Hello all! I’m an old rag of summertime sun, European adventures, and frustrated overthinking. I’m officially a “disillusioned sophomore” that doesn’t buy textbooks until the middle of the semester and swears freshmen are ridiculous children. My uppity sense of college ownership comes with the territory, but it’ll soon slink away once the reality of classes arrives. August smelled like Czech beer and tasted like wood-fired margarita pizza. It felt like 36 degrees Celsius and looked like the pasty whiteness of facial sunscreen and the browned legs of a successful tan. Spotify gifted me with Viola Beach, LANY, and The Smiths—the tryst with Arctic Monkeys heightened to an obsessive groan, culminating in The Last Shadow puppets. And I kept writing—words and more words and an overwhelming deluge of words bruising my fingertips. The pain was worth it.
Europe was born to harbor museums. And little dark-haired sprites named Mackenzie Patel.
- Judith, Gustav Klimt, 1901
I saw this beauty in the Belvedere Museum in Vienna this summer, and her seductive lazy eye, half-exposed chest, and weirdly elongated neck captivated me instantly. Pure power expressed through golden clouds of murder, brilliantly shining paints of blood, lust, and decapitation—I love it. Judith comes from the Bible story of Judith and Holofernes; according to legend, Judith seduced and eventually beheaded the invading general to save her humble Hebrew town of Bethulia. Artists adore this complex topic because it overflows with attention-grabbing sex, blood, and warfare, three common components of a successful painting. Klimt painted this image in 1901 and focused solely on the mysterious/sensual aspects of Judith—it’s a painting of her powers as murderess and seductress, not the jagged head of Holofernes which barely makes it into the painting. This image hangs directly across from The Kiss in the Belvedere, and truthfully, I prefer this Klimt above all others. Her lusty, orgasmic expression and luxurious radiance (i.e. her neck jewelry) declare a “fuck you” attitude like no other Judith and Holofernes painting has ever done.
- The Cook, Monet, 1882
I’ve written about too many Monet’s on this website, but fuck it, here’s one more. Energetic slashes of grayish blue and ruddy rose compose this genial chef, Monsieur Paul. Although I couldn’t find any academic information on this expressive portrait, his piecewise face and jaunty hat make me strangely happy. His beard flares out like the shaggy fur of a golden doodle—it’s got more volume and personality than my limp locks will ever have. This image looks like a sketchy portrait, but it’s completely different than those austere, pedantic paintings the word “portrait” evokes. This is no court portrait of Velazquez nor the pale-faced rigidity of a Thomas Gainsborough. It is dynamism through oils and inner quirks, weirdish ticks within hand-mixed colors. Monet is the premier Impressionist, the pioneer of a style that imprinted fleeting sensations and scenes onto outdoor canvases. Born in 1840, this paintbrush legend died at the age of 86 in his cushy garden estate of Giverny.
- The Embrace, Egon Schiele, 1917
Their serpentine hurricane of hair is disturbing, but I also like the distorted, bulbous bodies of an unflattering hue. Egon Schiele is quite the interesting and sexual character (he was characterized as an art pornographer by his contemporaries). Pasty, graphic, and grotesque, the limbs of mashing humans are anything but sensual or emotional in his early works. However, this unique image is stirred by faint grains of humanity, love, and tender love between a cynic and his raven-haired lover. The bruised woman is Schiele’s wife, Edith Harms, who tragically died of Spanish influenza when she was 6 months pregnant—Egon died three days later. Comparing his early and later works is fascinating; it’s like paging through a BDSM porn magazine and then waltzing through a field of duvet covers and collarbone kisses. Yes, The Embrace is jagged and unsettling, but it’s also the oils of lust and bedsheet satisfaction.
- Four Seasons, Vivaldi, 1723
- The Marriage of Figaro, W.A. Mozart, 1786
Surprise, I was a stereotypical college slacker and did not read oodles of literature this month. I spent countless hours in dry-aired planes, Hogwarts-esque EuroRail trains, and greasy taxis. I managed to swallow a few thousand words—but something was gaping, missing. My finger can’t find the mark, but the literary spice of my geeky life is weakened, like Indian curry without the curry.
- Caligula by Suetonius
I don’t pop molly; I rock Ancient Rome. Caligula was murderous, sex-crazed, psychotic, and brutally sadistic, but he’s one of my favorite Emperors of the ancient Italian boot. Taking his sister as velvet lover and confidant, almost naming his horse a Consul of Rome, and ripping out tongues whenever bored, Caligula had a gutsy personality. Like most Emperors, he was assassinated in a much-deserved mess of blood and treachery at the Palatine Games. Suetonius was a master historian lounging with Herodotus and Tacitus who survived to the wrinkled age of 71 (which was rare for Ancient Rome). Caligula was my three-hour distraction on the train from Prague to Vienna, along with smuggled English biscuits, sun-soaked wheat fields, and kitschy diary writing.
August was sweaty. And frustrating. And it made me unnecessarily emotional. See you next month.