Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Guest Post: Cheri Vause on "The Persistence of Memory"

Please welcome Cheri Vause as she shares how art inspires her work….

The Persistence of Memory

The surrealist artist Salvador Dali painted an unusual image and titled it, The Persistence of Memory. The landscape is cold and stark, and yet it has an element of warmth because of the warm shades of paint. Clocks are draped or strewn about over objects, like a branch or a cut stone, some looking melted into
place, others set gently on the ground. All the hands are at differing times, and it elicits a unique mood when you gaze upon it, or contemplate its meanings.

In my recollection of the first time I saw it, I wondered about each image within the theme, turning it over in my mind, trying to understand it, then, taking it in as a whole. Yet, it seemed disjointed to me, the individual images fixed in time strange, one not having anything in common with the other. But isn't that the nature of memory, to fix on a sight, sound, or smell, and sometimes the most profound ones, a feeling? Perhaps because I was young, I couldn't account for my odd thoughts, for I was still learning about symbolism, about dreams, and art. Today, I see it with a greater clarity. The painting asks many questions, but the one I keep thinking is, Why is it that our memories are too often tied to things that seem to be of no value? Or are odd, unrelated moments in time? But then, are they? These are the very things that impress us, mark our character, that have an intrinsic value to help shape us into who we are to become.

I love using a work of art in my novels, and I like to give the piece a life of its own, to lend an art piece meaning to my characters and within the storyline. Sometimes it's the classic MacGuffin, someone in the story pursuing it with vigour, but the painting has nothing to do with the main plot point. And sometimes it's the core, that seed bearing centre of my story, gathering momentum and greater meaning than even the characters themselves, such as The Portrait of Lilith, my horror story presently in edit, and causing me to wrestle with my editor. Throughout my stories I've used a variety of artists from Magritte to Goya to Chagall, and some works that were painted by artists who don't exist in reality, only within my story, like the beautiful haunting Lilith. The why of it is because I love art and it's so much a part of my life. I write what I know, and sometimes what I can glean from research, but mostly from my heart. And while I'm in the creation process of devising an intricate portion of a plot, visualising it step by step in my head, I find certain memories creeping in and nagging at me, an image intruding, and it makes me wonder why, that perhaps I should incorporate it, that it belongs in the story.

Dali was right. Memory is persistent. Those moments are draped in the time we experienced them, forever fixed like a fly in amber, those hands never budging from their position. What he didn't say in this piece is that we must learn to discipline our memory, as well as allowing it free reign, to intrude into our writings, and hopefully give our work a greater depth. As an author, I've had to organise, coax, and even flog memories forward, but the ones that seemed to work were those persistent ones, the ones that made me weep, or laugh, or feel uncomfortable. I write to change myself, then present it to the world, hopefully changing it just a little. Each time I confront those memories that make me feel uneasy, I find a truth about myself I must face. Hemingway said a writer doesn't do very much, but sit down and bleed. And it's those odd disjointed memories in my head that seem to make me bleed the most. Does it make me a better writer? I can only hope so. All I can do is put into words the images in my head, to create a world in words much like the artists of the world, like Dali, paint them.

Cheri Vause ©2016

You can learn more about Cheri Vause’s work by going to her website Noir Mysteries To Die For


Graham Powell said...

I saw this painting during a recent trip to New York (it's in MoMA) and was shocked at how tiny it is - maybe 12x18 inches. With all the fine detail in that small space you can really appreciate Dali's incredibly skilled draftsmanship.

Martin Hill Ortiz said...

Very intense observations. It makes me ask, "If I were to a choose a painting for my writing style, what would it be?" Maybe some futurist work or else Charles Sheeler (American Landscape).