Monday, January 29, 2024

Grief and Art

 I had a loss in 2023, a rupture in my life. I have cried and reflected and it still hurts. I find it interesting how grief manifests in creative works and who is given permission to grieve and for whom or what.

When I viewed Maestro recently, I was struck by how emotionally unintelligent Leonard Bernstein is portrayed. He seems dumbstruck by his wife's upset at him having a lover and missing his children's events. After she dies, he carries on with his work and takes other lovers. One review described his joie de vivre and sense of freedom in this time. I wondered if it was denial or lack of empathy. Who can say? Perhaps his ability to compartmentalise his life allowed him to fulfil his artistic desires, even if it made him a crap husband. 

By contrast The Electrical Life of Louis Wain, which I have just found on Netflix, shows a man devastated by grief and unable to carry on happily in his life. Louis is a talented artist but after his wife Emily dies, he finds life very difficult. More so when his mother, sister and his beloved cat Peter also die. As the narration tells us, Louis cried every day for two years after  Peter died. Many may find this amusing. Not so me. Maybe Louis had more of a connection with his cat than with his mother or sister. The cat arrived early in his marriage, so may also have been his last bond with his dead wife. Why shouldn't we grieve animals as fully as human beings? 

Was Wain mad? Delusional? Neurodiverse? His contemporaries found him to be the former. But I wonder if he wasn't just more tuned in to other life forms than society found acceptable. I hope he and Peter and Emily found each other. 

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