...Not the kind of wheel you fall asleep at...

Mr. Bellmer

I was recently flipping through a heavy book of surrealist artwork, reigniting the old flame I have for ye ol' grandmaster of surrealism himself, Salvador Dali. (I have a wicked, long-standing crush on the man, though I think this may partially be because, as evidenced in The Secret Life of Salvador Dali, he is just so delightfully strange, strange enough that he would, as a child, rescue a dying bat, return to it the next morning to find it dead and swarming with ants, and then bite into it. Such tales! And I like that either a) he was a weird enough child to do such a thing, or b) he had balls big enough to have completely fabricated such a story and passed it off as truth. And also, of course, because of his moustache. If I had the capability, I would SO rock out with the handlebar.)

Anyways, I am still floored by his art every time I see a piece hanging in an art museum. His artwork is so iconographic and prints of his works are so mainstream that you tend to forget that the real things actually have brush strokes, tiny little crazy little brush strokes, involved, and being reminded blows my mind every time.

Anyways, I was flipping through this book, and I faltered when I came to a section on Hans Bellmer, whose work I'd never seen before. His life-size "dolls" center around the concept of the ball joint, and apparently he'd create all the parts to a single doll and then take her apart and reconstruct her in a variety of different eroticized poses again and again to photograph for a series. And the results are just DISTURBINGLY beautiful.

Which left me wondering, should I be weirded out that I'm attracted to disturbing art that is kind of the equivalent of staring at car accidents and mangled bodies on the freeway? Or that desire you sometimes feel just to put a cigarette out on your skin to see how bad it would hurt? Or having that thought that pops into your head while you're driving that ONE twist of the wheel and you could so easily send yourself plunging off that bridge?

For most of us, something stops us from the follow-through. So maybe that's why it's so strangely and horrifyingly appealing to see someone who doesn't have these impulses in check. To see someone who clearly looks at women as objects--tits and limbs pieced together to pleasure--and isn't afraid to put that cigarette to his flesh through his art and not roll down his sleeves to embarassedly hide the results.

I'm a big fan of artwork that is viscerally unsettling, slightly haunting, in form or content. I like being made uncomfortable through the destruction of the expected. I like to see form carefully exploded. But with Bellmer I'm torn between admiring this ability to give in unashamedly to impulse and feeling angry towards what is clearly a disturbing misogyny--the female form dismembered and reconfigured by male hands again and again.

So I'm a bit bothered that I'm so goddamn viscerally attracted to his sculptures.

But the subconsious likes what it likes, right? Right??

(Please to pat me on the head and mutter reassurances now, thank you.)



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