by Erica Kucharski

Written upon viewing Henri Matisse’s Luxe, Calme, et Volupté


A smear, a mist, gentle miss, a gently misshapen stroke, kindly placed against a kind
of white. Next to nothing, it is the most, the only, momentous moment. A memento, the
birth of color: delivery of a monument from hand, bristle, to canvas. The first quantum
particle, this single, quantifiable dot. The hue is unknown because it has no companion, no
comparison. But then, the second coming. In a single second cells divide and there is a vivid
image, a contrast. Such adored individuality. The first is dark, red. Like a fist, a burst, it has
several raised edges. The other is much more cautious. Edging the first, it lives like
a pardon to enhance its counterpart. The canvas pixelates. Mitosis. Speckled afterbirth
consumes the white, consummates the wisps of life. Such color was never known. A hazy
limb here, fuzzy breast and bottom there. The creatures, created features, remain stupefied
in their pastoral bliss, their ever-present mist. Tree and skin—the tree is skin, and the skin
is tree, comprised of the same pores the same bark. They are their world. The paper pages,
glossy leaves, contain them, hold this idyllic space. I hold it as well—hold in my hands this
scene I skim. My skin, porous like the same pixels that made them, is layered with hues too,
like a gentle mist. And in this perfect miss, the shades of my atmosphere become obscure.
In this luxe, calme, et volupté the layers of water and sky become a mist. Yes, they also were
birthed in the same way, bristle to canvas, the sunlight by the sea, by which I see, a quiet