Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Heartbreaking Grays

I think it's true that great, original art changes the way we see the world. I mean literally changes the visual "reality" of what the world looks and feels like to a given individual. Before I began painting and really looking at and understanding how artists use color, I did not see or feel the world as I do now.

I didn't realize, for example, how many shades of red tint a landscape full of ordinary "green" leaves and grass, especially in early spring, or how many of the colors we experience in the world around us are actually varieties of gray. Someone (it might have been Stapleton Kearns) said it, "we live in a gray world," but I didn't believe it until Corot (French landscapist, c. 1830s) made me feel it. Experiencing Corot's gorgeous poetry of grays - heartbreaking grays - in person, in a painting at the Currier Museum of Art, so filled me with a rare admixture of clarity and melancholy that I could barely walk away.

I left the museum with a profound sense of Corot's genius for creating powerful self-contained alternative realities in his painting. And yet, ever since that day, I have seen Corot's color harmonies - those beautiful, old-world grays - here in New Hampshire, in woodlands and groves that never looked like that before. Each time, unexpectedly I have felt wash over me some of the emotion that Corot seemed to me to express in paint. To me it feels as though a profound and beautiful way of experiencing the world has been permanently added to my life.

I have responded with my own paintings, which aspire to communicate in a similar way but somehow (naturally, I guess) express something completely different, if they manage to express anything at all.

The world *is* how each of us experiences it. And yet, the world we experience is as it is because of the plays of Shakespeare, because of the Baghavad-Gita, because of the Book of Daniel, Exodus, Genesis, the Great Gatsby, Das Capital, "Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist)," "Broadway Boogie-Woogie," the elemental, cryptic cityscapes of Franz Kline, Early Autumn Montclair or "Rain, Steam, and Speed."

Art enhances the real.