Tuesday, September 21, 2010
We follow our destiny. Tricky, capricious things, those moon and stars.
Fifty or sixty years ago,the Danish artist Kay Nielsen lived four blocks due south of the house I live in today. An illustrator/artist/muralist, Nielsen followed his moon and stars from Scandinavia to California to fame to fortune to failure.
Growing up, in the library of my childhood there were some Grimm’s Fairytale picture books illustrated by Nielsen. I don’t know if we had something that beautiful and terrifying because my father was an artist or because my parents loved Danes. Or maybe it was just something we inherited along the way.
The illustrations were intricate but insistent, cold and frightening, like seeing someone trapped in a pond below the ice. I tried to perk up the Snow Princess with my flesh-tone crayons. I gave her yellow hair. Nothing seemed to touch her, so I retreated to my Mary Poppins and Roald Dahl.
Nielsen died, forgotten, but for a devoted wife and a few close friends, in 1957. He could have illustrated a broken heart. I think that’s what he was doing all along.
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