Mark Rothko

By Christopher Zoukis

East Marion Cemetery, Suffolk County, New York:  the odor of pine trees, grass and inactivity loiters in the air.  Tall pine trees responsible for the pitch smell stand in the distance like a living, green wall around the cemetery.  In symbology, evergreen signifies immortality.  Which is ironic, since all illusions of immortality have come and gone for the permanent residents of East Marion Cemetery. 

The dead know only disappointment.

In olden times pine trees were thought to preserve bodies from corruption, which explains why they used it in coffins and in cemeteries.  And the fruit of the pine tree, the cone, was considered both flame-shaped and phallic, representing masculine creative energy and fecundity and good luck.  To the Jews, the pine cone is a symbol of life.

There are lots of Jews buried here.

Grass in cemeteries signifies submission.  In this case, submission to death.  And grass abounds here, stretching far and wide.  Plus it adds a peaceful note to the proceedings. 

The tang of inactivity is the polite acknowledgement of the discomfiture that death has caused.  No one who resides here has anything to do.

Near one of the corners, not too far from the pine trees, sits a small gray boulder, weighing more than an American luxury car.  Its shape is that intended by God and nature, which is in a word, natural.  On one side, though, the front side, a machine has cut out a rectangle, leaving a smooth, flat surface.  This flat surface, and the letters and dates on it inform us that it is a gravestone.

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Simon Schama’s Power of Art – Rothko, part 3 of 7

Rothko’s work was influenced by Nietzsche, Greek mythology, and his Russian-Jewish heritage; Rothko’s art emanated emotional content that he articulated through a range of styles that evolved from figurative to abstract.  Rothko’s early figurative work – including landscapes, still lifes, figure studies, and portraits – demonstrated an ability to blend Expressionism and Surrealism. His search for […]

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