There’s something wonderful about that moment of enchantment that shocks us out of our normal ways of seeing things and lands us in a fresh way of looking. Travel to a new city, a great poem or painting, a moment of communion during prayer or meditation, even a child’s shout of laughter can be the catalyst. It’s not necessarily a higher way of perceiving, it’s usually a lateral jump. But it gives a rebirth into the moment, an unexpected and palpable sense of the mysterious now.
I live with a classical figurative sculptor whose mind processes the world so differently than mine that those little jolts occur regularly, in our communication. If what passes between us can rightly be called communication. Because I think in words and paragraphs, in flashes of energy and leaps of feeling and intuition. Sabin thinks in concrete visual images, in form and color and volume. Sometimes I think he has to translate his thoughts into a language that I can understand, and I still have to reverse-engineer his words into my own dialect, to finally grasp what he’s trying to convey.
Which kind of works out between us, because he’s normally a quiet-spoken man of few words, and I can fill the space between us with my own loquacity. And I don’t even mind when his eyes glaze over because I figure he’s going to the happy place in his mind–best I can figure, that’s the Medici tombs in the church of San Lorenzo in Florence, with Michelangelo’s breathtaking funereal monuments.
But sometimes Sabin gets a word in edgewise, and there it is, that little frisson, the world cracking to reveal itself anew. The other day he said, “The babysitter’s head is a near perfect sphere. Do you think she would model for me?”
Now, I know he’s planning to do a set of twice-life-sized heads, male and female, with an eye to the hotel and grand lobby market, when he finishes the Apollo (see the pix above). Those heads would look beautiful outdoors in gardens and near pools, also. It’s a good idea because he’s not just thinking about art but also about selling art, and, you know, artists have to eat and pay their kids’ school tuition, too.
But I had never noticed that our babysitter had an especially round head. I had seen her to be lovely, and better still from my point of view, kind to our mischievous 4 year old daughter. So I went back to look at her again, next time she was working for us. Sure enough, part of what makes her so pretty is that elegantly-shaped head.
“Sabin says your head is beautifully round,” I told her. “Would you be interested in modeling for him?”
“I’ve always been self-conscious about my head being so round,” she confessed. “I’d be honored! I can’t believe he would ask me.”
“Don’t be honored,” I warned. “As a boss, working on his sculpture, Sabin makes Attila the Hun look like a sweetie pie.” I know this because he’s working on a bust of me. I’ve experienced his exacting demands for myself.
“The forms on your face are defined and highly symmetrical,” he told me, when we started the project. It’s probably the only compliment he’s ever given me, and boy oh boy, does high symmetry make a woman’s heart palpitate. But I did check myself out in the mirror, when he grudgingly gave me permission to pee. I’m not sure I saw what he did. All I could think was that I’d better give botox a try.
But it was a new way of seeing even myself, and that’s something I seek out, too. I wanted to discuss modes of perception when I sat back down to continue modeling. Though, do you believe, he doesn’t like me to talk while he’s sculpting me? Claims it’s distracting. We put the bust on hold until I’ve finished what I have to say. It may be a few decades.