It’s a strange experience meeting for the first time someone I’ve known for years. It’s a kind of incarnation – a person previously shaped entirely by words changing into a real, flesh-and-blood human. As if a shadow shifted to become the form that cast it.
I’ve known Carol from our days on another blogging site through to present day Facebook. And here she was, standing in front of me with a warming smile on a blustery sidewalk of Chicago. She had volunteered to take a long train ride in to Chicago to sit on a bench with me and I had suggested that we find that bench inside the Art Institute. She was thrilled to visit the museum for the first time. I was happy to have a fresh set of eyes on my third walk through.
What struck me this time wasn’t the grandeur of famous works of art – I was leaving that to Carol, who whispered an astonished “Wow!” in nearly every room. This time, the smallest of things caught my eye. Leaning in as close as guards permitted, I marveled at the simplicity of brushstrokes. How could one know, working close to a canvas, that these little dabs of pigment would deftly describe a shape when seen from across a room?
That these little flicks of white would clearly define the edges of glasses?
Or that these swipes of color would delineate the most famous ear in the history of art?
Did these painters regularly walk away to see the whole more clearly?
As we sat on our bench in one of the galleries, Carol and I picked up this thought and carried it further, asking: what are the things in our life we need to step back from to see more clearly?
It’s a thought-provoking question. For Carol, a new calling awaits, but the path to it is daunting. She needs to step back a bit to gain clarity.
For me, it’s just the opposite. The experiences in the last two weeks have brought a surprisingly simple insight into the nature of what drives me: co-creating art with audiences.
The trick is to flesh out that concept, to give it a solid shape. And as we parted, with the museum glowing in the frigid night behind us, I realized that the key challenge for me is not the expression of the art, but the finding of the people. Delightful friends like Carol. Audiences like you who read this blog. Strangers I may meet on future benches. And beyond.
It’s hard to make anything personal until one gets up close.