How do I encompass this? How do I capture this? Do I dare chain this moment down to the binds of paper and serif? Am I even a writer if I don’t try?
I grew up in an art gallery. I have never said it that way before, but I think it is the truest statement I have uttered in a while. My dad is an artist. One of the few people I know to actually achieve his “dream job,” as they say. He owned the most darling little art gallery you could imagine. The Little Yellow House, we called it. On the fringes of downtown, it was the last bit of beauty before the monotonous, busy-body expectations of the seventy-five miles-per-hour, four-lane interstate. The last bit of innocence before the “real world.”
Built on a three-foot stone foundation, the quaint house and its yellow paint greeted the street, its cheery windows and white shutters blinking blithely into the streaming morning sunlight. If ever a building could be a morning person, The Little Yellow House would certainly be it. Peeling white fence line encompassed the lot and backyard. Peeling paint— the simple gallery didn’t ask for much. Steep grey steps and tumbling flower pots welcomed guests impartially, pleasantly, as if each person was a long-time friend finally returned home. The pallid wooden door swung open like the wardrobe to Narnia. While locked in the evenings, it was never off-limits to me. For the first eleven years of my life, that plot was my whole world.
And the art. Mercy, the beauty. Certainly we are a product of our surroundings to some degree. My attention to detail, my enamorment with nature, my spilling-over desire to see the world from the eyes of others, a drowning thirst for perspective, all of these encyclopedia entries I assign to the art living on those walls. Those canvases and frames and beautifully imprisoned moments in time, the painting of the very breath in me. That simple building was basically home. Burgundy carpets, fragrant wooden walls, ordained archways, color mixed in a million different heartbeats. Salvation. I miss it. God how I miss it.
It has been a handful of years since I have been in an art gallery. At least, in an art gallery that knew it was not exhibiting its own creation, but the Creator’s. I think it damages the human soul somehow, to be so long removed from the wonders that raised us. The good wonders, anyway. It is too easy to forget who you are in a culture that tells you what you should be: self-made. Stepping into an exhibition, after recalling my lineage for the first time, shattered my existence— my exhausted, self-constructed existence, let’s say. Perhaps a shrunken velveteen stage depicting the glories of darkness to light would be unaffective to you. Perhaps it wouldn’t matter. But those strips of fabric pierced me. I had forgotten the beauty of art. How I had grown so distant from my foundation, I don’t know. I’d like to blame it on pop culture or societal pressure or incessant deadlines, but is not my lack of identity manifest of my lack of time with my Identifier?
They say that stars are the only objects to truly emit their own light, to be their own source of this life-giving flow of waves. This is a lie. To anyone who has ever seen oil or acrylic on canvas, landscape, flowers, moonlight, street light, this is a lie. Canvas and pigment. Forget the physical eye, this combination emits more light into the human soul than any other source, second to the Word. And this is coming from a writer and a reader, one who believes words’ skill is to illuminate. Illuminate. Is this the all-powerful wonder of art? Because it illuminates beauty, certainly. Physically, metaphorically, however you want to receive it. But
good art, powerful art illuminates the human condition. It lights up our darkest realms, drags out our thoughts we’d rather not share, believing we are the only ones foolish enough, dark enough, helpless enough to think such things. It kindles our joy, our hope. Mercy, we need hope. Art ponders and professes and portrays our deepest conundrums. Light and dark, black and white, empty and full, beauty and ugly. Life and death. Opposites that, in this fallen world, never exist one without the other. Paradoxes. Everything returns to paradoxes.