Ugolino and His Sons by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux
Gallery 548 (Sculpture Hall), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
Even before reading the museum's info card for this piece, once can discern so much. The twisted visage of unadulterated terror, anguish, and desperation is so exquisitely formed by Carpeaux in this piece that observers walking by audibly gasp from both awe and sympathetic pain.
Carpeaux's skill is on full display here. From the flawless sculpt of musculature, tensed, twisted, and tortured, to the mastery of light and shadow, to the glorious yet excruciating recreation of absolute and unmistakable agony. It's all so good it's unreal.
According to the curator's notes, it took Carpeaux countless revisions over a two year period to complete this work of art. I want so badly to embody that level of focus and dedication with the art that I produce. All too often I stare at a work in progress and feel the weight of my self-imposed demands not entirely unlike Ugolino felt his children - and his hunger - cling to him without a sliver of mercy.
I was told once that the difference between the talented and the genius is the former's lack of focus. Perhaps that is a broad generalization, but I believe there is some truth to it. So many things jump at the chance to perform as physical or mental road blocks that stymie my own creative efforts: Self-doubt eats at me, depression slaughters my energy, and insomnia whittles my concentration. They cling to me with taught little fingers, tempting me to devour them so that I may be spared.
And yet it remains so hard to do just that. My distorted thinking views these destructive characteristics almost as offspring to be protected and preserved even unto my own (artistic) demise. Perhaps one day I will finally grow hungry enough to shrug off my fear of the abandon that such dedication requires.
My Own Casualty
Fighting with myself, a hunger so severe
Growls and grumbles every god can hear
Struggling with it all, creating is dire
Trials and torment my own soul conspires
Eating my faults, self-doubts, and fears
Not sating myself on empty-calorie tears
Tripping over and down, my feet my enemies
Wholesale failure; I'm my own casualties