Persistence of Memory

The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali is probably the most
recognizable surrealist painting in the world.

Dali sometimes referred to his paintings as “hand-painted dream photographs” and The Persistence of Memory can certainly be characterized as such.

The drooping pocketwatches possibly suggest the irrelevance of time during sleep. In other words, when we are asleep, or not conscious, the time does not persist, only memories do…  

It depicts a fetus-like head lying on the ground, like a fish that was washed ashore and is now decaying after a lost struggle gasping for air.

There are four watches in this painting, three of which appear to be molten, as if made out of cheese. The only watch whose structure doesn’t appear to be malformed – unlike other watches it is orange in color – is sitting on a desk-like object. The ants seem to have found a point of interest in the center of the orange watch…

Dali’s artistic genius lies in his ability to create ideas that lie on the edge between being disturbing and arousing curiosity… Dali isn’t trying to shock the viewer of his paintings, but to bewilder, to make the images speak for themselves.   Quotations are from this site

Now just for fun, here is a parody with melting cookies in a dayglow setting. The parodist  included Cookie Monster but omitted the ants and the house fly. Perhaps he thought they would diminish the cozy humour of the piece. Should we call it “Persistence of Childhood”? I do not know who created it… but I think it is very clever and one of my favourite art parodies.

I remembered it yesterday when I was writing about “Milk and Cookies”.  That meme of a happy childhood… milk and cookies after school, with Mom hovering, still in her apron, and the kitchen filled with the scent of fresh baking… is still alive and well.  But how accurate is it?

How many children come home from school to find Mom in the kitchen? I did not have a milk-and-cookies childhood. And my children didn’t either. And would it be a good thing if they did? We all eat too much, too many sugars, too many carbohydrates, too much fat. We equate physical feeding with emotional nurturing, often substituting one for the other  in ways that lead to life long patterns of destructive emotions and destructive eating.

Dali’s haunting, provocative, elusive imagery asks us to dig into our imaginations for meaning. By association, so does the parody. Shall we analyse the similarities and differences (the two rocks are missing, the table (?) and foreground are different colours. CM looks cozy, comfortable, and just a bit smug, nothing like a fetus or a beached fish.)

Is Dali’s painting meant to be taken seriously? Is it worth taking seriously? What does the parody say, about Dali, about clocks and cookies, about childhood, about us?

Shall we make up a pretentious and preposterous critical expanation, or just take it as a cute joke?

Clocks and cookies!? Persistence.

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One Response to Persistence of Memory

  1. FLP says:

    Thanks, Motley. I really enjoyed this post.

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