Virtuosity

Poem by Lisa Williams

“Tintoretto recreates the heroic idiom…
in terms of his own slashing virtuosity.”
                                 —Robert Echols

 

Thus, the cutting into what is there.
The cutting away, or, rather, the cutting out
of shapes and figures so they jut in air.
The jutting, cutting violence of some art.

Bravura, they call it. Virtuosity.
It shows what an artist did so we can see
not just creation but the artist’s vigor
in it: the skillful tugging into space

those skins and limits of an object’s substance
in culminations nature didn’t build
(though some will say it’s all nature’s expanse
in the end, since art’s invention spills

beyond what things have been, as a tendril
arcs toward sun). Minds can be changed
by an artist’s hand, which clears
a viewer’s first conception of a thing

(a tree, angel, or person) out of the way—
you might say “rips” or “tears” as art makes way,
slashing apart the established air
around us, like the removal of a veil

from a face. Old stories take new shapes,
twisted, reaching, emanating light—
We feel ourselves turn hopefully but vaguely.
We grope and fail and try and try and try.

 

American Arts Quarterly, Summer 2009, Volume 26, Number 3