Dali!

SALVADOR

By arty emmet

It wasn’t me. It was nasty old Henry Ford who said “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”
Now, I know that Henry was a nasty anti-Semitic old bird, but I believe this. In fact someone put it on the electronic message board, Facebook, yesterday. I took it as an omen and arranged a long-overdue trip to the Salvador Dali museum in nearby St. Petersburg.
Talk about surreal. A Dali museum in Florida?
I know nothing about art, only what Bob Besaw and Bob Marino have taught me. But I do know what I like and was always fascinated by Dali’s bizarre imagery of melting clocks, nudes with drawers in their belly and of course the lobster phone. I was also fascinated by Dali’s life which he considered to be another art form, with flowing capes, a trademark handlebar moustache and a cane.
Since the weather forecast was for rain in western Florida, I drove off to the Dali Museum. The St. Pete waterfront was readying for a car race through city street, right by the museum door. I think Dali would have loved that.
One thing I have learned about museums. Never enter and walk around unguided. You will learn nothing.
The Dali museum tour started with his earliest works as a boy in Spain. The painting was not of nudes with holes in their chests, but a shockingly mundane seascape painted on burlap, discarded by local fishermen. Hey, you have to start somewhere.
Dali’s fertile mind was affected by a Freud book on dreams, then by meeting Pablo Picasso, the tour guide emphasized. That would change anyone’s viewpoint. Dali then started paying as much attention to his dreams as Brian Willson. Dali’s were much more interesting.
In his early period, Dali painted a standard, highly praised portrait of his sister. After meeting Picasso, he returned to the work and turned it into a surrealist masterpiece, over painting her image upside down, much like a Queen playing card.
I had always thought that the Dali imagery was simpleminded madness, possibly augmented by the very heavy use of drugs. Live and learn. The museum tour pointed out the careful imagery of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost in many paintings, the crucifixion, even the advent of the atomic bomb.
Who knew?
When Dali was approaching graduation from art school his bureaucrat father expected his son to go into teaching art, to make a decent living. Right. Not only did Dali dismiss his art teachers as far beneath him, he rejected a career teaching art.
His father promptly disinherited him.
Dali promptly painted “The Average Bureaucrat” with his father’s image. The figure had holes in his head and snails where his brain should be and, significantly had no ears. Most teenagers could sympathize with the concept. But deep, deep in the background, a tiny father and son walk, hand in hand, a possible hope for reconciliation.
The famous soft watches, supposedly modeled after melting camembert cheese, symbolized Americans who constantly checked their watches. “They are always in a hurry, a terrible hurry and their watches are terribly stiff, tough and mechanical,” the artist said.
Every day was art for Dali.
When he was introduced to American art audiences in 1934, supporters threw a “DaliBall.” The artist attended, wearing a glass case on his chest, which contained a brassiere. At a costume party later that year, Dali and his model-muse, Gala came dressed as the Lindberg baby and his kidnapper. The resulting uproar in the press was so great that Dalí issued a very rare apology.
In 1936, Dali delivered a lecture in London wearing A deep sea diving suit, complete with a helmet. He commented that “I just wanted to show that I was ‘plunging deeply’ into the human mind.”
At the 1938 New York World’s Fair, he constructed a surrealist pavilion, complete with nude models adorned with fresh seafood.
My kind of surrealist.
I must confess that I never knew that Dali worked with Alfred Hitchcock on the dream sequence in “Spellbound.” Hold onto your hat. He also worked with Walt Disney on a short, “Destino.” In the ultimate crowning of fame in America he was parodied as “Salvatore Silly” on Captain Kangaroo and “Salvadore Dada” on the Muppets.
I bet he loved that.
On January 23, 1989, while his favorite record of Tristan and Isolde played, Dali died of heart failure at Figueres at the age of 84.
See what you can learn in an art museum on a rainy Tuesday in St Petersburg, Florida?
Ford was right. I feel so much younger.