Unreal Nature

May 4, 2016

The Dying-and-Rising

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:37 am

… The dying-and-rising god had many names …

This is from ‘New York Flowers’ by Dimitri Levas found in Flora: The Complete Flowers by Robert Mapplethorpe (2016):

… “No one gets me good flowers, Dimitri,” he said. “I bet you could get me good flowers.”

Soon he invited me to his loft on Bond Street to sit in on photo shoots and observe the way he worked. These were mostly sessions for figure studies or portraits. Within a year, whenever I had time in the evenings or on weekends we would work together on pictures. Since I was helping a number of commercial photographers from fashion magazines and for advertising, I would often have leftover props. I would call him and say I had a beautiful pheasant from a Vogue shoot, or a large silver fish, or even a spider.

[line break added] Usually he would photograph these discarded treasures late in the afternoon when the New York light was low and came through the horizontal blinds on the windows of his loft, now on Twenty-third Street, to create an almost film noir mood. The blinds, all the design rage at the time, gave his pictures that eighties American Gigolo look. But the flowers were something altogether different.

Orchid with Devil Shadow, 1987

… I would get up early on Saturday mornings and go to the flower market on Twenty-eight Street, which opened at the crack of dawn. I would pick out the flowers that had the most architectonic shapes and those with the most perfect form. I would let myself in to Robert’s loft on Twenty-third Street, put them in water, and then go to the flea market on Twenty-sixth Street to hunt for treasures.

[line break added] I would go back to Robert’s to have my lunch, while he had his breakfast, and show him my flea-market finds, which he would often buy off me. At around three or four in the afternoon he would photograph what I had brought that morning.

The following is from the Introduction by Herbert Muschamp, to the same book (which, strangely, comes after the above):

Americans have become compulsive about constructing monuments to the dead. We are not as focused as we might be on visions of resurrection. An Old Pagan would find this perplexing and even sacrilegious. “Okay, you’ve got death down pat,” the Old Pagan would say. “You’ve really nailed it. But when are you going to get around to what comes next?”

Now. Here. This comprehensive collection of Robert Mapplethorpe’s flower photographs would bring the joy of recognition to any Old Pagan’s soul. In a season rife with reminders of loss, these pictures call to mind the Mediterranean when the Mediterranean was the world.

The dying-and-rising god had many names — Dionysus, Osiris, Attis, and Adonis are among the best known, but at Eleusis, the most important center for indoctrination into the ancient mystery cults, two goddesses occupied the center of the ceremony: Demeter and Persephone; mother and daughter. Around them revolved the belief that life is indestructible; death is merely a preamble to rebirth …

Tulips, 1987




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