July 3, 2007

Henry Taylor in Tossa

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As Kiko was finishing up cooking a rabbit and rice lunch for us at his "casa de abuela", Henry ducked out and up the hill to check out the view. Beaconing me over, he said all throaty and singsong: "Damn! Dennis, take out your camera and shoot my BLACK ASS IN TOSSA DE MAR!" *

Of course, Henry. Claro que si, Tio.

Here's a few pictures to commemorate his visit....

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Here was the vista that doffed his pants, Codolar beach and the Vila Vella, the remnant of fortifications that date to the Middle Ages.

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Kiko cooked up a lunch of what amounts to paella of rabbit. In the house he grew up in, his grandmother's place (casa de abuela), he enjoys the flourish of hospitality. Always pouring cava, lunch began with a toast to the cook.

I was a bit confounded when Henry crawled into Kiko's kitchen fireplace, effusing over it. The idea of cooking his, as he put it: "...my black ass..." was disturbing to me, then I remembered his painting that is now hanging in the New York Studio Museum in Harlem, the Max Beckmann-esque motif being just such an image: a black man bound and cooked over a classic southern style bar-b-que, his limbs severed and served.

What does such an image mean? Cooking race. Exotic cannibalism. An ultimate victimhood. Abraham and Issac? The deliciousness of blackness? Culpability intertwined with cuisine? Culture consumed and digested? Dissolution and sustenance?*1


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If you know Henry, you know how big his heart is, how immediate, his connection to other people is instantaneous and to the core. He found Spain to be a natural environment for him, the national character being so passionate and the Catalan character so earthy. Henry met and fused with so many people here in Tossa, that immediately many began to rue his departure as if he was family. So many connections were forged in his short week here that finally Henry's own heart was bursting. Everyone was asking how soon he would return.

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A testament to Henry's ability to get to the soul of things was his connection to Bar Savoy. That bar is the veritable soul of the town, a headquarters for the hard core locals. Nearby was the Hippy Shop, owned by a homeboy who goes by the name of "Nani". People who know him here describe him as a "punky" who is disguised as a "hippy", meaning that he is a tough guy who likes to play down the hard image with a Jesus-like cover. Nani's father is a painter and it was not surprising to find that Henry found a deep bond there. Taking a small canvas from his suitcase, Henry painted a tribute to Bar Savoy with oils in my studio. I was out at the time, my music playing through the building. I was happy he time to spend in my studio, an opportunity to feel creative time at Sat Telm street. The little painting was a gift for the owner of Bar Savoy, a sweet and worldly woman by the name of Mercedes.

Yea, that's my image that flanks Henry's self portrait with Nani on the other side. I like Henry's handling of the oil in alla prima.

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Young Alberto took us to his house/studio to see his paintings and we sat in for a critique. Alberto was hungry for feedback and we gave it to him with double barrels. On the way back to my house, I had to duck into a local jewelry store to repair my watch. From inside I could see Alberto and Henry talk about painting as I waited in line for assistance.

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One night was a festival of fireworks where everyone buys a bag of firecrackers (petardos) and generally mayhem ensues. Kiko, ever the hospitable, shares his bag with us as we tossed the small explosives about at Codolar beach.

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Finally, a dissolve into the briney Mediterranean. The Catalans of Tossa want you back as soon as you can, Henry. You will always be welcome here.

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*1 There was something else that was in the back of my mind about Henry's painting. And then I came across Victor D. Hanson's short article commenting on Michael Yon's recent report from Iraq.

Here it is in full:

Thyestean feast? [Victor Davis Hanson]

Greek mythology often encapsulated an entire culture's worst fears and depravities-and over centuries of story-telling became ever more complex and layered and bizarre.

But what is strange about reading Michael Yon's graphic descriptions from Iraq is that al Qaeda (or its kindred) seems almost in a single generation to be outdoing a millennium of savagery present in Greek history and myth. You have to go to Thucydides's Mycalessus to find a parallel of wiping out even the animals of a small village.

On Friday, Yon reported that al Qaeda served up a son for dinner to his own family? a barbarism reminiscent of Atreus (hence the "curse" on the House of Atreus) cooking (sans feet and hands) and then serving his twin brother's sons to their unsuspecting father Thyestes. So Yon reports a revolting modern-day Thysestean feast:

The official reported that on a couple of occasions in Baqubah, al Qaeda invited to lunch families they wanted to convert to their way of thinking. In each instance, the family had a boy, he said, who was about 11-years-old. As LT David Wallach interpreted the man's words, I saw Wallach go blank and silent. He stopped interpreting for a moment. I asked Wallach, "What did he say?" Wallach said that at these luncheons, the families were sat down to eat. And then their boy was brought in with his mouth stuffed. The boy had been baked. Al Qaeda served the boy to his family.
What is striking about all this savagery?whether with the filmed beheadings of Westerners in Iraq to the recent flaming Johnny Storm human torch at Glasgow, screaming epithets as he sought to engulf bystanders and ignite his canisters ? is the absolute silence of the West, either distracted by Paris and i-Phones or suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome and obsessed with Guantanamo.

It is hard to recall an enemy so savage and yet one so largely ignored by rich affluent and distracted elites as the radical jihadists, as we have to evoke everything from mythology to comic books to find analogies to their extra-human viciousness.

For a self-congratulatory culture issuing moral lectures on everything from global warming to the dangers of smoking, the silence of the West toward the primordial horror from Gaza to Anbar is, well, horrific in its own way as well...

The war between the Republicans and Democrats be damned. We should unite against this enemy of civilization, both within and without our civilization. Wikipedia reference to Thyestes here:

In Greek mythology, Thyestes was the son of Pelops, King of Olympia, and Hippodamia and father of Pelopia and Aegisthus. Thyestes and his twin brother, Atreus, were exiled by their father for having murdered their half-brother, Chrysippus in their desire for the throne of Olympia. They took refuge in Mycenae, where they ascended to the throne upon the absence of King Eurystheus, who was fighting the Heracleidae. Eurystheus had meant for their lordship to be temporary; it became permanent due to his death in conflict.
Atreus (Thyestes' brother and King of Mycenae) vowed to sacrifice his best lamb to Artemis. Upon searching his flock, however, Atreus discovered a golden lamb which he gave to his wife, Aerope, to hide from the goddess. She gave it to her lover, Thyestes (also Atreus' brother), who then convinced Atreus to agree that whoever had the lamb should be king. Thyestes produced the lamb and claimed the throne.

Atreus retook the throne using advice he received from Hermes. Thyestes agreed to give the kingdom back when the sun moved backwards in the sky, a feat that Zeus accomplished. Atreus retook the throne and banished Thyestes.
Atreus then learned of Thyestes' and Aerope's adultery and plotted revenge. He killed Thyestes' sons and cooked them, save their hands and feet. He served Thyestes his own sons and then taunted him with their hands and feet. This is the source of modern phrase "Thyestean Feast," or one at which human flesh is served.


Emphasis mine.

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Update:
Or Procrustes? Is Henry calling for a Theseus to come someday?

(*Text modified by request, 2010.)

Posted by Dennis at July 3, 2007 12:32 PM

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