I don’t often write about my love for art and music here. I am not an artist, nor am I a musician (I leave that to Susanne and others far more gifted than I!). But what I do have is a deep appreciation for both, and a recognition that they are important for making my life more complete (and perhaps, more complex).
I listen to music nearly every morning. A wide range of genres, which shift somewhat frequently (and seemingly randomly, to be honest). Right now, it’s Celtic folk, which has been going strong for several months now. But it’s mixed in with The Chicks (a throwback to the early 2000s…), as well as Brandi Carlisle, several Australian, Canadian, and Scottish groups and artists, and others. It’s an eclectic mix, to say the least.
Why do I do this? Well, to be honest, it brings a bit of joy to the start of my day – putting my meetings and other obligations on my daily calendar, writing out the (usually long) list of things I would like to accomplish by the end of the day, and getting started on the first big thing. I also get to sing along, happily out of tune, much to the chagrin of my neighbors.
Yet, this is a more recent development. For many years, I started my day in silence, thinking that would make me more productive. But music adds another dimension, a reminder that life must also include moments of joy and uplift, not just, well, work. (As much as I love what I do, it’s still work!)
I feel the same way about art, although I admit that opportunities to bring art into my life occur much less frequently. (Side note: you’d probably be appalled to know that I have lived in the same apartment for four years and… there is literally nothing on the walls. Nothing. I Have art propped up on various surfaces around the apartment, and on top of my dresser, but there is nothing actually ON the walls.)
I actually count time spent in nature as time spent with art created by the universe. But oh, I cherish visits to art museums and installations when I can make them happen. My parents emphasized the importance of appreciating and taking the time to learn about art. What’s interesting is that none of us – me, my parents, my brother – are artists, or creative in the traditional sense. My mother is a wizard in the kitchen, and my father is an artist in his garden. But traditional art? Nope. Maybe that reflects the pragmatism with which we tend approach life…but I digress! What I really wanted to get to here was a recent experience that reminded me of just how important art is in my life.
Last week, I had the opportunity to meet up with a friend and her daughter in Chicago to see one of the immersive Van Gogh exhibits that is traveling the country this summer. (I think there are 3, this is the one that I saw.)
This was so different from any other art “exhibit” that I have seen… and so amazing. It literally left me speechless. It’s hard to describe, but they truly bring the art to life. Paintings, details from paintings, handwritten text… all projected around you in a large room. Pieces morph into one another (often completely unrelated in terms of theme or color…which makes the experience even more amazing). There is a full soundtrack that included many pieces I knew, or at least recognized. It’s a truly immersive and almost overwhelming experience, particularly for someone who has spent the last 17 months in isolation, with only a few opportunities to see others in person.
The feeling of awe, of joy, of uplift that I experienced was an amazing way to (start to) emerge from the challenges of the last year+. Seeing art literally all around me, surrounded by music, and others who were similarly immersed… it was a wonderful reminder of just how important art is to my life.
The experience reminded me of a fabulous essay in The Paris Review a few years ago, by Claire Messud. I’d recommend reading the whole thing, honestly, but these lines always stand out to me whenever I read it…
“There is glory in each day, for each of us. It is waiting to be illuminated and observed. Auden wrote that poetry makes nothing happen, but in our hearts and in our lives, we know that is not true. Art has the power to alter our interior selves, and in so doing to inspire, exhilarate, provoke, connect, and rouse us. As we are changed, our souls are awakened to possibility—immeasurable, yes, and potentially infinite. If ever there was a time for art, it’s now.”