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July 23, 2007

brush with Dali

I'm a Salvador Dali fan as well as a Grateful Dead fan, but it never crossed my mind to inquire whether these two forces of overstimulation of the cosmic imagination ever met up.

Until today, when, as my cosmic luck would have it, Rock Scully's "Living with the Dead" arrived in the mail. While flipping through it, I quite happened upon page 293, which relates the details of the meeting -- beginning with "Jerry Garcia fondling an ostentatiously embossed invitation...."

I couldn't find a transcription of the passage online, and I'm too lazy to transcribe portions of the book. But fortunately, a cartoonist has obliged, and here's the text of the invitation as cut from the cartoon (a cut and paste I hope Dali would approve):

DeadInvitation.jpg

According to Scully (who was the Dead's manager for years), Dali and the Dead did meet up, and it was surreal for all concerned.

While I hate transcribing, I figured one little detail wouldn't hurt -- especially when that detail involves art. While of course he's much better known as a guitarist, Jerry Garcia was also an artist (whose paintings have turned out to be quite a good investment over time), and it thus would have been natural to expect him to ask a question along artist-to-artist lines.

Jerry asks what kind of brushes he uses to get such microscopic detail.

"Tiny brushes. Tiny baby hair, soft as Gala's bottom, made from the pubic hair of capuchin monkeys."

It's exhausting being geniuses together, and Jerry goes to the bar to get himself a Bloody Mary.

Whether this is true, I have no way of knowing, but it sounds plausible. It would have been in character for Dali to give an answer like that even if it was hogwash, as he saw words as things to be used in much the same way he used paint, and he enjoyed putting people on in order to get a rise out of them.

But as a serious fan of Dali and the Dead, I thought this seemingly microscopic detail was worth examining.

Fortunately for the Capuchin monkeys, there don't seem to be any Capuchin pubic hair paintbrushes under discussion online. Or Capuchin hair paintbrushes. Hardly a thing about Capuchin monkey hair.

However, my failure to find Google references does not rule out the possibility that some artists might have used Capuchin or other monkey hair to make paintbrushes. Monkey hair has been used to make fishing flies, and according to this account, an artist named Elizabeth Andrews was willing to pay quite a lot of money for monkey hair for paintbrushes:

She offered me quite a bit of money if I could get pink-speckled monkey hair for her. Apparently, the monkey's hair makes the best paintbrushes in the world."
So, it's possible (although barely) that Dali used monkey hair brushes, although I'd never heard about it before. I think it's more likely that he heard about it from somewhere, and surrealized the details to fit the surreal narrative he liked to paint of himself. With Dali, there is no way to know.

In a way, my research into this illustrates how silly blogging can be. Let's face it, very, very few people want to know whether Capuchin public hair was ever used to make Dali's paintbrushes, or whether Dali was having a little fun at Jerry's expense.

There are, I am sure, more pressing issues facing the world today.

Hmmm...

Like what? Like whether Rudy Giuliani screamed "bull5hit" years ago? Glenn also mentions the floating of rumors that Fred Thompson might be gay. (I was so disgusted after spending time with that non-issue that Capuchin pubic hair now looks refreshing.)

I don't mean any disrespect, but I think Capuchin pubic hair in paintbrushes is more important than whether Giuliani screamed "bull5hit," and I'll really stick my neck out here and venture that it's of greater cosmic significance than even the false gay rumor-mongering about Fred Thompson.

Can't we get a little more surreal?

MORE: I don't know why, but perhaps in a moment of weakness I succumbed to reality, and I watched (albeit grudgingly) the video Ann Althouse links of the supposedly "unhinged" Giuliani saying "bull5hit." Unhinged, my ass! He looks like a New York politician running for office in 1992.

Surely, they're not serious.

But I am serious about the need to get more surreal! As an example of how this might work, Glenn Reynolds linked a suggestion by The Economist that Fred Thompson get a toupee. With all due respect for The Economist, I think a toupee on Thompson would be downright tacky -- as well as deadly dull.

But a pink-speckled monkey hair toupee -- now, that would liven up the race.

No bull5hit!

AND MORE: As the subject came up, I thought brief word on toupee surrealism in politics would be in order. While it's been tough to figure them out, here are the rules on toupees as a political issue as best as I can determine them:

1. If you have a toupee, you will be ridiculed for it if you are a Republican.

2. If, like Fred Thompson, you "need" but do not have a toupee, you will be ridiculed for needing one.

3. If you do not need and do not have a toupee, you will accused of wearing one anyway (and ridiculed).

I don't think I need a toupee, nor would I ever wear one. So far, I have kept a low profile by not running for office and by not being Glenn Reynolds.

A pink-speckled monkey hair toupee right now would be superfluous.