That is the tune but there are no words.
The words are only speculation
(From the Latin speculum, mirror):
They seek and cannot find the meaning of the music.
– John Ashbery, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror
You know what’s better than poetry? Very little, but poetry intermingled with art just might do it. Following on the success of Glass heart (bells for Sylvia Plath), this fall the Davis unveils Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1984), a portfolio of artistic interpretations of the Ashbery poem.
Here’s what the Davis says:
Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, a portfolio featuring the eponymous poem by John Ashbery, layers allusion and inspiration in a cycle that parallels its circular format. Ashbery wrote his Pulitzer Prize-winning 1973 poem in response to Francesco Parmigianino’s 1523-24 painting of the same name, a virtuoso self-portrait made bizarre by its perfect depiction of a morphed reality. In this 1984 portfolio published by the Arion Press, the poem has been letterpress-printed on sheets of circular, handmade paper, the lines radiating from the center like the spokes of a wheel. Interspersed between the pages of text are eight images, by artists such as Richard Avedon, Jim Dine, Elaine de Kooning, and Willem de Kooning, which Ashbery describes as: “taking the poem away from itself and amplifying it in ways I had never anticipated.” Weaving the visual through the lingual in intimate ways, this project illuminates the self, highlighting the vagaries of its individual moments of existence.
Self Portrait is curated by Elaine Mehalakes, Kemper Curator of Academic Programs, this exhibition is made possible through generous support from the Marjorie Schechter Bronfman ’38 and Gerald Bronfman Endowment for Works on Paper.