A woman's face is her work of fiction.– Oscar Wilde
There are things all of us tuck away inside us, pieces of us we want to, or feel we must, hide or nurture or protect. We women are especially good at this. Maybe experience has taught us how judgmental and harsh people can be, especially women toward each other, and so we choose silence over sharing. Maybe we’ve had our hearts broken too many times and are afraid to open ourselves up again. Maybe we have given so much, for so long, that we finally decide to hold something back for ourselves. Maybe we don’t want to be understood entirely. Maybe, just maybe, our mystery is our greatest source of power.
I always appreciate when a male artist can tap into this mysterious and elusive essence of Woman; when he doesn’t judge or fear it, doesn’t try to understand or name or define it, but simply honors it.
Henri Matisse liked doing portraits of women because he apparently believed they held the key to the mystery of life. In hisPortrait of Mlle Yvonne Landsberg (1914), for example, the subject’s mask-like face hints of her impassiveness, her unknowableness. The arcs radiating from her body, like wings, and the protective placement of her hands seem to draw attention to both her etherealness and sexuality.
Rilke, who had a remarkable empathy for women, was also able to capture a woman’s mysterious, interior world, as seen in this poem:
WOMAN’S LAMENT I
And the last perhaps will not return
And knows me not although I burn.
Ah the trees overhang glowingly
And I feel no one feeling me.
Bruce Springsteen’s “Secret Garden” is another great example:
She'll let you in her house
If you come knockin' late at night
She'll let you in her mouth
If the words you say are right
If you pay the price
She'll let you deep inside
But there's a secret garden she hides
She'll let you in her car
To go drivin' round
She'll let you into the parts of herself
That'll bring you down
She'll let you in her heart
If you got a hammer and a vise
But into her secret garden, don't think twice
You've gone a million miles
How far'd you get
To that place where you can't remember
And you can't forget
She'll lead you down a path
There'll be tenderness in the air
She'll let you come just far enough
So you know she's really there
She'll look at you and smile
And her eyes will say
She's got a secret garden
Where everything you want
Where everything you need
Will always stay
A million miles away
CLICK HERE FOR BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN PERFORMING "Secret Garden"
She draws her bath
knowing he watches
her powdered breasts
the swell of hip,
scar slashing her thigh
like Zorro’s mark,
then back up,
where she holds a towel ready
in case he should enter.