Blank Canvas

We just spent a little more than a week in New York, near the sea and  our two daughters, and my heart is still singing.  On the rug there’s a little pile of sand that spilled from my shoe just after we got home, and I refuse to sweep it up.

We went into The City one afternoon to check out the new Met Breuer, where we saw a heart-stopping exhibit of Diane Arbus’s early photos (I’ll write more on that for sure) and “Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible”, a fascinating exhibit of art never completed, for one reason or another.

By now I should know better, but I still tend to torment myself with the idea that turning an idea into a work of art comes easy for other people. At least for geniuses. But here were unfinished canvases by Cezanne, Picasso, El Greco, Klimt, some scrapped after many tries to get them right, some interrupted by illness or sorrow or even death, some abandoned for unknown reasons. It was a chance to see the way a painting takes shape layer by layer, how outlines are filled in, sketches given dimension and texture. To remind myself that creating something where there was nothing is not supposed to be easy.

Some of the art, like a group of glorious canvases by Turner, was perfect in its imperfection. In a NY Times article on the show, one viewer said, “An artist is never finished, so their art is never finished. When you finish it, you kill it. Leaving it unfinished, you keep it alive.”

Yes. No book I’ve ever written was as good as I meant it to be. Nowhere near as good as my racing heart  hoped to make it. And this is another reason I’m so grateful to readers, who take an imperfect thing and find their own beauty in it.

 

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