"…the beauty which agree,
In many a nameless being we retrace,
Whose course and home we knew not, nor shall know,
Like the lost Pleiad seen no more below."
- Byron, "Beppo"
In this representation of a painting, the characters are delineated,
but what they mean, who they are, the arc of the narrative—that
takes some looking. And by looking, I mean: hold still. Breathe. Look,
without forming words, look for alignments and breaks, hold descriptions
back even as they tug at you, ignore them as they pull at your sleeve.
Now, begin: There is a figure, female, beautiful, naked and adorned
and nursing a child. She looks frankly at you, a faint smile in her gaze.
There is a youth, looking off past the frame of the painting (or wherever
the image was cropped). There I am, or there you are, at another vertex.
And that vertex places you, me, us, right where the stream flows, at the
disjunction made by the rushing water and its low banks, outside the frame
and still in the picture, invited in by the gaze of the character and her smile.
It's different than words, this sort of storytelling—space can be time, and
the gap between the youth and the woman and me, or you, can be passing
time. The baby could be the youth. The viewer could be anyone, but now
the viewer is here at a keyboard, calling the moving water to mind, calling
the storm painted in the distance a source of the rush and cut of the stream.
The bones of the painting, the alignments, provide space for the connective
tissue of story, and the image becomes an object of contemplation. There:
I've broken the silence and all that's clear is words spill out of me, nothing yet
revealed about the painting except myself. That may be enough, though.
It's in the seemingly empty spaces between, where the story waits patiently
for you and me, the necessary characters at the vertex outside the frame.