On relatedness

When I think of a relatable yet distant art I think about a painting by Salvador Dalí called Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea which at Twenty Meters Becomes the Portrait of Abraham Lincoln, which I saw at the Dalí museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, a few years ago.

I remember staring at this painting for a long, long time. I absolutely love this painting. From 20 meters away you can see the face of Abraham Lincoln but as you get closer you can see Gala, Dalí’s wife overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. This painting tells the story of when Dalí and Gala moved from Spain to America to escape the Civil War and it relates to me because it reflects also my story of moving to US from Europe (Italy in my case). Dalí represented the intersection of two identities, the American and the Spanish, so well in this painting because you can’t have Lincoln without Gala and you can’t have Gala without Lincoln. This relates to me so much because two of my identities, the American and the Italian, are so intertwined that it’s hard to tear them apart. When I’m in the States I miss Italy, and when I’m in Italy I miss the States.

Even though I relate to the painting, I feel so distant because I don’t know enough about visual arts. I’ve studied history of art for 5 years in high school (it’s mandatory in Italy) but I never really paid attention. I feel like I can’t appreciate a piece of art if I don’t know the history behind it, the biography of the artist etc.

But can I still relate to a painting even though I feel I’m distant from the world of visual arts? For me the answer is yes. For me, relatedness has a lot to do with the extent to which something speaks to me and it’s potentially productive (if it helps me in some aspect of my life or if it inspires me to create something else). In fact, even though I might now know a lot about the art of Salvador Dalí, I still relate to this painting and it inspired me to write a poem when I was taking creative writing.

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