“”Boy with Down’s syndrome on Subway with Women” after Walker Evans” (2011)
Sketch By Christopher Worth
“In a Station of the Metro” (1913)
Poem by Ezra Pound
” The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
petals on a wet, black bough.”
How we see can determine, or at least can be a big part of, what we see.
These 2 pieces were chosen for their asceticism and because the black lines of the sketch are absolutely reflected in the black lines of the poem. Both convey an emotion. Which emotion? That is not obvious and that is the creative part of what is offered. In effect, that is what the muse does to an artist. A thought, a feeling, a sound, a smell, an image is offered and then translated. And these 2 artists did that very effectively with these 2 pieces.
Again-The emotion? Maybe, several emotions simultaneously. Worth’s sketch brings in graphite a scene being expressed (as expressed?) by the subjects, drawn by the artist, and then offered to the viewer which leads us directly to emotion.
Pound’s poem only implied a scene, drawn though with words, and then offered to the viewer. That an emotion was there somewhere. But only for the Pound hisself? Then why did he publish it? What is he hoping we see? What does he wish to offer us?
In Worth’s sketch we see 2 people- very different people- with an implication of place in the lines behind them. These lines extrapolate that the people are in a physical place. That they exist and this place is part of their being there. Compositionally, the lines give a spatial and corporeal reference: The place (the lines) is of the scene as well. And that is all we are told and all we need to know. Our focus can be on the reality of the 2 people. And there is a harmony between them expressed as an unspoken dialogue. We do not worry or fret about what they are looking at. We are not excited or curious about what they are looking at. It may not be the case, they might be on their way to the dentist office or waiting on their way to sit on the defendant’s bench at a courthouse, they might be anxious or worried, and if they are, then they are anxious or worried together and that is emotion, and that emotion is contentment (What simply “is”) or simply awareness (vigilance and strength).
Ezra pound’s poem is also about being in a subway (The metro in Paris). And about people’s faces in that station. He offers us petals (colorless) on a branch darkened with moisture. Wet from rain? The people’s tears? Wet from the freshly watered flower petals of a bouquet the people are carrying? This emotion is discontent. He calls the human subjects of the poem “apparitions’ and “faces in a crowd” the poem itself is a miniature, it is only 2 lines. (Same as the two lines behind the human subjects in Worth’s sketch.) What Pound does with those 2 lines is present us with a large ambiguous subject: The viewer. And we are left still, as a viewer with only implications of what was there, what the author saw.
What Worth does is take that large ambiguous subject and presents it to us as slice in case we missed it. They are still faces in the crowd, but the faces in Worth’s sketch are living- they have a past, present and a future. Pound’s piece presents us only with the present. The faces disappear then reappear as metaphor as quickly as the poem, in one single breath; Apparitions-, ghost-like, transient and only the author of the poem remains in the place. And only the author remembers the faces. Or does he? What the author remembers is the metaphor and remembers seeing flower petals on a wet branch in his mind’s eye. Worth shows us what he saw and offers it to the viewer’s mind’s eye. Both Worth and Pound offer their sketches of people on a subway train in black and white then step back and allow us to consider exactly how they saw that day.