When it happens, you'll understand exactly what it means. Until then, read this. I first heard about it when I visited the Yale Art Gallery with my friend Ursa and she described this moment she had with a Jackson Pollock. I thought she was a bit crazy at that time. I mean, who really has a moment with an inanimate object?
Of course this was a time in my life before I really believed in art. I was just realizing that what I was doing in my life was not working and something had to change. I was exploring again. I had decided to take some drawing classes at community college mainly to relieve the monotony of my life.
At any rate, I didn't believe Ursa until it happened to me. It was at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and it was a John Singer Sargent that did it for me. There is a couch in the gallery in front of this massive square-shaped canvas. To its left and right are Chinese vases that stand five feet tall. They are the actual vases from the painting. The gallery space immediately demands your attention because of these massive artworks.
I sat down and began to ponder why this painting was there. Before I knew it, forty minutes had passed. I don't really remember what happened during those forty minutes; people were simply a blur on the edge of my periphery, like I was dreaming and I couldn't actually distinguish faces. From that experience I knew I had to see the painting again. I became a member to a museum that was a two hour drive from me!
DISASTER! The next time I went back to the MFA the painting was gone and it left a small hole in my heart. It was on loan to another museum. It''s been a long time coming for me to see that painting but I was able to again last month when I visited the MFA with a few friends. They can confirm that I made a beeline to the painting 45 minutes before the museum closed. I don't think they realized, nor did I, that I would be sitting on the couch staring
at that painting until they ushered me out, but that's how it happened. The painting's got a hold on me! I'd like to try to put into words why.
John Singer Sargent
The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit
Oil on canvas
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
There are four daughters in the painting. Two in shadow, two in light. During this second epiphany, while letting the painting envelope my brain, I did my best to take mental notes to analyze later. I was incapacitated to the point where I was incapable of taking written notes and/or sketching.
When I moved closer to the painting (just a foot or two away) the young one sitting on the carpet was staring at me. When I sat back down, the one leaning against the wall to the left began to stare at me while the others looked away. It was creepy and captivating at the same time.
The one leaning against the vase so casually, not even bothering to look at the camera. The father's nightmare... imagine the attitude on her! Then you have her sister next to her, standing in the shadows, almost as if she is a ghostly figure from a horror flick. I'm not really sure if I'm suppose to see her. She only stared at me when I was standing up and about ten feet away.
Landon R. Wilson
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