My love she speaks like silence,
Without ideals or violence,
She doesn't have to say she's faithful,
Yet she's true, like ice, like fire.
-- Bob Dylan, "Love Minus Zero/No Limit"
There's a story I posted on Facebook from The Guardian about the Rothko Chapel, an oasis of magnificence in the middle of Houston. Typically (for a British journalist), Jonathan Jones gives in without much of a struggle to the stereotype of Americans as crazy religious fanatics -- was there no one in the chapel who came to see the art? I bet there was, but why spoil a perfectly simple cliché? That's the whole point of visiting on a Sunday, too, I'm sure.
It's a remarkable sight, nonetheless. A colleague's memorial was held there just before we moved back north. I found it impossible to listen to what people were saying because my eyes were mesmerized by the paintings. It's a much more sombre setting than the Rothko room at the Tate Modern, but there's a similar sense of complete immersion in the colors. When in London, I always manage to make a visit or two to the room. I wrote a flash fiction story sitting in front of those rich rubious paintings about someone who has a complete breakdown in the very same spot. While some people seem to equate Rothko's work (and self-selected death) with depression, I actually saw the character's obsession with the paintings as a last ditch attempt at survival, finding some peace in their restorative silence. Rothko may put despair on the canvas, but recognizing and sharing that feeling brings comfort.
There's a big exhibition of Rothko's work coming to the Tate Mod; an excuse to get to London before February 1st.