Why I Talk To Paintings
Published on June 21, 2011
One of my few absolute favorite paintings in the whole world is La Vie by Picasso. It resides at the Cleveland Museum of Art, and for the 8 years that I was an Art teacher there I think I visited this painting daily.
Back then it stood smack center on a wall in a gallery–with a few other paintings by its side. Across from it always stood one of those 1970’s ottoman benches with a brown leather cushion and that’s where I sat.
Chatting with Mr. Picasso in my mind–asking him why he did this–what were his thoughts behind that–and always finding something new I could gush over about at the same time.
I miss La Vie. I miss her dearly. It’s strange, but I wonder how she is–what gallery she hangs in–and if others actually come and speak to her from time to time.
Before I moved from Cleveland, I made a day trip to the Museum just to say farewell to the paintings I loved dearly but knew I wouldn’t see in awhile–or possibly never again. La Vie was in storage at the time, because the Museum was busy remodeling, and I was sadden deeply that I couldn’t have one last chat–one last look before I left.
I talk to paintings.
I hold them in my heart.
And they talk back.
Going into a Museum is like visiting an old person’s home—so many wise, weathered souls sitting around with nothing but experience and life in them–but simply sitting there waiting for someone to care. Someone to speak to them and ask for their guidance. Someone to look deeper then just what appears on the outside.
One year when I was working at the Museum, I was lucky to meet a scholar visiting with his fancy wancy machine that he used to x-ray the La Vie. It was then that all of us got a glimpse into the evolution of her. What mistakes and decisions Picasso made before finally saying finished.
La Vie fully came alive to me that day. She no longer was only a Picasso painting that collected dust and was worth millions of dollars. She was ordinary–like me–like us. She was a painting that arrived like any other painting. She was labored over, fussed over, cursed at I’m sure, and had love poured from a paintbrush. She was the expression of someone’s life. Someone who created because they had to, that was their purpose, that was the plan.
I grew up around paintings. Real paintings–with actual paint on a canvas or board. They were hanging in my parents home as well as my grandparents–and I can remember even as a little itty bitty I talked to them.
When was the last time you talked to a painting? When was the last time you spent time with a piece of Art that you admire–breathing, alive, and in the flesh?
I encourage you to visit a gallery or museum. Many have at least a night or day free each week or month. Don’t let the Art there intimidate you–instead look deeper, stare wider, get close enough that you begin to make the guards sweat–and when you’re ready talk to them.
I bet you–they’ll talk back.