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Licking the climate of blasphemy

Among the highlights of my trip to Spain was visiting the various Salvador Dali museums including his house in Port Lligat, the official Dali Museum in Figueres, and the Castle in Pubol.

Dali fans will immediately recognize the unmistakable landscape of Port Llligat which Dali made famous. This is the first thing you see at the crest of the hill just above his house:


The house was originally a one-room fisherman's shack which Dali bought with proceeds from his art when he was very young, and remodeled over the years, adding a room at a time. The shack grew, meandering up the hill in haphazard fashion, eventually coming to look like this:


Looking over to the right from my vantage point in the last picture, another view of the tiny fishing port:


From inside the house, the view through the window of Dali's studio:


That landscape is in the background of many Dali paintings. In fact, that very same window can be seen in the self portrait Dali did of himself painting Gala:


While alas, I doubt I will ever be able to afford original art by Dali, I collect his prints when I can find them at decent prices, and I just scanned a recent acquisition -- "The Blasphemers" (Dali's depiction of Inferno, Canto 14).


You can see a hint of Dalinian landscape in the background -- and of course the Dalinian crutch. According to this critic, the tongue (a skull, IMO) represents the blasphemer:

The enormous tongue with teeth obviously represents the blasphemer's tongue, which has reduced him to a flaccid cripple, upheld by a crutch at one end, and flowing over a boundary at the other. The symbol is simply a meditation on the idea of blasphemy, and could have been created without the Dantean imagery at all, pure Dali. The case is not always as extreme, but there is no question that the enormous zest in Dali for his own symbologies and his own whimsy are the primary driving forces in the Inferno drawings, not a desire truly to illustrate Dante's text. He is not necessarily in disagreement with Dante, as Blake often is, but generally doing his own thing with themes supplied by Dante.
I have a tendency to see Dali in Dali, and I think he is also doing his own thing by revisiting a much earlier theme.

"Atmospheric Skull Sodomizing a Grand Piano," to be precise.

You didn't know skulls could do that? Take a look!


["Sex on the Beach at Port Lligat" might be a good alternative title.]

Here's Dali's description:

"The obsession, accordingly to which the jaws are the most philosophic instruments that man possesses. The lyricism of the piano is brutally possessed by the jaws of a fossil skull. This vision is a retinian product, a hypnogogic image of pre-sleep, occuring in the course of a siesta, contrary to the images resulting from the effects of mescalin, which can neveer reproduce instantaneous memories."
What Dali leaves out is the obvious similarity between skulls and grand pianos. The grand piano's shape is very skull-like, if you think about it, and the keys are like teeth.

Were I a skull, I'd probably think pianos were at least cute, if not irresistibly sexy.

It's not that much of a str-r-e-e-tch. And if the two managed to conceive something, I think it might look a lot like the blasphemers' tongue.

In "Soft Self Portrait with Fried Bacon" (1941), Dali seems to acknowledge that his own head looks like a grand piano, while the uncontrollable tongue threatens to get away from his head, pulling it inexorably downward:


Tongues, skulls, pianos, sodomy. A lot of seemingly unconnected parts to a very paranoid puzzle. It makes a great deal of sense to me, but I can't explain why. Dali being dead, the interpretation of his art can take place on an infinite playing field.

But the best for last. There's a crucial element which makes my paranoid side wonder whether Dali might have anticipated this essay.

Bureaucrats! And atmospherocephalic ones at that!

I kid you not.

In 1931, Dali painted "Average Atmospherocephalic Bureaucrat in the Act of Milking a Cranial Harp":


As if the bureaucrats didn't have enough to do.

(Obviously, "atmospherocephalic bureaucrats" is code language for those who have global warming on the brain, and they're planning to sodomize the lyricism of our pianos and use their unending tongues to administer an endless licking all the way to hell.)

MORE (01/12/07): What happens when skulls and evil bureaucrats merge? In 1968 Dali did the "Aliyah" series to commemorate the founding of Israel, and one of the images seems to be (in my opinion, anyway) a revisitation of his piano-sodomizing skull.


The title is "Yea, Though I Walk Through The Valley."

I think the image of the skull (death) with the multitudes fleeing is an obvious reference to the Nazis (whose bureaucrats of death used the skull as insignia) and of course the Holocaust.

(Needless to say, I think the man's utter genius will become more and more apparent over time. Many critics couldn't see past his carefully staged buffoonery.)

UPDATE (01/15/07): I just stumbled upon another image which I think shows that Dali was quite aware of the similarity between skulls and pianos -- "Skull with its Lyric Appendage Leaning on a Bedside Table which Should Have the Exact Temperature of a Cardinal's Nest" (1934):


If the temperature is right, fertilization occurs?

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