Dec 9, 2007

Chapter 9

Jules Olitski and the View of Delft

John and Liv, husband and wife. John slowly developed Parkinson’s over a period of about 25 years. Slowly, slowly. With PD, there is no predicting how fast or how far it goes. Every case is different.

PD’ers are fascinated by dance to a remarkable degree. John had never seen a live dance performance, so Liv took him to see Margie Gillis.

John was swept away by the performance. And he swooned. Not as extreme as fainting, but he slid to the floor. Liv tapped him on the cheeks to revive him. He was overwhelmed by beauty. He swooned in a state of euphoria. With a little bit of help from the Selegiline and Mirapex pills.

A man in the row behind was expounding loudly that this kind of dancing should not be supported – look what it did to that poor man -- it is too personal and too emotional, and art should cause intellectual progress and not emotions - lest we slide into bourgeois individualism instead of collective something or other – and he was using art critic’s political terms, with a scornful critique of the dancer and the dance.

Liv was furious and stood up and told him to shut up and keep his arrogance to himself and he should just get to hell out of the building if he is too screwed up in his head to appreciate the height of creativity, and he replied crudely and disdainfully, and she reached over the seats and tried to slap him in the face but he ducked and John wrestled Liv back into her seat and told her not to start a riot and the man she had tried to slap threatened to call the police.

Fortunately, Margie Gillis was not distracted from her performance by the outbreak of swooning and arguing and slapping and wrestling and invocations of the Riot Act and calls for bringing in the police.

It was a grand evening.

Five or six years later, John and Liv were in a restaurant, discussing the cave paintings that portray people dancing, from 50,000 years ago, and Liv said that it is indeed amazing that people were dancing 50,000 years ago. But the reason we know this is that when the people were dancing, there was a painter standing there. Probably with an easel, wearing a French beret, and smoking Gauloises, with home-made paint, and rocks for his canvas. There was a painter interpreting the dancers, 50,000 years ago.

John said music and dance have the most powerful impact, and remember that time when he swooned at a Margie Gillis performance. Dancing and music are immediate, and swoonable, but a painting is for the ages, and its power grows with time, and is a one-of-a-kind item, but you would not swoon because of it.

And the waiter, bringing yet another bottle of red wine, said ,”Oh are you talking about Margie Gillis? That’s her over there.’ And they turned and looked, and there was Margie Gillis, about 5 tables away, eating supper like anybody else.

And John swooned.

He fell off his chair and had to be revived. Liv got down on the floor and held him in her arms, and asked, are you okay, and he said, yes, I am with you.

But friends thought the pills must be getting to him, and that these fainting episodes might be really dangerous.

Then Jules Olitski, who lived in the hill country just south of them, came to the rescue. He reclaimed the verb “to swoon”, as in, “to be overwhelmed by ecstatic joy.” And he was not a musician or a dancer. Except that, actually he was, but it happened to him in colors. He found the Zone in paint. Like the ones who painted the dancers 50,000 years ago. And it was swoonable.

Jules Olitski said: “... I remember coming all of a sudden upon Vermeer’s View of Delft. I was walking towards it, I must have been about twenty feet or more away, and I didn’t even know it was a Vermeer. One doesn’t swoon anymore since the nineteenth century, but like a maiden I swooned… it was the most beautiful painting I had ever seen.”

Jules Olitski

(1922 - 2007)

(Died of Parkinson's Disease)

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