Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Courage of the Artist

"I think that sometimes the beauty in art is not in the image itself, but in the delayed reaction of the viewer. It is beautiful if it inspires deep emotions in the viewer, including disdain. And partly too, the beauty is in the courage of the artist—the willingness to explore his or her inner world." Roderick McIver, Heron Dance

If you haven't been introduced to Heron Dance, I hope you will visit McIver's site. I received their newsletter years ago and have enjoyed lots of aspects of their work since. Recently I read the bit McIver wrote and quoted about Matisse in the painter's early years of exhibitions, when his paintings were jeered at by the public. The overall collective responses seemed to be ridicule, because the images or portraits were not what "the public" thought was appropriate as a "realistic representation." Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas bought one of the paintings because it was disturbing. This gave Matisse confidence, and he painted a new portrait of his wife, this time emphasizing aspects that were ridiculed before (the green line on her face, for example - see reference for the description).

I remember an old New Yorker cartoon which showed an old guy in a white toga (or something), long white beard, sitting lotus-like on top of a mountain peak. The caption said something like, How's that enlightenment working for you? When I think about courage, and about art lately, this cartoon comes to mind. Over the weekend I went to my 3-year-old niece's birthday party, which was attended by her friends of many ages. What joy it is to be with such joyful energy! She, even so tired her eyes glazed over, was a bundle of energy, smiling, jumping, dancing, bouncing the brightly colored balls given to party-goers.  I'm so glad to have such reminders of this joyful exuberance - with my tasty (adult) margarita in hand, I danced to the happy sounds of the steel pan band along with the others, and it was wonderful.  Later in the evening, when my eyes began to water and itch, and my sinuses began to hurt, I suddenly remembered that some chemicals in some margarita mixes are "poison" to my sinuses! I began to drink more water to ease the flow. This didn't diminish the joy I felt during the party  - it reminded me of how we, as adults, are responsible for learning these details of what supports and encourages that "pure joy" that keeps our feet happy, our sinuses open, and our cells singing. When we are children, our parents guide us, protect us, enjoy and support that joy of life - if we are in tune with this responsibility and love it and ourselves and our children.

My brother and his wife are good hosts, and they tend well to encourage everyone's comfort. The party is not just a "child's moment," but our moment of acknowledging this beautiful child's creation, and the family of friends who live busy lives coming together to enjoy collective moments of celebration. I think of this and how I am host of my own cells, my own brain, my own energy every moment that I breathe and move. A true artist of life, to me, lives the exuberance of a child and the responsibility of a spiritual human being. As I live I keep learning what it takes to use my mind in this ethical energy which is our design as a living human being.  Live well, choose wisely, love forever. Next time maybe I'll (think) remember the sinus-bomb before I have the margarita!  The guacamole was fantastic!

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