The other day, my coworkers and I were invited to tour a collection of contemporary art. The curator is someone that is speaking at one of our upcoming events, but we also wanted to spend a little time with him as he’s quite the character and we wanted to get a glimpse into his fabulous collection. It was all about finding the spirituality in art as he is a Catholic priest and many of his works have religious symbolism and themes in them.
Now, I am no art aficionado. In fact, when I was doing my internship at TVO in my undergrad (for a current affairs show that no longer exists), I was working with the arts section and may have gotten myself into a spot of trouble. I remember having to shadow a producer for a day when she was covering a story on a process piece in the sculpture garden that was, in effect, a stone wall. When I wrote my weekly journal to the supervisor at the university that week that we in the media could help people understand that bricks were art, well, the senior producer promptly marched over and yelled at me, telling me I didn’t know art from Whistlers effin’ Mother. I will never forget that moment.
But it’s not to say that there aren’t pieces of art that don’t move me or I don’t appreciate. In fact, there were several pieces that I wanted to smuggle out in my pocket the other day. But really, I wanted to steal moments and words more than anything.
It was his storytelling along with the pieces that stayed with me more than the art itself as I started to think about how it all applied to life. And it started with almost the first piece.
As we began, he showed us a piece that you almost can’t recognize. It turned out to be a stained glass figure of the Virgin Mary shielded by wire mesh and plastic. The thing is that 90 per cent of people who stand before it don’t see it for the first time unless it’s explained to them or they take more than 15 seconds to REALLY look at the piece. Then they can see the figure and take it in the loveliness of the glass hidden beyond its protective layers.
This made me think of the way in which we see ourselves sometimes. We’re so busy in our day-to-day lives to stop and see what lies beneath. We see the negatives when we want, staring back at us in the mirror, because that’s what WE CHOOSE to see or that’s what is so readily apparent. Wrinkles, saggy this and that, cottage cheese thighs, fly-away arms, fat here and there and everywhere – but we don’t choose to see what lies beneath. The layers of goodness, the hard work and dedication, the hearts bigger than Texas, if you will.
Or maybe it’s not the mirror, maybe it’s just the world around you. The smog, the traffic, the crime, the trash, the unfriendly people – so many of us get caught up in the negative and don’t stop to appreciate all that is around. Are we really seeing the world or just stopping for 15 seconds on our rushed drive to work or the gym or home or the grocery store?
Take more than that and really SEE things for what they’re worth, whether it’s you, a loved one, your children, your home, your neighbourhood – ANYTHING. See the good things, make a list, see why you choose them and think of the way it makes you feel. STOP. Breathe. Appreciate. Think. Stew. Meditate. SOMETHING.
There is a curator that once said that museums are places where people go to think and feel about what it means to be human. I say that we can go anywhere and think about it anytime. We just have to stop and remember that we are human sometimes and not worry so much about all of the bad stuff.
So, like art, stop and take a closer look every now and again. There’s something there, under the surface. You just have to look for it.