It was love at first sight. Art. France. Giverny. Gardens. Lilies. Water. We were made for each other. From the first glimpse my little-girl eyes drank in, I have loved Monet. Soft. Natural. Romantic. His paintings breathe music into my heart.
Last year my son was proud to present to me his rendition of the Japanese footbridge over the water-lily pond of Giverny, keenly aware of my fondness. Andrew loves art. Period. Much like he appreciates music, travel, food, architecture... and people... Andrew finds something to appreciate about each example he encounters. As we planned a trip to Maine, we discovered that this lovely footbridge in Somesville, which reminded me of Monet's beloved garden, was on our daily path from the summerhouse to Bar Harbor.
So when we learned that four of Monet's most noted works would be on exhibit in our area, on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, we waited with great anticipation. We reviewed the phases of Monet's work, his life, his contemporaries. We studied photographs of his paintings. I knew these images. I have adored them for a lifetime... but only from afar.
When we entered the exhibit, the first painting we saw was "Agapanthus". It was much like the two-dimensional photograph of my mind. Ethereal. Beautiful. Without flaw. I hardly wanted to move on. But in the next viewing room waited the magnificent 42-foot-wide "Reflections of Clouds on the Water-Lily Pond".
It consumed the entire room. People huddled about... trying to see a specific segment, discussing these pieces... critiquing the work and the man. It wasn't what I anticipated. It was the same image in my mind... and yet it wasn't. I drew nearer. Now I saw layers. I could see colors I'd never noticed before. I saw places where Monet seemed to struggle to capture with paint what his eye spoke to his mind... places where colors were layered deeply... one effort upon another. I could see areas where the translation was easy... the layers were simple and smooth. I had been surprised that this treasured one of my heart was not exactly what I had expected. Yet this added dimension only caused me to draw closer and closer until my eyelashes nearly swept the canvas.
When I stepped back to view the painting in its entirety, I no longer conjured the perfect, two-dimensional image in my mind. Now there was more. More depth. More authenticity. More understanding. I had discovered where the journey was labored and where it was easy. I liked the real Monet better than the "from-afar". I like real.
I sat down on the black, tufted, leather bench without words. I drank it in so that what I carried away as the image in my mind would now be this one of depth and character. I wanted to remember.
This spring I was introduced to a friend of a friend via email who happens to be a U.S. Marine. I laughed reading his closing remark, as he wondered if I envisioned him as a G.I. Joe action figure. (There's a story behind it.) But while he said it in jest, there's some validity in his quip. Isn't that often how we see people we meet? Molded into an image we've prescribed... perfected... in our minds. Yet these initial assumptions lack depth and character, an understanding and appreciation of their journey to this point. Each of us is a work of art in human form... with depth and errors and correction and learning... all joined, layer upon layer, to produce the life that we are today. Dimension.
Once I quipped back, I thought a bit more of it later. While I do not know if I will ever discover the depth of his journey... or he mine, what I do know is that I will always choose the authentic, full dimension... in art and people.
I left the exhibit quietly, with a print of "Agapanthus" to remember that first glance. There is a certain allure and romance about first impressions. But what will stay with me most are those moments when I looked deeper... and appreciated more. My treasured painter left a quite an impression.
From my heart,