Visual Rhetoric

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This is what I 'see' when I stare into Salvador Dali's painting called "Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening".

I ask you to first look at the painting before reading. Stare at it and try to understand it from your perspective. When you read this, this is my perspective of it. Not completely, but a portion.

Submitted: December 11, 2014

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Submitted: December 11, 2014

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Hanz Castillo
Professor Robert Piluso
English 102-70
June 28, 2014
Visual Rhetoric
Life is but a journey - through twists and turns, everything is always changing, everything is always moving. No matter how rough times may seem, across the globe, it may not be so. Say, with Plato’s dualism: when one might fail, one might succeed. Things are always vibrating with motion. It is a factor in today’s world for which we must look at in order to accept and grow. Yet, there are many more angles a person can look at life in. When one might be happy, one might be sad, and another might be mad. All these souls might even meet at a point in time and be grouped together to find the world a new solution. It is almost like a subtle truth, that life is always happening, everywhere we look. For Salvador Dali's painting, "Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee around a Pomegranate a Second before Awakening" (1944), there is a reflection for all of this, by portraying a sense of fulfillment, an ever changing cycle, and a dreamy reality.
The way I would like to unveil this sense of fulfillment, is to first focus on “purpose”. Philosopher Rene Descartes once said “Cogito, ergo sum” or “I think; therefore, I am”. From the ocean waters to the quartz crystal on the back of the elephant, everything here is fulfilling its own destiny. The naked woman is enjoying her blissful trip through the wonders of her mind, the fish is taking on its motto ‘there is always a bigger fish’, and the elephant is bringing good luck to all these organisms going about their way. It is a system of half-filled glasses waiting to be full. And as all of these experiences are filling up their glasses, their destinies are slowly coming to an end. William Shakespeare can add to this by showing how his angry and confused character Hamlet had to eventually kill his uncle because life had taken him there, to fulfill his destiny. Whether it was a matter of perception, these goals life throws at people/animals/plants eventually needs to be obtained. Just like the pomegranate seeds - somewhere in the world, they will eventually fall into the ground, get some rain, and bloom into a pomegranate tree. Or the tigers - while some may die in the process of killing their prey for food, many of them will still get it. This picture represents many of life’s goals in the process of being fulfilled.
Just as these goals need to be fulfilled, the ever-changing cycle of life needs so also. When Heraclitus expressed, “Everything is change”, people began to understand that life is just one big process, waiting for things to progress, and amounting to chaos - as my professor Robert Piluso deciphered. Scientists say that that process began in the water. As time went on, organisms began to evolve, and eventually led us here today - in a world full of possibilities. For the painting, I feel like the ocean represents the dawning for all life, the pomegranate fruits and seeds represents the lineage all species have, the fish and the tigers represent the drive organisms have to stay alive, and the naked woman represents the times for appreciation. It is not necessarily ending in chaos, but as all life has a beginning, all life has an end, thus making chaos happen in frequency. It might be difficult to make sense of these things when actually going through to them, but experience can reassure someone that it is all just a part of the cycle of life. As the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard noted, there is a nice way to live, in which one devotes living to that “leap of faith”. We can take this insight very literal and focus on the tiger, dying as he takes his leap for the food. Or we can take it conceptually, as the other actually gets the food, keeping its cycle moving forward. As long as one trusts faith, then in theory, their life will be a good one.
For the dreamy reality, Salvador Dali did a good job in portraying how life can seem a bit unreal at times; like the senses are out of tune, or the feelings are not what they should be. Similar to Shakespeare’s Hamlet - the fact that the guy couldn’t even trust his own senses shows how external perceptions can be a bit distorted at times. For example, the cloudy daze that the nudist woman perceives. Her eyes are closed, but she is aware of all this life happening around her. It is subtle, yet very freighting; and no matter the situation, the tall elephant, with his crystal enforcer, is smiling down upon it all. Giving that sense that everything is going to be alright. When Haratio had warned Hamlet for the dangers that were soon to come to him, Hamlet said three words to him in return – “Let it be”. Sometimes it is best to let life take its path, no matter where it may lead; surrendering to the ominous factors of nature and letting fate shape one’s own destiny. If what the scientists say is true when they note that water holds memory, then failing might not be for nothing. The big body of water surrounding this entire phenomenon might remember it all; pushing for new solutions, more corresponding for the future life forms. But, for the woman, the water is below her and the daze will end in time; giving her perceptions a second for ease.
Salvador Dali’s thought process when creating this painting was definitely ‘outside of the box’. Just by giving us the name, “Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee around a Pomegranate a Second before Awakening”, suggests that the painting not only portrays what happens in the woman’s dream, but the artistic side of it all. The woman is sleeping, watching a movie her subconscious mind plays for her. Right before experiencing death, the artist suggests that the woman is going to wake up in one second. It is not certain whether it represents multiple dreams, or just one dream, but it is interesting to think that, in all of this chaos, right before her death, there is one second in between dream and reality. One could ask though, “How many meanings have Salvador Dali himself made of this picture?” These meanings can be endless, just like how Heraclitus said “no man steps in the same river twice”. Whatever Salvador Dali was implying for this painting to be, he might have seen it differently at a different part in his life. And implying that he is an ‘out of the box’ thinker, he might see it outside of a completely new box, with new experiences filling the insides in a new period of his life. As for me, that woman might not be exploring the outer depths of her mind later on. Nor might the fish not represent the motto ‘there is always a bigger fish’. Perceptions are always changing, like our everyday change we experience in existence.
All in all, I think Salvador Dali made one trippy picture. It is almost as if there is so much real life happening all at once, that it puts me in the state of dreaming. Like my eyes can’t process it all, but my mind can. It is beautiful because while being in such a state, I feel like the painting resembles everything that I have come across in life. Successes, failures, growth, and exploration - everything represents some big part of my journey that has made me into who I am today. Also, the fact that that elephant is smiling down upon it all, is a very relieving and comforting affirmation – that life is normal. Everything will always be in motion, answers will always be finding their prey, and growth will always come when afterwards.


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