unusual complication but it has happened before. Just about every complication has occurred with this major knee surgery. Then there are those who have no complications at all and are quickly back to normal life. One woman in an online forum was so pleased with the way her first knee had gone so flawlessly that she had the second knee done only six months later. With that one she got major complications and was still hard at work trying to fix some of them. So there is no telling where your experience will fall on the spectrum of outcomes. Some of these people were wondering if any of these were malpractice cases but it seems unlikely. This surgery has lots of listed complications and are included in the risks you agree to undertake in having this surgery.

My foot was frozen in a down position and hung at an odd angle. The toes would not go up at all. I have worked my butt off on exercising this leg and within the last week the foot came back some. I can now lift my foot up again. That foot has a long way still to go but since it was not paralyzed, it was considered probable that it would come back. I am more hopeful than at any time since I woke up from the operation about my leg. However, I do need to also get the other knee done at some point in the future. A few months ago when I was in the first throes of this I thought to myself, Well, maybe you'll just die of something else before the 2nd knee surgery comes due. And that cheered me up!

I have also talked to quite a number of you who are also waiting for one surgery or another or in some cases several surgeries and are getting them arranged in order of priority. Some of you have to get your blood pressure numbers in better shape or your iron or potassium levels improved or fulfill some other medical demand that makes you surgery ready. You don't know whether to love the reprieve or hate the waiting. In the end it will be a crashing bore getting there and then a lot of pain getting out of there.

I have stopped worrying about the anesthesia killing me. I used to worry about this but I have my papers in order so that my plug can be pulled. There are so many worse things that can happen to me in terms of complications of surgery at this older age that at least with anesthesia I can say, "Ok, that one is handled and there isn't anything else you can do about it. You won't know about it if it does happen. Case closed."

Why are so many of us facing these choices? It is quite simple. We outlasted the rest of our generation. It is in general our time to join them but medical science is so much better that we are given one chance after another to lengthen it out some more. Let's just do some time jumps. In 1900 life expectancy for a woman was 48.3 years. I will turn 67 in August. I would be dead if I were living then and it would have been for awhile. By 1950 the number changed to 71.1. I'm now getting awfully close to that 1950 age and I would be in countdown mode most likely. By 2000 that had increased to 79.49 which gave me a nice extra breather, over a decade more. In 2015 that increased to 82.19. I picked up 15 potential extra years. All told, in 115 years as an American woman I have gained 33.89 years of potential life. Did I really think I was going to get that without having any surgery or replacement parts?! Fat chance!

There are 173 nations in which I am already past their life expectancies. Those nations have a number of problems such as poor medical care, diseases, starvation, famine, wars, civil unrest and so forth. As a sampling, South Africa comes in the lowest, where life expectancy has not even reached the age of 50. It is 49.72. In Afghanistan, I can expect only 50.87 but, of course, it is almost constantly at war. Here's the chart. The lighter your color of green, the fewer the years you get. The darker the color, the longer the years.

If you go over to the actual web page, every place you position your cursor will show you the exact life expectancy underneath your cursor. Go here. Most of the places with the long life expectancies have people more like us than unlike us. Australia, Canada, and western and northern Europe have very long life spans. Africa is clearly the worst. Moving east across Europe in general is not so hot either. We also keep our diseases in better check. We do not have most major infectious diseases rampaging through our population. We have vaccines for the worst of these diseases and more on the way. There is one ebola vaccine now applying for release and it looks like it might get it. I will certainly not be resisting getting it.

So, okay, more surgery, more tests, more medicines, more of all of this endless medical adventure, including most likely Leg #2. A crashing bore, a lot of pain, endless personnel I'd like to strangle and yet.... 33.89 more years is nothing to just take for granted. It can be seen as one extra life span, especially when one takes in these American life expectancy figures found here:
1750-1800: 36 years
1800-1850: 37 years
1850-1900: 40 years

Friday, May 15, 2015

Astrology & Zodiac Art, An Art Work for Each Sign

I am going through my computers and back up drives and what a mess of files I've uncovered. Here are astrology art files of mine I just found in this vast horde of files. Do I believe in astrology? Not particularly but I like its imagery. For awhile, I made books which were filled with astrology images. I gave a few away as gifts. I had a special printer at the time that would print these images on handmade mulberry Oriental paper. The printer died on me and I had no other use for it so the books died at the same time. Not that I have any desire to go back to doing that. It was ok for that moment in time and then I completely lost interest. I have a very low threshold of boredom so this happens to me a lot. Why did this interest me? I liked the ancient symbols I was coming across online plus had some new filters to try out in Photoshop. So I just played with it. I am a Virgo on the cusp of Leo. We are known for our Felix like qualities, being fuss budgets. It mentions not one word that I am the Oscar instead. Hence, my low belief in the subject matter. Enjoy your own sign here and download and print it if you wish. These are not high res images though so big prints won't work.