ICH SEHE DEN KOPF DES PANTHERS IM DUNKEL DER NACHT. By Dietmar Goessweiner.
AMERGIN AGAIN. By Joe Eldredge. hUMILITY pRESS, West Tisbury, 2009. $15, softcover.
First a bit of provenance to explain how this particular esoteric art book, written exclusively in German, right down to the last umlaut, is now coming to the attention of Vineyard readers, art lovers, scholars and psychologists: Ich Sehe den Kopf des Panthers im Dunkel der Nacht (as most of you well know that translates to I See the Head of the Panther in the Dark of the Night) was written by Dietmar Goessweiner who married Christine West, daughter of the late and celebrated Islanders, Isabel and Francis (Pat) West.
Pat West was a nautical instrument designer and sailor, well known in these parts for his 38 foot sloop, Venture, and as the founder of the end-of-season regatta in Vineyard Haven. Isabel, who died last June at the age of 97, was a longtime Gazette correspondent, author and Island historian. The Wests and their two children, Nathaniel and Christine, spent three years in Paris and took numerous trips, both on the high seas and on foreign terra firma, which may have contributed to Christine West’s yen to marry a European art scholar and to reside on Walriss Strauss, Vienna. The Goessweiners, who have three grown sons, Thomas, 29, and twins, Peter and Georg, 26, live in Vienna and make occasional visits back Martha’s Vineyard.
Ich seche den Kopf, published abroad but available with an English print-out of the text, is, at the very least, a gorgeous coffee-table book. From front to back, it’s printed on black pages with white words, each page containing one of 23 popular masterpieces (e.g. Leonardo da Vinci’s The Adoration of the Magi, Rubens’ Minerva Protects Pax from Mars, Cezanne’s The Large Bathers). On each opposing page, a small black and white insert hints at the area of the artwork worth a long and searching perusal.
Here’s how it works:
In each of these paintings Mr. Goessweiner has identified what he terms a “discovery,” a vague shape or vision or enigma not seen before that points to the unconscious. The examiner holds the book at a distance, closes one eye and waits, two minutes, five minutes, fifteen minutes. What eventually emerges, as Mr. Goessweiner explains, is a face, animal or human, or a facial structure, animal or human. This reviewer came up empty with the eponymous panther in the painting by da Vinci of John the Baptist (or Johannes der Taufer), but the alleged lamb in another da Vinci, The Virgin of the Rocks (or Madonna in der Felsengrotte) was pretty darn evident.
It’s hard for the Philistines among us — and I reluctantly admit I am myself a died-in-the-wool Philistine — to know whether looking at any of these images for fifteen minutes or cross-eyed or standing on one’s head, will produce an image real or imagined. It’s also impossible to conclude that the artists themselves had that much murky subtext going on during the creation of their paintings; certainly each work is amazing and magnificent enough for its obvious beauty and symbolism to stand on its own.
Thus, even without the search for deep dark clues to the artist’s — and our own — unconscious, these 23 paintings are well worth examining for their more tangible features. And there’s certainly no undue exertion in closing one’s eye and waiting for some dark wraith to suddenly materialize; in fact it’s kind of fun. Certainly people from Vienna seem to have a knack for calling up the most deeply buried of our psyche’s treasures and terrors, and if this quest can be transferred to great Art, where’s the harm?
For more information or to order Ich Sehe den Kopf des Panthers im Dunkel der Nacht, go online to the Website, firstname.lastname@example.org.
A new book a bit more accessible for us Islanders is poet Joe Eldredge’s new collection, Amergin Again. Mr. Eldredge has plied his trade both as an architect and as a poet for the past 50 years. Earlier publications include a 1975 history of the architecture of Boston and Dionis, a tribute to the late Dionis Coffin Riggs, who with George Mills organized group readings for a number of years. Mr. Eldredge also published an earlier chapbook of his poems, Poet’s License, along with reviews and essays including one that backed up Henry Beetle Hough’s belief that Shakespeare’s Tempest occurred on Cuttyhunk.
This new work of Mr. Eldredge’s is part of the poet’s goal to connect the gods of Sumer to the bards of the North. As arcane as that sounds, these poems teem with passion and instantly visual wordplay such as the following lines from I am a Hawk: Above the Cliff:
You, or what I see as you, are an easy reason why.
Through the wondrous apertures of your eyes, or
irrepressibly wondrous words, I need to confirm
that a hungry Universe wishes to continue to exist.
Amergin Again is available in Island bookstores and can also be ordered online at the Web site hUMILITYpRESS.org.