Saturday, January 21, 2012

RELATIONSHIPS : The Weight of a Kiss

Photograph by Sasha Martin of artwork found in Hackney, London.

"A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when 
words become superfluous"
                                                             -- Ingrid Bergman

Sasha Martin

A kiss is a "dot above the 'i' in loving," a known way to convey a feeling of infatuation or love. And, kissing to express devotion is something expressed by humans alone. Even smiling is not specific to just humans-- it is a natural response from many mammals to indicate they are of no threat. The clamping of the teeth shown in a smile shows that being bitten is not a danger. Even something as seemingly human as a smile is not necessarily unique. Kisses, however, with the intention of conveying an emotion or even sexual drive, are uniquely human. When one really gives thought to the idea of a kiss, it becomes more and more incredible. 

Kissing actually originated from a maternal standpoint, not romantic: mothers kissing their children. This is the ultimate love, unconditional and strong. Through the centuries, however, it morphed into an activity involving lovers, becoming a symbolic gesture as well as a pleasurable one. 

Its relevance in our society now ranges from that of a second grader running away from a peer's kisses, in terror of "cooties," to traditions involving Mistletoe and a wedding day's sealing kiss. 

From a more scientific, physical perspective, kissing can be addictive. When kissing another human being, dopamine and other related neurotransmitters are released in the brain. These stimulants act as a reward system, making kissing scientifically addicting and thoroughly enjoyable. Such neurotransmitters are released when snorting cocaine, or experiencing other drugs. You can't help but wonder if kissing is more powerful than you might expect...

Granted, a kiss does not always mean anything more than the physical act. Kissing a stranger with no emotional connection can sometimes be just that: two lips colliding. But, when a kiss does carry meaning, it momentarily consumes the mind. We abandon all thoughts in exchange for this fleeting and intensely passionate experience. This feeling has been portrayed in many beautiful works of art...

Auguste Rodin sculpted "The Kiss" in honor of the kiss that never was. Rodin admired Dante's Inferno, and modeled many of his sculptures from the text. "The Kiss" was one of these (see Dante's Inferno, Circle 2, Canto 5). Francesca da Rimini, a beautiful and intelligent Italian noblewomen, was married to nobleman, Giovanni Malatesta. Giovanni, though known to be the kindest and most generous of men, was crippled and grotesque to look at. While her husband traveled, his brother, Paolo, came to entertain the lonely Francesca. Together, they read Lancelot and Guinevere everyday, falling more and more in love with the turn of every page. Eventually, Giovanni began to notice their connection. In a rage, Giovanni burst into the room in which Francesca and Paolo were reading, right as the couple were about to kiss for the very first time. Blindly, the jealous husband killed them both. Knowing this, when you look at Rodin's "The Kiss" very carefully, the couple are not actually kissing, but are just about to-- only separated by a couple inches of marble.

Alfred Eisenstaedt photographed "The Kiss" on V-J Day in Times Square after the end of World War Two, 1945. In the middle of everyone's mad rejoicing, a sailor embraces a nurse, kissing her. The kiss featured here represents the joy and appreciation for life blossomed after the deathly mess of war.

Gustav Klimt painted "The Kiss." In his case, the kiss was a representation of desire and erotic love. Klimt lived at home with his mother and sisters, not experiencing the pleasure himself. In frustration and curiosity, he painted "The Kiss," attempting to experience the passion others felt through his artwork. 

A kiss can mean thousands of things. Take your pick.
But, it is without doubt, one of the most unique expressions humans have to offer.

Alfred Eisenstaedt's "The Kiss"

Auguste Rodin's The Kiss. Photograph taken at the Rodin Museum in Paris, France, by Sasha Martin.
Gustav Klimt's "The Kiss"

Suggested Further Reading: 

Concerning the science of kissing:

Concerning art featuring kissing:

    The Woman Behind Unleashed and the Words                       
   I am a Practice of Art Major and Creative Writing Minor at UC Berkeley. My passions are writing and the arts in general. I created Unleashed for the empowerment and enlightenment of women everywhere. I am the editor, designer and contributing writer. I truly hope this magazine speaks to each and every woman.  Sasha Martin   

1 comment:

Unleashed said...

Check out: !
Corinna Nicole, a former Art GSI, has created an entire blog dedicated to kissing. If you thought this article is interesting, just wait until you get blown away by Corinna's work!