Dark Day Dreams: Statement of Purpose I decided to do a painting, rather than a collection of existing images, since I find that visual arts projects help me notice connections in literature or life circumstances that I wouldn’t otherwise notice. Instead of explaining the symbolism of each figure in the painting, I’ll just discuss some of the ideas that directed my work. At first I wanted to do a series of painting addressing the different topographies, value systems and power relations operating in the alba. I decided to consolidate the series into one painting, since these topographies and value systems are working (competing) simultaneously in any single alba poem. I feel that trying to express these themes in a single image creates much more complicated spatial and temporal relations in the alba. The image is roughly divided into night and day realms, that is, the private garden and the tower (I didn’t want to overpopulate the canvas with a court scene, so I chose the tower to convey the sense of claustrophobia and restriction the alba lady feels in public). In the night scene I wanted to evoke the peaceful dream state, whereas in the day I wanted to present a state of surveillance, transparent power structures, anxiety, and social contract. I tried to use some tropes we have seen in other trobar forms: the garden, the seasons, the fertility of the song, and tailor them to suit the specificity of the lyrical time and space of the alba. Since time is so important to the alba I tried to emphasize medieval ways of telling time through nature and suggest as much as possible the cyclical rhythms and structure of the refrain-based alba. Although the alba evokes a single moment, it always anticipates past and future reunions, which softens the blow of parting. I must confess that this project helped me become more sympathetic to all of the characters in the alba: the lady, the knight, the gaita, and the giros. I think the form gracefully and generously recognizes each characters’ unique virtues and their vices. I chose not to feature the gaita as heavily in this painting (though, hint, hint—the gaita still shows up in several forms!) because I felt the gaita’s presence (which manifests itself either as anxiety or as pride in helping the lovers) was already built into the painting’s tensions. It was very important for me to represent the alba as a sexual song that still guards the purity of the lovers (they are true to each other at night; they are false to themselves during the day). Although I think that Pierre Bec’s claim that the two spheres of night and day never meet is useful to identify the binary value relations at work in the poem, I am more interested in the ways in which the two spheres necessarily intersect through the anxieties of each party. In the night there is always the anticipation of the day; during the day there is always a longing for the night. The alba, though it takes place only in an ephemeral moment, resonates with a broader temporality.
Dark Day Dreams: A Symbolist View of the Alba
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