White Centre, Mark Rothko, 1957
We’ve heard enough about him to know he never existed. Now here’s a picture of him. He’s a glowing white substance that like ectoplasm isn’t solid or liquid or gas. Even in a painting he doesn’t stay still, being made of restless waves, the way waves are of made of whatever they’re passing through and are always passing, though these are right here. He’s compressed between two soft masses of orange just a little more solid than he is. These must be the guards, leading the condemned to the place of execution. Or perhaps they’re the details of being human. Will there be enough money? What should we have for dinner? Do we really have to die? It never lets up, being human, never relents its grip, which is tight enough to hold a ghost prisoner. Yet he rides his own light out of the painting, not restrained but sped on his way by the dark shades of orange, as a prisoner on his way to the scaffold meets the eye of anyone who sees him and in that instant escapes into their recognition, of who he is, that now he lives in them, that he was born there and never lived anywhere else, even as the guards tighten their grip, so they suppose, on him.
Peter is a queer psychotherapist, previously working in community mental health and HIV/AIDS, now in private practice in Portland and Los Angeles. He is the author of two books, Gay Fairy Tales (HarperSanFranciso 1995) and Gay Folk and Fairy Tales (Faber and Faber, 1997). He has lived through addiction, multiple bereavements and the transitions from youth to midlife and midlife to old age and believes you can too.
The Ekphrastic Review
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