Emotions are found in humans, sculptures, gods, and story tellers—whether oral or inscribed on anything from papyrus to paper to personal or commercial sites on the web. Emotions touch, disturb, move, shake and, a good deal of the time, distress relationships between lovers, friends, family, co-workers, and—politicians. Emotions felt by the powerful can often change history.
Time spent at an ancient site or a museum will still arouse emotions today that were felt when the relics, and works of art first appeared and the mummified bodies we see today laughed, cried and loved life and each other.
A text can expose the reader to history where our forefathers felt the same feelings we feel today or another galaxy imagined by the writer. Language may cover an emotion but subtext such as facial expression or the posture and movement of a body can uncover true feelings. Grins or sneers, anguish, agony, desire, a blush, a scowl, gestures, hesitant speech, the glow of moistness or the smell of perspiration.
Art, theater, design, architecture, sculpture, fiction, non-fiction, poetry—the emotions of people are affected by paintings that present other lives, other worlds; sculpture we want to touch because it seems to breathe, the life of and the lives in a building we pass, the words of a playwright and poet, the characters written by a novelist, the historical figures we want to stay with us always.
The Onassis Cultural Center in New York has an exhibit titled A World of Emotions Ancient Greece from 700 BC – 200 AD. Greek art used myth and common happenings of existence to bring the context of a scene to the observer. The sculptures are from the Acropolis Museum in Athens and feature Greek gods, their battles their erotic adventures with mortals, their jealousies and hates. There is a funerary mask from the Archeological Museum of Thessaloniki, a wall painting from the Sacrifice of Iphigeneia from the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli and a scene of Media killing her child from the Louvre Museum—illustrating love turned to violent hate.
The play written by Euripides and performed in six operas—has been seen by generation after generation. The exhibit runs until June 24. I recommend A World of Emotions to all writers in the city.