We were walking along the edge of the ocean’s foam apron, water chasing our bare feet. Seaweed piled up in little pyramids on the sand, oozing sulfurous vapor that bit into the fresh air. With his big hands this hirsute man spoke as he gestured towards the skyline, saying that it is here in nature that he finds his savage muse.
In sculpture if you become too academic in poses and style, you are making an absentee of nature and thus life becomes absent from your work. We must unfreeze sculpture, life is the thing, everything is in it, and life is movement.
You should be at the order of Nature. A sculptor should take from life the movements that he observes but he should not impose them. Obey nature and do not command her and know that there is no recipe to improve nature, for it will become a lie. The secret is to ‘see’ her and not to just look at her.
The wind picked up and carried his words away but did not hinder his monologue.
What we commonly call ‘ugliness’ in nature can become full of great beauty in art. For the great artist everything in nature has character and that which has character is beautiful. That which is considered ‘ugly’ in nature in fact has more character for its inner truth shines through more so than that which we consider ‘beautiful’ in nature. Capturing this power of character in art makes the sculpture strong with value. There is nothing ugly in art except that which is without character, that lacks inner truth. That is why Baudelaire could make the festering corpse about love, why Velasquez could render the dwarf so touching.
As we stood under the shade of the palm trees he looked up and said that he is the confidant of these trees and this ocean; they talk to him like old friends. But his eyes now caressed the golden bodies of the sunbathers embedded in the sand; their limbs oiled and stretched to harvest every single ray of light.
Do you see their living detail?
Somehow through the years I have stopped paying attention to the loud tourist but with new eyes I scanned their bodies. The surface of their skin’s slight projections and depressions, the body itself a multitude of almost imperceptible roughness. Every body curved into an attitude, a story.
*Grunfeld V. Frederic, “Rodin. A Biography” Henry Holt. 1987.
*Rodin, A “Rodin on Art and Artists” Dover Publications. 1983.