Shit Dali’s pulled like “Fountain of Milk Spreading Itself Uselessly on Three Shoes” causes me to question this surrealist’s proclaimed self-realized insanity. This one appears wacky for wacky’s sake, something like capitalizing on shock value for mere attention-getting.
So, the viewer is assaulted with not so subtle symbols: a voluptuous lactating nude on a pedestal while an emaciated man, contorted, almost seductively gazes on her while nearly disappearing into the barren landscape (but only where they strike this symbolic pose). Beyond this enclave of irony, there appears an apparent thriving village.
Of course the discordant nourishment of sprayed milk useless to the malnourished land it presumably moistens before the starving man suggests the irony of keeping “man” needs–woman, fertility, amplitude, sexuality–at a distance, out of reach, in virtuous unattainable desire, on a pedestal.
Even if the three shoes of the title presented themselves to the canvas (the missing recipients of the outpouring), that too would be as useless and incomprehensible as the spilled milk in the face of hunger. The absence of the shoes, two of them at least if that rock-looking thing is a shoe, emphasizes the disconnection and inanity. Spilled milk a’plenty to produce nothing, all for naught, and all so sterile.
Somehow the critique is not so much feminist as more generally an undifferentiated angst over the nonsense of the world resounding, I suspect. Although, I did read somewhere that the painting suggests the ongoing absence of recognized female surreal painters in the art world. Merely an ordinary art admirer with limited art or art history background, I do not really know. My shallow impression is all I offer.
What I do know is the painting gives pause, one canvas not likely to be bypassed with a quick look and assenting nod (think Chevy Chase hurriedly acknowledging the Grand Canyon in the movie Vacation) before moving on to the next frame hanging on the museum wall. For most, the intellect will be piqued before the aesthetic appreciation, like I know there’s something to this painting, some statement, only I am not sure. There could also be nothing. That’s the weirdness that is Dali.
(Thanks, Frank, for the inspiration).