Monday, May 25, 2009

A Man, Walking

(A New Autotelism II)

I have seen Rodin's Walking Man. I was at the Hirshorn. Having rested in a shady corner of the sculpture garden, avoiding the D.C. heat, I stood up, walked around a wall, and there it was.

It's a bronze sculpture of a man's legs and torso. It's nearly seven feet tall and has no head or arms. The front foot (his right) points forward, and the rear foot is canted outward, as if the heel were being twisted into the ground. The knees are nearly straight, the legs clearly defined. The trunk grows looser and rougher as it rises; and just before it vanishes entirely, I get the sense that it leans forward, firmly, as if into an impossible wind.

It's possible that I was dehydrated. Or that I stood up too quickly. But I don't think that that is why, for a moment, everything else faded away. I felt that world was pinned beneath those bronze feet, forced to rotate around that fulcrum. The forces he leaned so unwaveringly against had torn away everything unnecessary; his very identity had been stripped off by the gale and only his resolution remained. Nothing would pull those toes from where they pushed silently into the earth.

The sensation came in a flash, and weakened gradually. Afterwards, I felt like my world was weightier. My steps were solid, and my mind held fast. The flavor of it has not vanished - it is still there, when I think of it.

Walking Man, and that experience, come back to me at the oddest moments. A car, or someone's voice, or a sudden gust of wind will remind me. I think that maybe that's important. Walking man didn't just change what I thought or felt right then, right when I saw it; it changed the way I thought and felt about things indefinitely.

Would the same thing happen to you, if you stood in front that Rodin?

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