The fog is a strong presence outside today, and undoubtedly it reminds me of the symbol of Auden's last works. The fog is not only an element of weather that creates a different sense of space and feeling of being outside (moisture hanging heavy in the air) but it is also an element of ambiguity, an obscurer, the thing that erases edges that are a distance away. Its density is at once tangible and soft, and I actually find it quite comforting, even in the winter months.
Is there a visual reminder connected to fog? To a sort of passage that could be connected to what is after life? Not 'the afterlife', mind you, which is a concept wrought with pre-determined images. I might argue that fog creates a spatial complexity that leads to our typically path-oriented minds to be less sure of the direction in which one should travel, in a metaphoric and metaphysic sense. It is not that we don't know where we are going, but the space that we typically understand as being a part of the journey is less clear than normal.
Posthumous works of art and literature support this idea, I believe. One of the most astounding things I've seen at the Art Institute was a series (a progression) of Ivan Albright's self portraits, two of which are below. The last portrait he did before his death (1983) is shocking. Though it may sound obvious, his head takes up less and less space in each composition. The portraits seem fuller of questions at the end, not finality or decisiveness that would point towards an artist at their peak. This is not to assert that artists make their best work at some other time and then slowly fall downhill until death; rather, it is to say, that death is a progression that is unavoidable, but it is not related to making. I would also argue that it is hard for any maker to live up to the pressure of last works and posthumous work; the symbol that they stand for themselves is enough.
I remember being curious about Gilbert Stuart's unfinished portrait of George Washington in my art history texts--wondering why it was important in terms of art history. I think of it as an amazingingly important work to my own understanding of the phenomenological power of an image and a painting; but I don't think that is often the topic of art history books.
Other posthumous works that I have been interested in are Wei Wu Wei's Posthumous Pieces (which was printed in Hong Kong many years before Wei's death, but is still interesting in this context, as it deals with the death of a sense of individuality or identity in some respects) and Roberto Bolano's 2666. There is a wiki list of works published posthumously, found here:
Ivan Albright, Self Portrait 1980 Ivan Albright, Self Portrait, 1983
|Gilbert Stuart, 1796|
|January 28, 2013 Des Moines, Iowa|