Sunday, January 18, 2009

The worlds we see, those we don't

Andrew Wyeth died a few days ago. He is one of my favorite artists; since I was very young, his view of the world with its implication of the possibility of more has shaped my writing, my stories and how I see things. I'm not the only one. His most famous painting, Christina's World, has spawned hundreds of questions about meaning, narrative in art and many imitations in art, film, stage, personal mythology and more. His Helga paintings raised questions about secrets and love. I am more drawn to his landscape or still-life works that make me want to see beyond the frame, that are less about people, but that's no surprise considering who I am. But this is only personal preference and in no way commentary on any of his work.

He was decried by critics as too sentimental, but I would have to disagree; Wyeth painted what he saw and what he loved. Sentimental has an implication of excess emotion, of a hazy view shorn of realistic dirt and rough edges. Wyeth didn't peel those harshnesses away, instead he looked for what was implied, for the visual representation of the unseen. His paintings always suggest that the world, even this small part of it, is infinite, that there is more than what we see within the frame. That it is worth asking questions and wondering. And loving the dirt and those rough edges that you can see within the frame is not necessarily an expression of softness or bad art; it is in our nature to love and to try to capture or express what we love, what we long for, what we cannot hold onto or always see. Painting about it makes the world more tangible, or at least this moment in the world.

Wyeth said, "It's a moment that I'm after, a fleeting moment, but not a frozen moment." His painting captured that beautifully. As our lives are fleeting moments.
I am grateful Mr. Wyeth left his mark on the world and did so in spite of critics' resistance. His work gives me hope that there is always the possibility of something else, of more beyond the frame, of another fleeting moment.
Wind from the sea, 1948

(c) 2009 Laura S. Packer
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