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My Entire Life is a Paradox

I am at conflict within myself! I am sick of sorrow, but questioning how I could truly create meaningful things without it! How ironic is it that I am seeking inspiration in the same thing that hinders my happiness. But how could I possibly live a life of passion without a plethora of feelings? As you read this blog post to get the full experience, you have to listen to "Nature Boy" while you read.

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec does a wonderful job depicting authentic versions of entertainers. Often a shocking mixture of the elegant and provocative. He paints a variety of paradoxical and ironic images. Lonely performers stuck in a crowd, dancers hunched over with their legs limp and hair in their face. He paints a variety of characters participating in the late 19th century night life of Paris. He depicts the viewers in the scene as far off, disinterested characters and the performers as unseen, misunderstood individuals stuck in a crowd. He captures the vulnerabilities, the exhaustion, the despair, the loneliness that the dancers at the Moulin Rouge experienced. I adore the way that he paints the famous Jane Avril.


At first glance, she is bold, surprising; a modern dancer who shocks those who watch her. Henri Toulouse-Lautrec is able to make her the center of attention while also giving her a look of exhaustion. Her arms seem to barely hold themselves up and her long thin face is full of sorrow. The viewers are placed within the frame among the crowd at the Moulin Rouge. However, the artist's work invites us into an intimate moment. His work often depicts the famous Jane Avril looking downtrodden and barely holding her act together. Her loneliness is so evident. The vulnerability is astounding. Oh! AND the fact that he chose to depict her in this way in a poster used to promote the Moulin Rouge... it is incredibly fascinating. As a design major, the depth of Toulouse-Lautrec's "promotion of a brand" (if you'll track with what I'm saying) has really inspired me. I wonder If Henri Toulouse-Lautrec's misery seeped into his depiction of others, almost as though he is projecting his own torment onto those he was around.




I could really go on and on about this artist. His own life brought misery into everything he did and honestly its a large part of what made him such an incredible artist. I don't know how much of my own sad past needs to infiltrate my life in order to make something beautiful but I do know I need balance. Henri Toulouse was afflicted with a rare disease that contorted parts of his body, his legs were unable to grow properly, and was unable to participate in many activities as a boy. He immersed himself in art to compensate for what he could not do. Later he turned to alcohol and prostitutes which is where most of his misery became a part of his daily routine. His health was in constant decline because of how much alcohol he drank (He literally carried a hollowed out cane in which he kept hard liquor) and he ended up dying at 36 from syphilis. I think it's just so sad that some of the most beautiful artists end up torturing themselves until they die tragically. Balance is necessary for an artist as well as a constant search for what is TRUE and GOOD. I hope I can learn to balance my love of melancholy and my search for what is morally right and good.

My last post was about the curiosity I feel towards things that are melancholy. I have chosen to limit my curiosity so that I don't get swept into a hole of melancholy feelings that quickly turns into despair. I feel things so easily and so deeply that I regularly get stuck in a state of despair and once I finally get out of it I come to the same disappointing conclusion: There isn't much satisfaction in feeling the forlorn feelings that I always romanticize. As much as I adore the idea of sorrow, I just can't bear to feel the same static sad things all the time. There is too much in the world to feel and I shouldn't limit myself by focusing on some of the most un-motivating feelings on earth.

I want to learn how to balance the inspiration and beauty I find in the melancholy without it tormenting me. Do I completely turn away from the beauty I see in sadness and focus on some other form of inspiration? Do I set timers for myself and try to become inspired in smaller doses? Do I just accept the fact that I will forever be a sad soul and know that art is created from a place of pain? (Think of some of the worlds greatest creators and ideas: Tchaikovsky, F Scott Fitzgerald, Paul Simon, Henri Toulouse Lautrec, Emily Dickinson, the entirety of the movie "Breakfast at Tiffany's").

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