A Celebration of Joy-Filled Beauty
One of my favorite ways to do an Artist Date is to go to free museum days. It started when I was homeschooling my kids 20 years ago. Going to the Baltimore Art Museum’s First Thursdays event meant an immersion in art, music, crafts, and food with friends. People would flock to the museum on that day, and in the immersion of art there was also a connection with the buzzing of human connection. Palpable aliveness when people are tuning into the creative expression that is within themselves. Yummy!
This past Thursday, I was artist dating in Seattle. It was a gorgeous sunny day with a light breeze. Slowing down and noticing everything around me, I walked to the LINK, pausing at the Montlake Bridge to watch the boats in the canal. Sailboats, kayaks, motor boats all moving in a rhythmic dance from Lake Washington to Lake Union, and back again. The vibrating of the bridge as the cars rumbled behind me added to the rhythm. Noticing the trees along the canal, I could see the leaves were beginning to change to red, orange, and yellow, welcoming fall to the region. There was a feeling of aliveness with activity and change in the air.
Riding the LINK to University Street Station, I closed my eyes and wiped the slate clean, releasing emotions, expectations, and tension in my body. Letting go of what I thought would happen, and being open to everything I would see, feel, hear, taste, and touch; being open to new possibility and remembrance.
Walking into the Seattle Museum of Art (SAM), I felt empty. For a moment, I didn’t know what to do, where to go, or how to engage with the art. So, I closed my eyes at the doorway of one of the rooms, and decided to open my eyes and walk towards the painting that caught my attention, looking, breathing, feeling whatever the painting evoked in me. The first one I saw was a portrait of interwoven bulbous clouds and different shades of blue. As I walked towards the painting, I felt my heart beating faster and tears sprang to my eyes. It was so beautiful. I was overwhelmed with the joy I felt. I was surprised to see that the artist was Georgia O’Keeffe, an artist I really love. I had been to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, but none of the art I saw looked like this! The piece was called, “A Celebration.” Joy-filled beauty!
Moving from room to room, I explored sculpture, northwest masks, Australian artist Dorothy Napangardi, modern art, and art from different time periods. I was also inspired by the stories on the plaques next to the artwork. So, when I came across an exhibit called, “In this Imperfect, Present Moment,” I lingered over every piece of art and read every word of the artist’s intention behind the creation of the piece. This exhibit was focused on the narrative behind the painting, including 15 artists from around the world. One of the artists was Amy Sherald. The art on display in Seattle is called, ‘Saint Woman’:
Since 2008, Amy Sherald has chosen to portray archetypes, thereby allowing the reality of a person to enter a realm of infinite possibility. Sherald paints only African American subjects and renders their skin in tones of gray-in contrast to the vividness of the figures’ backgrounds and clothing-as a way, in the artist’s words, “to exclude the ideas of color as race”.
The power of the artist date is how it opens me to feeling more, and to more exploring. I was aware of Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald’s portraits of Barack Obama and Michelle Obama which are now hanging in the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian. There was something powerful about seeing another piece of artwork from each of the artist’s in Seattle. I wanted to know even more about them. I could feel the power of the message in the art. It stirs me to look at the message I am bringing to the world in the way I live my life on a day by day, moment by moment basis.
Many people see my early work simply as portraits of black and brown people. Really, it’s an investigation of how we see those people and how they have been perceived over time. The performance of black American identity feels very different from actually living in a black body. There’s a dissonance between inside and outside. ~Kehinde Wiley
One of the things that I experienced on Thursday was the connection to all things. While I was sitting and watching a short film about a Japanese tea ceremony at the SAM, I overheard a conversation when a man was telling someone about the beauty of the Seattle Japanese Garden. He encouraged his friend to go see it while he was in Seattle. I smiled, thinking about how I was going to the Garden later in the day.
I stopped by the house to feed and walk the dogs before going to the Japanese Garden, and I thought about not going out again. The museum had been so rich, and I was full from the experience. But, then I remembered the conversation and I felt like it was a nudge from the Universe to go to the Japanese Garden today.
When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe. ~John Muir
While at the beautiful Garden, I was standing next to a woman on the bridge, and I pointed out the Koi fish in the murky water below. She thanked me and said she hadn’t noticed them. I asked if she had been to the garden before. In this short conversation, she told me she was visiting Seattle from El Paso, Texas, and that this was a birthday present to herself. She came to Seattle for self-care, and a solo adventure. She had also spent the morning at the SAM. How cool was that?
Then we parted, each following the meandering paths separately. I found a bench that overlooked the garden and noticed, a while later, that she was sitting on a bench close to me. At one point, I noticed her standing up and I said, “Did you see the heron on the island in the center of the pond?” She said no, and I pointed to the area. She nodded enthusiastically while thanking me again. I told her, with a smile, that I must be her wildlife guide of the day. She walked down a path to get closer, and in the distance, I saw her taking photos.
The connections at the museum and the garden were numerous. Sharing a glance and a smile with a stranger, noticing the bobbing and weaving of connection in the meandering. An artist date is about awakening my senses, noticing the connection to all life, and letting my heart be stirred. It also reminded me of the importance of following my desire and raising my vibration. That is the ripple effect I want to share with the world. To feel love and transmit that into the everyday experiences of life.
My life is an artist date.