Perhaps it has been all the artistic images I have looked at which were referenced in The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, however, I have been thinking about how the infinite is an artist and my life is a piece of art. There have been paintings I have seen in my life, one in particular, La Confidance, which spoke to my spirit in a way no other piece of art has. As I have been thinking about this, I came to realize I am one of the instruments through which the Infinite is expressing itself. Everything I say, feel and do is a work of art. It is as though I am a work of art that is ever evolving.
When people interact with me, it is as if they are entering the studio where the Infinite and I are working on who I am. I am constantly scraping off that which I no longer need in this creation, putting in new details, adding dimension. As a work of art, I am an ever-evolving piece of art that is part of the largest art museum – the world. I am constantly observing other people’s art form and interpreting it for myself. As I do when I go to a museum or gallery there is that moment of observing the basic facts, the who, what, where, when and why.
Perhaps of all these questions it is the who which most people would have a common interpretation of. They would most likely agree on my name and the probable date of the work. They might also agree on my current location and if they knew it, where I have come from. My title, my medium, and my condition might be open to a bit more interpretation.
It might require some work to figure out what is happening in the picture. One would have to think about who I am and if there are other people in the artwork, who they are. They would have to scrutinize me, what I am doing, and what I appear to be saying, at least in terms of my attitude. What is the story I am trying to tell? What is my presentation saying about my past as well as my present?
Artists pay detail to qualities such as line, color, brushwork, tactile values, volumes, modeling, proportion, perspective, and composition. They provide depth and a personal voice to the creation. Each of them contributes to the story, providing detail, new insights, and new directions. What story do others see in me? Have I paid enough attention to the qualities that my story, my life as a work of art, is filled with mysteries, clues, and revelations.
Artists have a style of their own. What about me makes me unique from all the other pieces of art in this human gallery. What I think makes me unique, as a work of art and as an artist, is about me. What others see in me, what makes me unique for them is about them.
La Confidance has always been one of my favorite pieces of art. When I first saw it I was a student at the University of Georgia and this painting, which was 5 feet in height and almost 4 feet wide, was so alive for me I could then, and still can now, feel the blood pulsing through her veins, and feel the whispery breath into her confidant’s ear. It came into my life at a time when I was evolving in my own understanding of who I was as a woman, as a creation of the Infinite. As I searched for a copy of this painting, I found an entry in the Curator’s blog for the University of Georgia’s Art Museum. She wrote
Not only is it a beautiful work, but it's a testament to the career of Gardner, who was one of the first American woman artists who studied and trained in the art academies of France which, at the time, were dominated by men. She was a groundbreaking artist who shattered gender boundaries and helped women gain more acceptance in the art community. Gardner would go on to become the first American woman to exhibit at the Paris Salon.
A native of New Hampshire, Gardner worried that her abilities were lacking, which is what prompted her to travel to Paris and study under William Adolphe Bouguereau. She quickly adopted the style of her mentor, who would also become her husband, and was quoted as saying "I would rather be known as the best imitator of Bouguereau than be nobody."
Reading this now, I sat in amazement at how like so many women she worried her abilities were lacking in a male dominated world. How many women have felt this sense of lack in their lives and had to learn to tap into their feminine soul to understand their power. This for me is what La Confidance was about then and now. What I see in it is the power of sisterhood, the sharing of wisdom with those who are on the journey with us.
Interestingly, as I spent time looking at it today, I began looking beyond the women. What I saw was that the painting was happening in what appeared to be a sacred place. I see a circle of trees, which for me has always been spiritual and some sort of entrance into somewhere else. It is as if the wisdom they are sharing is a part of their journey. Is this what Gardner was trying to say when she painted it; I have no idea. However, for me this painting continues to reveal new things and provides new understandings.
What I have also come to understand is that whether or not someone else likes Gardner’s painting, or me, does not affect the significance it had to her as an artist or to me as an art work in progress. I, like this painting, am a masterpiece and will withstand the test of time. Each time I look at this painting, it reveals more to me. It continues to speak to me almost 20 years after acquiring a reproduction of it. Every time I look within myself, I see new insights and understandings. What this painting and my life says to me is about me. It really is no more then a painting. My interpretation of this painting is about me just as others interpretation of me as a work of art is about them.
For now, I continue to work with the Infinite in tweaking myself as a piece of art. When others enter my studio and observe, I will let them know they are welcome, but remind them that what they observe is about them, not about me. Gardner married her mentor; I have a deeply intimate relationship with mine. My hope is that when others observe me they see the presence of the Infinite in the work of art they are observing.