I’m not usually big on messages from the universe, but shortly after I downloaded Edgar Allan Poe’s one long-form work of fiction — The Narrative of Arthur Pym of Nantucket — I returned to the “Mystery of the Ordinary” Magritte show at the Museum of Modern Art (for my third visit). Each time I see this particular collection of paintings, I’m struck by something else. Different paintings capture me and different paintings inspire me. On this last visit, I became captivated by the part Poe played in one of Magritte’s great works of surrealism.
It’s called “Not to Be Reproduced” and the painting is a man standing in front of a mirror over a mantelpiece, but the reflection in the mirror shows the same back of his head as you see in the foreground. Magritte’s joke is startling and wonderful at the same time.
This time I was drawn to the book on the mantelpiece beside the man and his reflection — it was Poe!
The first time I went to see this particular exhibit I went alone and was drawn to Magritte’s word games. He plays a series of brain games with the viewer — mislabeling ordinary objects or tickling you with titles that undermine what you are seeing. His ‘This is Not a Pipe’ is a painting of a pipe and the ‘The Landscape’ is a painting of an empty frame with a hunting rifle. His clever, literary games are catnip for writers.
On my second visit, I went with my friend Wendy — a sculptor. I love seeing art with a visual artist. She makes me look at art from a different perspective. Wendy helped me understand how Magritte flattened color while he played with illusions about space and time. The Dadaist collages and the paintings that screamed ‘science fiction’ scenarios, were jumping out at me.
My third visit, the Poe visit, was with my old friend/brother Tom. His theory about all the crazy, inspiring images was unique. “It’s the beer,” he concluded. The Belgian beer is behind all the wonderful insanity!
Between Poe and Magritte — I think he may be right! Now, I have to read that novel.