Is Corn Brain Food?

Is Corn Brain Food?
Is Coney Island corn-on-the-cob brain food? Dunno, but I DO know that all original content herein is copyrighted by Vincent Collazo. Namaste.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Storm

The Storm, 1880
Pierre-Auguste Cot (French, 1837–1883)

(click painting for detailed view)
One of my favorite paintings is The Storm, by Pierre-Auguste Cot, which hangs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the painting a young couple is depicted running in bare feet away from an impending storm. Together they hold a blanket over their heads to protect them from the rain, but the dark-haired, dark-skinned man is insouciant, his hand firmly grasping her waist, his tunic tightly wrapped around his waist, while a horn juts phallically outward. The light-haired woman is dressed in a body-length sheer garment, her pale skin exposed beneath. The woman is gazing upward with trepidation while the man's eyes are set clearly on the woman, with love, lust and a bit of bemusement.

When I first encountered The Storm at the Met my breath was taken away, and a slightly painful feeling arose in my chest...similar to the experience of what is called in The Godfather, "the thunderbolt"—love-at-first-sight. The Storm resonated with me visually and psychically. I found the portrayal of emotion captivating, the clinging sheer garment brilliantly executed, her naked body beneath enticing, and the use of light on the couple in conjunction with the dark background an eery über-reality. I identified strongly with the young man, having gravitated to the role of protector from a very young age, and often finding myself reassuring loved ones that things are not quite so dark as they seem. 

A few years back I found a print of The Storm on the street and Heather encouraged me to have it framed. I hung it directly in front of my desk, where the tops of books I've written touch the bottom of the frame, as if attempting to siphon inspiration. Interestingly, the young daughter of a friend who saw the print in our apartment asked if it was a picture of Heather and me. I chuckled, because I don't think the two figures resemble us except in the broadest sense—dark and light, male and female, and curly hair versus flowing. Perhaps the young girl picked up on something about our relationship, and saw it limned in oil on canvas. 

Two months into her final struggle against leukemia, when things weren't looking so well, Heather asked me, "Am I going to make it, Vinny?" I looked at her, smiled and reassured, "You're going to make it." I wasn't as sure of my words as I seemed, but it was my role to be optimistic. I thought it wouldn't serve her to voice my doubts. In retrospect I wish I could have uttered something closer to the truth, and that she would have been able to hear it with equanimity. But this is asking too much of her. She was brave enough, fought enough, gave enough. So in that moment we stayed within our roles: Heather worried and I minimized. She was as vulnerable as the young woman in The Storm; I as ostensibly strong as the young man.

Now as I look at this painting tears come to my eyes. The smile has been wiped off my face...the danger was real, and I didn't fully see it. The storm rolled in and I couldn't protect her...I failed in my role...none of us can truly have that kind of influence over people or events...we are at the mercy of randomness and free will...chaos and design. Before her illness I walked through life with the attitude of the young man. I thought Heather's anxiety toward the future immature, but in truth she was always ahead of me, more developed, realistic. Was I a fool to see only my love for her?  

When I first brought the print of The Storm to our home, Heather had not seen the original, and we planned to view it at our next visit to the Met. This is one of the many things that we never got to do. Her sister Lizzy is also an ardent admirer of this painting, and we now plan to go to the Met together to see Cot's masterpiece; in such fashion we will bring Heather there with us, and we will study it through our eyes and her spirit, and no doubt contemplate the many storms that surround us all.

The Storm, as it hangs in our apartment

Springtime, by Pierre-Auguste Cot, 1873
same couple, different vibe


  1. lovely and heartbreaking...

  2. To be frank I also thought the figures resembled both of you, even before reading the note. I just could not help it.

    This other painting by Cot is said to be at the Met too. I like to imagine Heather and you like that, looking straight into each other's eyes and understanding each other without any delays. I think you both protected each other all the time and that you should not think that it was your exclusive role (that of 'the protector')

    It is called 'Springtime'.

    And regarding what you say about us being all at the mercy of chance, well it may be so, but it also might be one of the few instances of fairness in the universe (that it happens to us all). And I'm sorry to quote Ecclesiastes at this point, but the words are beautiful:

    "I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all."

    For some reason I cannot see it with pessimistic eyes.

  3. I loved this piece, Vinny.
    I also always thought that the picture of the young man in particular represented you. He looked like a fairy or an elf, with an interesting mix of feminine and masculine properties.

    And until you mentioned that this is a painting of a storm, I never noticed that there was a storm there. I always thought this was just a picture of two beautifully feminine, fairylike lovers, one male, one female, frolicking.

  4. Thanks Lizzy, Martín & Donna. I probably should have noted that our friend's daughter wasn't the only one to remark on the resemblance of the couple in the painting to Heather and me, but she was the first and most dramatic example as she thought the couple actually WAS us. Over the years many others have mentioned the similarity, including a couple of off-blog comments since this post.

    This comments section apparently doesn't allow links, so I've added the image of "Springtime" to the end of my post. Certainly Heather protected me in varied ways, so the role of protector was not exclusively mine, but it is a role that I naturally filled and "believed in." It is this belief in my power that has been challenged and shattered by Heather's death, and my feeling of failure is a residue of this hubris. Intellectually I know that one can’t “fail” at an impossible task. My tears at the painting, my sense of defeat, thinking that I missed something essential that Heather grasped so easily, are all lingering shreds of my illusions and a part of my growth process. It’s just a really hard way to learn a lesson.

    And Martín, never apologize for quoting Ecclesiastes, it’s the most beautiful book in the Bible; my brother Dave read from it at Heather’s funeral service and Ernest Hemingway quoted it in his epigraph for "The Sun Also Arises." If Hemingway could do it, why not you?

  5. What a moving painting, I never saw it before, nor heard of the painter, thank you for sharing (the painting itself, and the info behind it and your real life's interpretations).

    Vinny, would you be interested in reading a writing piece i did last year? It was basically my first attempt at a fairytale (fact mixed with fiction). I think you might find it amusing but wouldn't want to impose if you didn't feel like reading much, that's why I'm asking beforhand :) (it's about 6 pages)

    Anyway, again- wow. The human heart and mind go through soooo much.... xoxoxo