Looking

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There was this old man that used to come in to the coffee shop where I often write, plopping himself on a big red sofa and spending hours sifting through wrinkled books and weathered photographs, magnifying glass in hand. Every now and then, he would look up and breathe in a deep, satisfied sigh, as if he’d discovered something he’d been searching for, all “There! There it is! It was here all along!

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A few months ago, I asked him what he was looking at. And he told me something beautiful that I’d recognized as a Joan Miro quote:

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“You can look at a picture for a week and never think of it again. You can also look at a picture for a second and think of it all your life.”

chad wys design for mankind

He went on to say that he’d always been a man of few words. But that images and pictures and portraits spoke to him in his native language: one of beauty. One of soul. One of purpose.

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And I realized something enormous that day. Art matters to few, but to those who are looking, it is everything. To those who see, it is light. Creativity and art and design are often tossed away as frivolous subjects, relegated to paintings behind glass and murals on street corners. But to some, they are words. They are speeches and books and novels and history and language, all immersed into a picture as abstract as the meaning itself.

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I have a feeling that you’re one of the few who are looking.

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I have a feeling I am, too.

Image Credits: Chad Wys

p.s. Because beauty is in the blur.

  • Oh, yes, I am looking. And waaw, is this a beautiful written post again. Thank you for sharing these great thoughts.

  • I am always looking. Thank you for putting into words so eloquently what the experience of looking is like for me. The pictures you post are always inspiring but your words are too.

  • An excellent “experience” post, inspiring in itself, but even more so with the added art to admire. Thank you for sharing this!

  • “Creativity and art and design are often tossed away as frivolous subjects, relegated to paintings behind glass and murals on street corners”.

    Yes, yes and yes. And it’s such a loss. I believe that everyone needs to create. Everyone. It’s in our DNA. That’s who we are. And we all need to engage in the arts together.

    150 years ago everyone played an instrument. People would gather together in the parlor or the pub to make music. Women knew and practiced fibre arts. Cooked. Designed and sewed clothes. People read novels serialized in newspapers.

    Even 50 years ago people, regular people, watched ballet performances and plays on television.

    Now? Art and culture have been pushed off to the side “over there”. And if you DO some creative activity, tell someone about it and the first question is, “have you sold anything”, that somehow earning dollars from your pursuit is the only measure of its worth.

    Anyhow, you can tell this is near and dear to my heart! But really, we all need to create and we all need to enjoy the arts together.

    • Oh Sandra, this was SUUUUUCH a wise note. Thank you for your thoughtful comments – I’d never thought about how art was just so infused into our culture throughout history. I mean, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that some of our best inventors were also artists / renaissance folk. Creativity begets creativity, you know?

  • Beautiful…I love it when a post sends chills down your spine. “Art matters to few, but to those who are looking, it is everything. To those who see, it is light.” Yes, I feel this way…thanks for articulating this so well.

  • I’m the one looking more than ones, sleeping with books, carrying few with me to the coffee shops to not miss on something important.
    Art is everything to me.
    My lovers : pens, pencils, watercolor, paper, books.
    Sorry, hubby :)

    Great post, Erin.

  • Beautifully written, Erin. As a woman of few spoken words, art definitely speaks my native language. Every time I look at a piece of artwork, I try to see something different, listen to what the work is saying specifically to me. My experience of the work may be similar to someone else’s, but we each read every piece of artwork in our own unique way. Thank you for putting those thoughts into words.

  • So beautifully worded – I am always full of gratitude when I read something so eloquent that really just nails it. Thank you!

  • Sandra…thank you for pointing out that many people have unfortunately come to the conclusion that creativity is only of value if you make money from it. As an artistic person myself I have recently let go of “creativity guilt”…that feeling that I SHOULD be selling my art, not letting my talents “go to waste.” I now embrace my creativity for what it is…a way to nourish myself. I rely on my day job (as an art teacher) for $.

  • My father always used to say that he was a man of few words. I never hear that any more, so when I saw it in your post, it brought such happy memories along with a few bittersweet ones as well. My dad has been gone for almost 4 years now, and some days I do still forget, thinking, I can call dad, he would know what glue would stick here, and silly things like that. My dad is the one who taught me how to look and see. Lately I haven’t been doing enough of that, letting the noise of life get in the way of seeing. Thank you for reminding me to stop and see more.

    • Oh Gina, I’m so sorry for your loss – I’m sure it’s still just as hard now 4 years later. But I love that you’re still looking, seeing and remembering him in this special, visual way. :)

  • I love that you asked him and made a connection. I’m sure you’ll remember the conversation for a long time. We forget to talk to each other in this modern world — everyone is in their own universe and we forget that other people are living, thinking beings that have interesting thoughts of their own.

  • This post gave me goosebumps. So beautiful and how lucky to bump into a person like that. You know, the first painting that made me cry was a van gogh self portrait. his gaze was so intense i felt i was staring into his eyes. I was 21, and was feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of life and here was this self portrait of a man that felt immense pain and sorrow looking back at me. it was amazing and such a cathartic experience. Thank you!

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