Thursday, July 17, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Bob Dylan's Linguistic Transfigurations

This blog post was written five years ago today as I was preparing for my first one-man art show in forty years. I remember bringing multiple carloads of paintings, drawings and such to hang, and my CD player to listen to music as I did so. Dylan's Together Through Life had just recently been released and I know that I listened to it multiple times as I hung the show. Hence the thematic blending of art and Dylan in more than a few of these blog posts. There is a sense in which the three of us -- art, Dylan and I -- have been "together through life."

Linguistic Transfigurations

"But for the sky there are no fences facing." ~ Bob Dylan

What set Bob Dylan apart when he first emerged on the scene was not simply the message he conveyed, but the manner in which he conveyed it. His words glittered over the surface of his songs and each movement of light caused spangles of delight in the brain that recognized what was happening here.

Mr. Tambourine Man is filled with language that explodes with imagery, carrying listeners through energizing whitewater rapids of emotion.

The message, to some extent, is an old one. The metaphor above is an original way of repeating a common maxim: The sky's the limit. Or to put it another way, there are no limits. But by putting the wine in different wineskins, Dylan rejuvenated the meanings for a new generation.

The culmination verse summarizes thus:

"Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky
with one hand waving free, silhouetted by the sea
circled by the circus signs with all memory and fate
driven deep beneath the waves, let me
forget about today until tomorrow..."

Having lived in Mexico a year, I have to believe these lines are, in essence, a linguistically luminous way of summarizing the philosophy of "Manana" which means "Tomorrow." For a moment in time, for today, for the now, let's just live for today, he sings.

Ultimately, becoming a mature adult means that we do have to carry burdens and assume responsibilities. For the young, the appeal of avoiding this yoke is rightly sensed, though adulthood also has its rewards. As we grow, however, let's not forget to make a place for dancing beneath diamond skies.

For some, music is the route to temporary forgetfulness. We lose ourselves in the sweet strains of the strings, chimes, rhythms. And for others, myself here, it is the act of creation which is my dance.

This month, some of my art is on display at The Venue @ Mohaupt Block in a retrospective of interpretations and transformations, both black & white and color, on surfaces of every kind. The Dylan painting at the top of this page will be on display, along with more than 130 other works. And maybe a few surprises.

* * * *

It is now five years later. The Dylan piece at the top of the page -- and a number of other pieces -- can now be seen at Goin' Postal in Superior.

Speaking of Superior, this coming Sunday July 20 is Lake Superior Day, an annual celebration of the Great Lake, the largest freshwater body of water in the world, and an inspiration to many of the artists and residents here in the Northland. The event takes place at Barker's Island, with music by the Boomchucks (among others) plus poets, artists, craftspersons and more. 

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Celebrate it...

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