Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Content and Unaffected


6 December 2005

Art is a visual medium, but it strikes to the very core. To some they are just paintings hung on a wall with no real significance or emotion. Just paints on canvas of unknown people or landscapes, scenes from the Bible or history that have been painted a hundred times. But to me art has a way of portraying visually how I feel internally, and it speaks to my soul.

I have been to a hundred museums all over the world. I have seen the masterpieces most people only read about in art history books. I have walked inside the Louvre, the Vatican, through Florence and Rome, and I have appreciated the talent and passion that it takes to create art, to express something that seems to be inexpressible through words. It wasn’t until I read The Agony and the Ecstacy about Michelangelo that I really began to appreciate sculpture as an art form. But I understand Michelangelo’s passion, even if only minutely. He had a gift, that is no secret. He didn’t see chunks of marble. He saw whole forms, masterpieces in their completion long before he struck the marble for the first time. He considered himself something of an emancipator, freeing the forms from a confining marble captivity. Now, when I see sculpture in a museum, I am not so quick to just walk by and dismiss it as a lesser form of art because surely I could never create something of such grand magnificence as Rodin’s “Thinker” or Michelangelo’s “David.”

Does every piece of art move me? No. In fact, I am not moved by most art, but I do have my favorites. J.W. Turner was often a favorite when I was in London. I frequently went to the Tate Gallery to have a love affair with the Turner paintings. I could lose myself in that wing of the museum. They are not the kind of paintings that overwhelm you with detail. In fact, they lack detail. But the thing that always strikes me and why I am so drawn to them is the solitary but prominent central source of light. Whether the overall feel of the painting is dark and foreboding or bright and enticing, the source of light seems to carry the weight of the whole painting. It no longer becomes a piece of art on the wall because it encompasses you in its turmoil and peace. I still love them and am captivated by them. I can always spot a Turner painting before ever reading the plaque. They are devastatingly beautiful and sometimes haunting… a feeling that I have often felt in my life. But despite how haunting and foreboding or chaotic the scene may be, that source of light seems to dispel all sense of fear and inferiority. And I am moved by it.

Francois Boucher, a Rococo style artist, painted a series of season scenes, which are hanging in the Frick Gallery here in New York. At first glance, they are just old paintings of people doing different activities in the various seasons. They are aesthetically pleasant but nothing certainly that stopped me in my tracks… until I came back to the one entitled “Winter.” It’s a simple scene of a young lady being pushed in a sled by a young man, but what is so striking about this painting is not only the contrast of the foreground to the background but the look on the woman’s face, which made me feel as though she was aware of my presence but completely unaffected by it while peering into my soul as if I was standing there metaphorically naked. The background is a scene of drab, winter gray. The colors are muted, and the snow and dark sky cast a gloomy and ominous mood. But in the foreground, the woman is in pink and the gentleman in red bringing the focus of the painting to them. The woman is completely unaffected by her surroundings and circumstance. Her smile is one of confidence and contentment, and she looks as though she knows something that no one else knows. I get the feeling that she wants to impart her wisdom, but withholds it patiently waiting for me to come to the discovery and conclusion on my own. I aspire to be like that woman. No matter what is going on around me, whatever the circumstance, whatever ugliness might be closing in on me, I will be unaffected and remain content.

I have thought of that painting often over the past week and how easily I allow circumstance to affect my mood and attitude. It is difficult not to get discouraged when life throws a few unexpected curve balls in your direction that knock you off your feet. But in my ideal world, I am like the woman in the Boucher painting or a Turner painting. Whenever I begin to feel weighed down by the events of the day or a little like I am losing touch with my own reality, that painting comes to mind, and those same feelings I had as I stood there admiring it come back in all their poignant glory. I can be that central source of hopeful light amidst the chaos and confusion, and I can have the confidence that regardless of the ugly drab winter moments of my life, I am still content and unaffected.

14 comments:

liz said...

those are very interesting insightful thoughts about the Boucher painting Nikki - they sound very familiar...

nikki said...

Liz,

That's because a really wise and insightful person shared them with me...

Stephen said...

nikki:

you have love affairs with paintings? that's weird because i'm having a love affair with this ice cream sandwich.

nikki said...

Stephen...

I do have love affairs with paintings, among other things... add that to the list...

liz said...

then why don't you just marry an ice cream sandwich

petey said...

NO TOUCHING!!

i have the worse freakin headache. and i don't really get the hair joke, but that's ok.

um... talk you off what pop pop??

nikki said...

Peter,

Who is this picture? Is that what you took to the plastic surgeon for your make over??? I didn't think you looked so bad...

liz said...

ya petey - that picture... what?who? i don't get it...

petey said...

dude ladies-
if we could freakin hang out once in a lunar solstice, you would know, that's my new look for 2006. i just started a little early.

whata ya think??

nikki said...

Petey,

I like the old look better, and I am not opposed to hanging out but you spend all of your time at the library so our relationship consists of these posts, email and the occasional IM... we are a product of our impersonal technological generation

petey said...

yeah, that's the reason we don't hang out...

petey said...

nikki-
if you would take up stevey on his "check-list" maybe we'd see you up in the heights more often.

nikki said...

Petey,

Stevey should come and get it... this girl does not give out popsicles for free. Besides, I thought there was an arrangement between the three of us.

nikki said...

perhaps we can all rendezvous tomorrow in our tacky sweaters...