Salvador Dali – A Strange, Strange Man

I visited the Dali museum in St. Petersburg, Florida over the weekend and I really enjoyed it.  It was beautiful and amazing; they have a lot of great works of art there and I learned a lot, not just about Dali’s work and art, but about art in general.

For those of you who know a lot about Salvador Dali and his works of art, I apologize for being a novice.  I was acquainted with Dali’s work in high school, as most are, by being shown “The Persistence of Memory” in humanities or art class.  If that’s the extent of your Dali knowledge, you should take the time to learn a little about him.  If you don’t like art, don’t worry.  It’s not your typical drawing of a bowl of fruit.  Besides, it’s healthy to be cultured and well-rounded!  I am going to tell you about him in a very unorthodox way.  Sorry about that.

The first thing you should know about Dali is that he makes this face a lot:

Whoa, whoa, whoa…that’s enough of that.  Okay so the next thing you need to know about him is that he had kind of a screwed up childhood.  His dad was mean and grouchy, his gay best friend was in love with him instead of his sister which made his sister hate him, and he was never sure if he was himself or a reincarnation of his dead brother.  I think that’s enough to hose anyone up.

As time went on, he did a lot of drugs, painted some weird shizzle and pissed a bunch of people off.  Namely, his father and anyone who was part of the surrealist art movement from 1920-ish to 1950-ish.  When he was kicked out of his father’s house in 1930, he handed his father a condom with his own semen in it and said, “Take that!  I owe you nothing.”  Yikes.  Wonder what his dad was thinking.

He painted amazing, beautiful, crazy and strange things.  For example:

This painting is called, “Atmospheric Skull Sodomizing a Piano”.  I didn’t make that up…Dali did.  Does that make you think, “WTF was this guy thinking?!?”  What would make him want to paint any kind of sodomy?  Much less sodomy between a human skull and a piano?  For that matter, why would a skull be sodomizing a piano in the first place??  And WHY IS THERE  A BOAT WATCHING?!?  The whole thing is mind-boggling, really.

The scary but cool truth is that almost every single one of his paintings makes your brain twist in the same way.  I left the museum with a skewed perspective on life.  I can’t explain it.

Apparently, just about everything in his paintings represented something.  If he painted a key, it was representative of either a penis or of something trying to unlock the human mind.  If he painted a fly, it represented evil and/or decay.  If he painted a man with a vagina for a head, well…one can only guess.

The long and short of it is that he painted a TON of paintings in his lifetime, and although The Persistence of Memory is his most recognized work, I am thinking that should come to an end.  Go to a museum that has some of his art – it’ll blow your mind.  Don’t rely on Google Images either, no…you need to see the man’s brushstrokes and and stand face to face with the details.

In 1989, Salvador Dali died of heart failure at the age of 84.

For whatever reason, his first painting contained a headless dog and he never painted a headless dog again until his very last painting.  Why a headless dog?  A strange man marked by even stranger works of art.  Great, but strange.

Do you think he died making his trademark face?

On a side note, if you really enjoy the works of Salvador Dali, you should look into Michael Parkes.  He has some really beautiful prints available and, even though he doesn’t have an entire lifetime’s worth of artworks under his belt, his take on modern surrealism is both crisp and dreamy.  Not as dark, bizarre or popular as Dali’s works, but Parkes has certainly made a name for himself in the surrealist art world.  Enjoy!

-T. Ham


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