Wishbone and Don't Cry

8:52 PM

Nikolaos Gyzis, Wishbone, 1878


It’s extraordinary how paintings and music employ only one of our basic senses (sight and hearing, respectively) and yet release so much power. At first I wasn’t sure what about Wishbone by Nikolaos Gyzis reminded me so much of Guns N’ Roses until I saw the Chinese Democracy poster. The brick red background and black clothing are almost the exact shade, and the despair on the woman’s face echoes with the theme of "Don’t Cry," one of my favorites of the band.

"Don’t Crystarts in an extremely calm manner, quiet, serene, as if a whisper in your ear, telling you don’t take it too hard. The lyrics say, “Don’t you cry tonight/ There is a heaven above you baby/ And don’t you cry tonight.” It's a story of sorrow. Axl Rose said in an interview, “The song was [about] a girl that Izzy had gone out with, and I was really attracted to her, and they split up, and we wrote the song.” When I first heard this song, I discovered that a blues balled by a hard rock band brings a whole new level of impact, even the heavy chords, which I used to associate with anger and aggressiveness, hit like a persistent melancholy. Axl’s brilliant ending note seems to go on forever, like a deep sigh, or a desperate plea that ends with the singer’s last breath. 

I came across Wishbone purely by accident. Without knowing anything about the artist or the painting, I searched for any evidence of the circumstances in which the painting was made. But nothing. Then I look at the woman’s eyes, red and puffy, clearly resulted from hours of crying, and I could feel for her loss and misery without knowing her story. Gyzis painted in such realistic style, with his bold choice of color in the background that gives a surprisingly touching quality. Rather than the conventional blues and cool tones when depicting sorrow, Gyzis opted for a dark red that conveys entirely different emotions, much heavier than the blues. The tension between red and black seems to bring the woman’s inner turmoil directly onto the canvas. 

I couldn’t say exactly what connects the painting and the song, but it seems like the two senses complement each other, and suddenly when I listen to "Don’t Cry" while looking at the painting, what I hear is what I see. I believe I have found my perfect Guns N’ Roses girl. 

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