To Feel Wings Because of Proximity To The Winged Other

Some have argued that non-humans cannot experience such emotions as we do because they do not possess consciousness. This is a thorny issue, not least because consciousness is ill defined and extremely difficult to measure in any objective, scientific way. Nevertheless, there is now some evidence that birds do have emotions. Many, for example, maintain long-term pair bonds, and there are several anecdotal accounts of separated partners being reunited after a long period of absence, accompanied by behaviors – such as protracted greeting displays – that certainly imply they have an emotional bond.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Tim Birkhead, “So Much to Discover”, New Scientist, 3 August, 2013, p. 28

Picasso, Woman with a Crow, 1901-4

Picasso, Woman with a Crow, 1901-4

Something is contemplative and eternal in this woman, in this aliveness of an almost faceless black bird. It looks like Picasso couldn’t decide (or didn’t want to) either have the crow face the woman or turn away (the choice could be between an emphasis on transformation of eroticism or sublimation of maternal feelings: the desire, as if, to adopt this creature). It seems that the young artist decided that a combination of two motifs – human and motherly, is more appropriate: so, we have crow’s body in an uncertain, transitional position. The woman we see, no longer embodies a human being as such. Her identity is already changed by psychological identification with the crow – her shoulders are, as if, about to transform into wings – as if, in a process of taking woman and crow off the earth. Where to? The space above and behind the woman is not sky but a kind of a metaphysical abode.

The crow is tenderly held between those elongated praying, no, rather, meditative hands. May be, there is no woman and crow in the painting, no “them” when each can assume a proprietorship of an identity. Here, no one owns either body or identity. It’s an act of prayer, where certitude has melted and what remains is the woman’s face lit by the blackness of the crow. Meditation on death signified by the crow, on death as alive (otherness is message of mortality, especially when it comes so close to us) makes the woman shine anew.

To say we see a “kiss” here would be too strong, too possessive and harsh. It’s the woman’s so tender of a touch that it’s a kiss without kiss, as our death settles so subtly, delicately within us when we‘re still young and greedy for life. It makes of the living a monument, a statue – a life intended to live eternally, as crow is a shadow of woman’s aliveness.

To find ourselves so close to the subtle encroachment of mortality – to yield to the nearness of a crow, is to move outside life and death. It’s to step into a suspended realm of thought, contemplation, of love as contemplation.

This togetherness allows the woman to fly inward into those vast distances where grace looms bright and where vitality is more sublime than ontologically conquering a man, child, or dominating the social body in a world asunder.

Art that takes this two, the marginalized feminine and the omen carrier of the fairytales, in between its creative praying hands (hand of the woman is transformed into that of the artist) can discover a soul that yearns to reinvent itself before it extinguishes.

The aesthetic equivalent of this couple that was made possible in this work can come when eroticism, love, passions and grip on existence have softened and lost and mourned and return as a creative love, life and a mortality.

Picasso’s crow is not transforming into “Prince Charming” following the fairytale logic, because of woman’s attention, but woman’s very being is enlightened by the pale fire of the stars beneath her.