Before my trip to Turkey I came across an article about Henri Matisse. Of course, most people can recognize his art, but what drew me to the article was pertaining to a particular piece that he worked on in the later years of his life. You see, Matisse was very frail and confined to a wheelchair, and being the epitome of a true artist, he still wanted to create at the age of 81. He had many sleepless nights, and he found innovative ways to make beautiful art. He would create cut paper collages and called this process “painting with scissors.” One particular piece, perhaps his Magnum Opus, is THE 1001 NIGHTS. The story is about a Persian king who discovers that his wife was unfaithful to him and he has her executed. To ensure that this never happens to him again, he decides to marry virgins, only to have them executed the very next morning. When there are no more virgins left, the vizier, whose duty is to provide them, offers his daughter. Before you judge, it wasn’t the vizier’s idea, though, to offer his daughter to the king–it was the daughter’s. On the night of her wedding, the vizier’s daughter, Scheherazade, begins to tell a story to the king just before dawn but never finishes it. Enthralled by the story the king waits until the next day to hear the rest of the story, and after finishing the story of the night before, Scheherazade begins, and only begins, to tell another story just before dawn. Of course, the king must wait again to hear the rest, saving Scheherazade for one more day. And on and on for 1,001 nights.
Matisse had much in common with the beautiful, young Scheherazade. At the time he was suffering from very poor health and was experiencing intense personal difficulty. Driven by his insatiable desire to create, unable to sleep, his work of THE 1001 NIGHTS kept him alive, just like Scheherazade’s need to keep telling stories, night after night, in order to survive.
This amazing story piqued my interest, of course, and stuck with me. I love the story of Scheherazade and her cunning abilities, and I love Matisse’s intense passion. I remember back in April, I believe, before my trip to Turkey which took place in May, I found out that Matisse’s THE 1001 NIGHTS would be exhibited at the Carnegie Mellon Museum of Art in Pittsburgh through July 15th. I had a burning desire to see this work of art in person but didn’t know when I would. Because the Matisse piece is so delicate, it is exhibited on rare occasions. I would have to find a way to see it sometime in the future, I thought.
On May 15th when I was in Turkey (Ephesus to be exact), we were all given a tour of the carpet factory. It wasn’t just a tour; they were trying to sell us carpets! Although I was very turned off by this, what can I say when people are trying their best to make a living? At least the carpets were hand made and very beautiful. Besides, they served tea while showing us all different kinds. The carpets came in many different sizes with themes and even names. I remember sitting next to Carla with tea in our hands when the saleswoman showed a piece named A THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS!!! The small rug was the size of a doormat. The saleswoman heard my excitement with the theme of the rug, and she also heard me tell Carla that it was too small. (What was I thinking? I was seriously considering buying a damn carpet to lug back home? What was WRONG with me???) Then, one of the workmen brought out a very large piece and rolled out an exquisite piece, another version of A Thousand and One Nights. It was a magic carpet, in my opinion. Very large in size with small square designs with each square telling a story. I did not dare go near it. I stayed against the wall seated on a bench, staying close to Carla, with tea in my hands. However, I wanted to go near it, to analyze its beauty, to discover the magic of its story telling, and, perhaps, I could fly! Well, the magic of the carpet was lost when the woman told me it would cost $3,000.00 for me to own it. Knowing that I could negotiate the price, I thought about how cumbersome it would be to ship it to Chicago. Besides, what WAS I thinking???!!! A large Turkish rug does NOT belong in a downtown high rise! My senses came back to earth as we were now moving on to Carla’s interest in a kilims. We moved on to another room, leaving behind the magic carpet, which I still believe could fly.
The story of THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS does not end here. I will finish with Part 2 later tonight. I, too, work much better at night, as you can see by the time stamps on my blog postings. Night time is when I can think clearly, and all magic happens…