(I wrote this back in September after our visit to Portlligat, but I've been thinking a lot about Dali's clogs and so decided to post this today.)
I could spend the rest of my life touring the homes of writers and artists.
The fact that he and Gala collected smooth, round rocks in glass vitrines, the way his and Gala's white clogs sat side by side in the bedroom. The tour guide explained in three languages - Spanish, French, and English - how Dali decorated the house with Gala's favorite flower, the siempre-viva, the everlasting flower. His ghost was there too: in his and Gala's dressing room, the light coming in through the window cast a shadow across my face that made me look like I had a Dali moustache. He haunted J's cameraphone and warped the crutch-like appendages coming out of the pigeon tower.
Even if we hadn't had this evidence, visiting the house of an artist or writer feels like a particular seance, invoking the spirit of their things, the light that inspired them, the sight of rock and sea out the window that lived on through his paintings. There were spirits in those glass vitrines, rememberances of who he was outside of his paintings, of how he lived. The paintings, the books, the films: these are one type of immortality, but the pristine state of his home, his paints lined on a sub-floor shelf, a small wooden chair in his studio covered in lightbulb packaging, the painting interrupted in media res, these are another type, and the one I find myself drawn to more. The Johnson's baby powder on a shelf, the photograph of a black cat slid behind the glass on a door of a closet. What we collect, what we surround ourselves with: this is who we are.
The only mystery left to us from Dali's home was the lack of a kitchen on the tour. I remember visiting Edward Gorey's home in Cape Cod, where Antonia stood next to the artist's toaster and said "I can just picture him standing here in the morning, light streaming in through the window, waiting for his toast." And it's true: the true spirit lives in the kitchen. This is where life happens: where we are fed to stay alive. I'll never know what Dali's toaster looks like, and that makes me a little sad.
But I have his clogs. And his rocks in vitrines. And his little plastic bird. These are the things I know him by: the things that give his paintings dimension, that give him human form.