Thursday, September 13, 2012


Considering the recent changes to my career, life has taken a turn that I had not anticipated: I'm ridiculously busy. Enjoying and analyzing art is a passion of mine and I do not intend to abandon it. Please know that it is my intention to return with my rather unqualified aesthetic reflections when I'm able to. For now, please accept my sincere appreciation for your unrelenting support, frequent returns, and impassioned determination to learn more about amazing, jaw-dropping, eye-stunning works of art. Don't ever let go of what others have done eons before our time. Art binds us all, is blind to color and creed, and will live forever in this digital age.

Blessings to all.

-Chad Wingerd


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Nike of Samothrace

I love the term breathtaking. So few things earn the right to be called breathtaking but when they do, oh man! It's exhilarating to suddenly encounter something that stops the world and causes your vision and mind to appropriately narrow. It could be another person, the look on someone's face, a smile, a piece of art, architecture; this list goes on and on, but you get the idea. What makes the experience of having my breath taken even more amazing is the potential for awkward silence; I love it! Though, I do digress.

Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan is a great example of something breathtaking. I first saw the masterpiece at a small theater in Medford, Oregon. As the early scenes played upon the screen and the beach invasion began, my breath was thoroughly sapped as I watched a soldier instinctively trudge through the bloody water and sand in search of his severed arm. As he picked it up and headed back towards the front line, I can recall the squeeze I felt both in my chest and in my heart. As the final scenes played and Ryan turned to his wife and asked, "Tell me I'm a good man," I realized I had just watched the first movie in my life where I wasn't sure how to feel. The experience was simply breathtaking.

When something is so beautifully uncommon, it causes a physical reaction where it feels as if a cement truck has driven over my chest. From the involuntary collapsing of my lungs to the pulsating rush of blood to my head, for me it's a thrill. I don't feel like I need to put myself into dangerous positions or exotic locales to then force the same reaction. No, having it always be happenstance makes the experience all the more appreciated and genuine. From simple things like when my niece comes over to give me a hug, to complex experiences like the time I emerged from a dense forest only to myself on the edge of a boulder overhanging a deep gorge rife with greenery; these breathtaking moments are unscripted and deeply cherished.

Nike of Samothrace, (also known as Winged Victory of Samothrace), by an unknown artist, is a marble sculpture of the Greek Goddess Nike (Victory) as she descends from the heavens to pay tribute to those who have just won a great sea battle. Estimated to have been sculpted around 190 B.C., the piece is one of the most celebrated and famous works of art known to mankind. Accolades aside, what is most striking about the figure is the collision of violent motion, grace, and sudden stillness all culminating into something angelic and yes, breathtaking.

Admittedly, it's not easy to come up with words for this piece. If you haven't noticed, I've avoided them quite a bit and more so than any other work of art that I've written about. It's because I feel it's unnecessary and unwarranted. Here before us is something that should be quietly admired in person. Yet its embodiment of taking breath away is reason enough to at least acknowledge it. Indeed, the woman's figure and curves are tantalizing, and her 2100 year old clothing shows great similarity to what is still being designed in fashion today, but what more can I say? I feel as if I'm already belittling its significance and beauty. In other words, I don't know how to feel about this sculpture, and I certainly don't want to imply how others should feel, either. It is breathtaking and my hope is others understand this, too.

Captain Miller grabbed Ryan and pulled him closer to his face. With his last breath, he uttered, "James? Earn this ... earn it." It was one of the most powerful moments in the entire film and I feel directly correlates with what I try to do with each blog I write. I'm not here to unveil the secrets and mysteries surrounding beautiful works of art for I am no expert. I'm here merely to express how certain works can be appreciated by showing they coincide with regular human emotions. And through my words I hope to earn nothing more than increased self-respect. For in my daily life, I can be uncouth and vividly different than most others around me. Yet when I sit down to write and as dulcet tones pour into my ears helping to separate me from my surroundings, I shed every ounce of who I am to have my breath taken and to pay my respects to art.

I hope I've earned this.

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Lady in a Fur Wrap

Long-suffering isn't a term often used these days. And why not? Bad things happen to really great people all the time. It's a fact of life that along the paths we take to secure our future, there will be bumps and obstacles. Yet, let's not forget that we may also encounter an audience along the way. And like hecklers at a comedy club, there will be some who apathetically and selfishly attempt to disrupt what we're doing.

There is no magic button or super power we can take advantage of to avoid these troubles. Being a human means we will chance upon moments that are trying and laced with the self-loathing of others. Even the most famous and successful end up victims. Old adages and silly clichés won't hold the answers or bring restitution. We will have to take each annoying and frustrating encounter step-by-step, pulling from our wisdom, leaning on our ability to be patient, and hoping to find support in our loved ones to make it through. For the fortunate, it may seem laborious to endure the hours and days it can take to break through, but it could be a lot worse. For the less-fortunate, it can be hell and the only resource for strength they can count on is them self.

What's great about bad things happening, though, are the wonderful lessons we learn. When we face trials that challenge us to our very core, we quickly find out what we're capable of accomplishing--of surviving. The wind knocked out of us, the rug pulled from under our feet, the support beams yanked from the walls that surround our lives; we discover what is ultimately most important, cherished, and essential for living. Through it all, we relearn what it means to be truly content. As the world around us shakes violently, the chafe is loosed and the dust that gathered falls to the floor. With our humanity exposed and completely vulnerable, we are given the gift of sight--pure sight.

A Lady in a Fur Wrap, by Doménikos "El Greco" Theotokópoulos (1541-1614), is an oil-on-canvas painting of what is believed to be his long time lover, Jeronima. Typically known for his Biblical themed works that used harsher colors and lighting, El Greco steps away from his usual repertoire to illustrate an individual who is both breathtaking and seemingly timid. With gentle, smooth strokes and subdued shades, El Greco creates a sense of warm beauty surrounded by a shadowy coldness. Clearly, the subject is a woman of some wealth and influence, but again, the story of who she is and what she symbolizes is all in her eyes.

With a piece like this, I'm amazed at the complexity found in its simplicity. It's just a painting of a woman against a dark background. But in the upper right corner, I notice what appears to be the edge of a stone wall or doorway. My senses are then tickled to presume she is outside somewhere, maybe in an alleyway or a dense marketplace at night. And then I'm drawn to her face and eyes, and everything else fades. Her look is deceiving. Is it, "Come hither", or does she know something from experience and is now confronted with eminent peril of which she will triumph because of her resolve?

A close and beloved friend of mine recently went through a long string of heartbreaking and extremely frustrating circumstances. Her life was suddenly halted by an emotional challenge that was nearly too much to bear. And when she began to barely see the light at the end of the tunnel, her personal world took a battering as the selfishness of others kicked her while she was down. Left isolated and very limited, she and her companions did what they could to trek through the muck and mire of what was left of their lives at that time. Recently, however, my friend announced that things were finally coming together and life was slowly working itself back to normal. She was bruised and scarred, but she had conquered forces out of her control. Through the love and support of her friends, through her tenacious will and inner strength, and by finding out how much she was truly capable of suffering through, she not only survived, she triumphed.

When I see this amazing piece of art, I immediately think of my friend. I am sure the same look on the face of this woman can be found on her. My friend is still the same person. Smart, whimsical, charming, full of life and energy, yet now with greater wisdom and a deeper, more determined look in her eyes. The best part about this unfortunate adventure was when she started talking about how things were going to change for the better. It was reasonable for her to feel anger and frustration, but she didn't give in to a victim mentality. She merely reached forward with all her might to emerge from the crater that had pierced her life, and she stood at the edge with a new look upon her face.

I know what she's going to do now. She's going to keep moving forward, never looking back. She's going to be stronger, wiser, and that much more special to those of us who know her.

This is for you, MM.

Friday, July 6, 2012

A Man Looks at the Hudson River from the New York Tower of the George Washington Bridge on Dec. 22, 1936

The hustle and bustle of life moves quickly. If you're not careful or are one prone to misfortune, you're probably going to miss quite a bit of it. There is no replay button or time machine to go back and relive moments of life that should have or could have been lived with gusto. It's just the way things are and along the paths, each of us succumbs to forces we are unable to control thereby skipping passed experiences and memories that would have been cherished. I suppose you could call it fate or karma; the bottom line is you're only able to live if you choose to, moment by moment. Or are we?

There are some who seem to be framed in by the incredible world around them but unable to attain meaningful moments. Dragged down by misjudgment, foolish assumption, or unfair bias, these individuals whoosh by moments in their lifetime that would have otherwise meant more. They are held back by others in their lives simply because they hold themselves to a higher standard, aren't willing to take the same risks, or wish to not be a burden. They are all still unique individuals with talents and worth which would easily be a blessing for many, but the devious, selfish nature of the majority take advantage of their sensitivity, anchoring them to a life that is mediocre and wrought with loneliness.

Each of us has choices. Unfortunately, most choose to ignore nobility and meekness. In the shadows and around corners not often traversed are the souls of amazing people who just wish to please. They are kind, they are motivated, and they are filled with the strongest hope any human can imagine. In the eyes of those who are ultimately insecure and threatened, they are mocked and disregarded as weak. But it's when no one is looking that their true colors shine. Stopping to admire a view, enjoying the scent of a flower, seeing an object that reminds them of someone special; they are the true embodiment of what most outspoken and far more popular people claim to admire. But claiming isn't enough and all too often, they are just words. Holidays, birthdays, get-togethers, all kinds of special and meaningful social activities occur and left out are the "odd-balls." It's been that way for eons. There, on the precipice of what could be a more fulfilling life for everyone are the folks who just don't fit in, aren't regarded in social circles, and are often ignored or forgotten. Forlorn, each one of them hurts, but it's not often you would know. It's just not in their nature to tell.

A Man Looks at the Hudson River from the New York Tower of the George Washington Bridge on Dec. 22, 1936, by Jack Rosenzwieg (unknown date birth) of the Associated Press, courtesy of the New York City Municipal Archives, is a black and white image of a man gazing out over the Hudson River towards New York City. Thought to be one of several archival photos meant to capture New York's ever-growing expansion, the piece gives both graphic engineering detail of the George Washington Bridge as well as an idea of how the NYC skyline looked in 1936. Even more tantalizing is the vivid detail of the photo almost giving the viewer a sense of color in the steel and sky. Capturing a lone man standing on the relatively newly built bridge, Rosenzwieg froze a moment of time and history that can mean so much more to the discerning eye: What it's like to feel insignificant in a giant world.

The Industrial Revolution was a marvelous time of tenacity and ingenuity. With great detail, we're able to see just how precise and rigid things were built during that era. Lighting was nearly perfect for this shot and with the haze blanketing NYC in the background, the picture ends up embodying more than just a record of man's greatest achievements. It also captures what it's like to be someone right in the middle of an amazing life but for the fact that he is on his own, alone, and unbeknownst to anyone else around him. Faceless, shadowy, he rests against the frames of what is his life at that very moment in time watching a burgeoning metropolis go about its business, nary a thought dedicated to him.

Who is he? What are his thoughts?

Does it matter?

You know, being charitable doesn't mean you are noble. Millions of faceless people all around the world are blessed through the spirit of giving found in others, yet some of those same people who share their wealth are the ones who ignore the face right next to them. Signing the check to help those ravaged by hunger and then off to a party to behave as peacocks and celebrate popularity. Oh no, wait! Let's update our Facebook pages with images. Let's hoist our fun into the faces of everyone else without regard to our audience. Because being self-absorbed and broadcasting our in-the-moment moments are just fine and what others should be doing, too. Right?

But what about the guy on the bridge? He's not a charity case but what surrounds a man does not make the man. Strip away his life, his job, his clothing, his home and expose his core. What you have left is another human being, pumping the same colored blood through his veins, feeling the same feelings you and I do, standing there utterly vulnerable and merely hoping to be appreciated. Merely hoping the staring faces around him won't begin to laugh as they have so many times before.

Take time to appreciate those around you who don't have as much. Cast aside ill-conceived notions of possession, ignore stereotypes, and refuse to give in to your own fears and insecurities. Just be good at heart and to all mankind. That's it.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Knitting Girl

Do you pine? I do and it has become something that consumes my mind on a daily basis. Imagining the things I want to achieve, the things I wished I would have achieved, places I'd like to go, people I'd like to see; on and on my synapses fire off signals. The interesting part is how the environment around me can shape my pining. Little things that catch my eye send my mind into a flurry of the "what could be" category of imagination and off I go. Earn this, find that, discover something, reaching it; forever the twisting of my deepest desires flutter about in my head.

I suppose it's human nature to conjure up what ifs and I'll be bold enough to suggest that denying them would be an atrocity to living. Where would we get inspiration? How would be find motivation? Wouldn't we just be insulting on inherent freedoms of existence?

There really isn't one thing that garners the majority of my pining. In fact, on some levels, all of the things I hope to achieve or wish to earn are tied together. For I've discovered I cannot have one thing without adjusting the other things I also want to have. To be rather superficial, let's take the Audi S5 as an example. By and large, this particular vehicle is one of my favorites. It's not too unpractical, it's not super expensive, and the idea that I could someday own one is within reasonable grasp. However, to be able to purchase one, I need to adjust other aspects of my life. Personally and professionally, there needs to be advancement and thus, determination. And there you have it! Pining for the Audi S5 has come full circle and I am now imaging where improvement is needed so I can achieve greater success and therefore buy the car of my dreams.

Silly as this may sound, I still hope it makes sense. Take away the materialistic qualities of the example and you have revealed the emotional connections. Marriage? A family? The ability to experience the world and other cultures? Discovering your genealogical roots? Each one of these desires is tied to an emotional cue which would then require your life to shift on at least two levels. The only responsibility you have left to your heart and mind is to achieve.

The Knitting Girl, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905), is a simple painting of a young female seated next to a tree, knitting and gazing off towards the horizon. At first glance, the piece is extremely realistic and delicately created. The subject's skin is supple and free of blemishes suggesting she comes from at least a modest, middle-class family. Her clothing, however, is rather common and for me, this suggests she may be in the employment of a local seamstress or family friend. Yet the detail and enchanting light pull the viewer to the more important theme of Bouguereau's work: What is she thinking?

I notice her eyes almost immediately. They are sad yet seemingly hopeful. Her hands appear to be busy with her knitting but her face says she's imaging something else. Therefore, this piece is intriguing to me. You have an excellent example of why art is fascinating. Some may wish to indulge the color and precision while others seek to find answers to the suggested evocations. For me, it's the latter and her tender expression makes me wonder, does she want something else? Is she hoping to find more out of life? Where could she be in the recesses of her mind?

Honestly, who doesn't pine? We all have things we do each day that are routine or necessary, and I truly feel it's impossible not to imagine better. It doesn't have to be about what you're doing in the here and now, it could be about things that warm your heart or tickle your fancy. And in each instance, we're able to find reason and hope; to find the vitality we need to push forward and reach new heights. It's not about envy or coveting what others have that you may not. It's about advancing who you are as a person, as a sibling, as a spouse, as a member of society. Pining for what could be is much different than pining for what should be. Making that distinction is important and once averted, then the only challenge left is to reach. How does this painting tie it all together? By implying that to accomplish one's dreams and goals will require meticulous knitting of one's life and emotions. Otherwise, everything will just fall apart.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Woman III

"To me, fair friend, you never can be old.
For as you were when first your eye I eyed.
Such seems your beauty still."
--William Shakespeare

My soul aches. I admit it. At the risk of exposing more about myself than I probably should, to whom shall I turn to admonish such strife? For in my proclamation there can be redemption, or at the very least, some relief. To bottle up truths about myself can only perpetuate circumstance as I am a firm believer in learning from my past.

For a few, the notion of my heartfelt desires are no mystery. I live a life that is filled with expression and the inability--at times--to restrain my proclamations. That's just who I am and I make no apologies for wearing my heart on my sleeve. I've always been a passionate man, it was something I gleaned from my mother. Over the years, through maturity, and thanks to hundreds of mistakes, I've learned to be much more tactful. Yet the aching in my soul is two fold.

One side is riddled with regret for the times I've hurt others. Mind you, this hasn't been a frequent occurrence but each one has been significant enough to create a scar that I fondly recognize as catalysts to improve. Amongst these scars are a few that stand out and it is to these individuals that my begging for forgiveness may never be appeased. For I cannot rid myself of scars, can I? They are reminders of what was done or said, and while someone I've hurt may cover my scar and tell me it's okay, it remains. To you, you, and you--you know who you are, please know this.

The other side of my soul is plagued with desire. Directly connected and in relation to the adjacent, my pension for fantasizing about the "could be" has built a house of cards. Each jostle in life causes a collapse for which my fantastical imagination shields me from reluctance in rebuilding. After I emerge from my idealistic haze, I see that same house of cards as it was and push forward in hopes of realizing my dreams. Somewhere out there are answers and resolutions, are finalities and dead ends. They can be great, they can be sad, they can be apathetic but there they be.

Woman III, by Willem de Kooning (1904-1997), is an oil on canvas, abstract expressionism painting and one of a series of six paintings of women as the central theme. Using bold, uncouth lines and sweeps, de Kooning exhibits Picasso-like interpretation with his "action painting" style. Of particular note are the female's engaging eyes and large breasts which seem to imply a superficial attempt to appear beautiful. Of subtle note are the female's hands and blur of movement from her waist down which seem to imply a sense of hurry underneath a superficial gaze.

Not much is known about the intent of what de Kooning was attempting to express. But that's why art is so fascinating and it lends to our imaginations as we feel through our own impressions. This particular piece stood out for me because it portrays the same emotional implications that are currently aching my soul. For I see a woman trying in earnest to be someone she isn't in an effort to hide her real pains and insecurities. The work displays what appears to be relative calm albeit feigned but the motion in the background and just below her breasts seem to indicate deeper seeded troubles. It's as if she's pretending to be polite or charming but it's all a mask for emotional issues she avoids or ignores.

She stands, staring at me with her crooked nose and flowing hair, and I can't help but feel sorry for her. She seems to be hurting herself and I sense similar strife in her that I struggle with thus making this a piece that I instantly identify with. Each day my heart wants to put aside what I truly feel so that I can concentrate on what's important for the day. But my soul won't let me and thus I have to carefully navigate through each obstacle ensuring both aspects of myself are relatively satisfied. For me, I refuse to ignore either of them and when I see this woman, I'm reminded of all those times when I had.

It all boils down to understanding the roots of our desires. Why do we want what we want? And once you've figured that out, you ask why of the whys. You reach down and find the very purpose for your will to live, to succeed, to push forward and pursue your dreams. Love. Beauty. Forgiveness. Peace.

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever; its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness."
--John Keats

Saturday, May 12, 2012

L'Homme qui marche I

Fantastical whims churned inside his head as he sat nervously at the table. Visions of the potential future flashed before his imagination and quickly faded from one scenario to another, each including him and her. It was his methodical way of sifting through his emotions to decide if he felt the two could be right for each other. Indeed, conversation and the humanistic practice of revealing little eccentricities about themselves to each other would unfold; the archaic-laden and based courtship of the 21st Century. He was no master of the dating scene, but humble enough to know his faults and where his past mistakes ailed his cause: true love.

Moments in their exchange hit varied crescendos and every once in awhile, they reached a lull. He then would quickly turn to humor to hide his inadequacies, working his charm delicately to expose his vulnerability just enough to move the momentum back into positive territory. He'd been in similar situations many times before, and all of them left him as misunderstood. And here she was, exuding an inner beauty with each smile, and revealing moralistic and emotional similarities he often would not find. He did not want this one to slip away.

His walk through life as a bachelor has never once been an enjoyable experience. Like a penumbra between love and fate, his pace has only ever once faltered in his pursuit to find a mate, and merging into and out of the former and latter has proven to be a difficult, frustrating hope. Occupation, financial well-being, health, even style have all evolved and improved so that each frivolous exterior quality can be--and appear to be--the best they can be. As such, what was left was his longing to find the source of true happiness in a partner that would compliment him, complete him, and give new purpose. Possible? At times he's felt disheartened but with each emotion-jarring rejection and eminent desire to give up, he continued on, stride before stride, streamlined and determined.

L'Homme qui marche I (The Walking Man I), by Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966), is a bronze-cast sculpture of a 6 foot tall man, mid-stride, and focused in his trajectory. From Wikipedia's entry:  The piece has been described as "both a humble image of an ordinary man, and a potent symbol of humanity". Giacometti is said to have viewed "the natural equilibrium of the stride" as a symbol of "man's own life force".

For me, it's largely and metaphorically representative of all emotional journeys we each take. The steely determination in the stride, the evidence of wear in the humbled positioning of the arms, the subtle fear of defeat in the withdrawn shoulders; this person embodies knowing and understanding, and ultimately does not want to fail again or quit. He is a potent symbol of a purposeful humanity.

When I see this figure, I see myself insignificantly traversing through crowds of other figures hoping to meet what destiny, hope, or my goals would have me meet. And in the case of our love-seeking friend, it is his plight to weed through souls in hopes of finding his match. Yet the uniqueness and seeming bland qualities of this piece make it oh so extraordinary and extremely easy to find varying comparisons of life. Weight loss, health, professional determination, financial stability, support for loved ones; all of it is embodied in this sculpture and for something that came out of the Postwar America era, I think it is beautiful and moving.

The date ended and there was success and utter failure. He was an amazing catch, fulfilling many of the desires she wished to find in a partner. He was handsome, wanted marriage, a family, cherished little things and found bliss in simplicity. For him, she was bright, intelligent, meaningful, genuine in her interest, sincere in her smile. And in the end, it boiled down to an inconceivable gender difference where she ultimately did not feel the spice in their "chemistry".

In his heart, he began the process of mending the pain while emotionally pushing his chair back, heading for the door, and wading into the crowds of other shadows seeking that one, special person. Complexly intertwined yet kept very separate, he had mastered the experience of rejection and could manipulate the aspects of his being without needing one to support the other. Thus, his stride quickened, his head held high, and through the drifting abyss of solitude and potential, he sought out what next fate may have in store.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Morning Sun

Complexly wrapped up in his thoughts, Michael stepped off the curb in front of his office building and started walking. He thought of his job, his work-load, the man he had to meet in the courtyard, his upcoming plans for the weekend, his upcoming vacation, the plans he was working to put together for the summer, his search for a new home, and much more. Scurrying between each thought letting one iota lend to a subject change and then on and on, Michael felt exhaustion creep up his body. He wasn't about to let it get any further, however, as his mind had to stay sharp. Everything just meant too much to him.

As he stood next to a statue, he paused for a moment to breath in the crisp, clean air and gazed up at the sky. It was wonderfully blue with clusters of white, misshaped clouds and suddenly, everything began to fade. He commented to himself how peaceful things were at the very moment and thought about how he wished the weather would pause and stay the way it was. His tasks, his adventures, his worries all seemed to drown out in the wake of peaceful beauty that swept over. Despite it all, he remarked to himself from somewhere deep inside, "This is a good day."

Hoping he wouldn't lose the moment, Michael reached for his cell phone and snapped a few pictures. He was always one to stop and share moments like these with others not because they were badges of honor for him to wave around, but hopefully moments others can glean from and therefore find their own moment to escape binding monotony. In his heart, he knew it was all relative and when you get right down to it, his life was pretty good and he was enormously contented. The fury of each day's unrelenting waves of responsibilities really weren't that bad when he put things into perspective and for this one moment, he hoped others could feel the same way he did.

Morning Sun, by Edward Hopper (1882-1967), is the oil-on-canvas painting of a middle aged woman blankly staring out a window while the (aptly named) morning sun splashes her face and fills the room. It's a very simple piece using warm colors, subtle lines, medium brush strokes, brilliant use of shadowing, and wonderfully avoids complexity. The woman is scantily dressed yet void of any implied sexuality; she just seems to be lost in the moment, escaping her otherwise involute life for the sake of her well-being. Yet upon closer inspection, the one curious aspect about Hopper's work is the woman's blacked out eyes which seem to suggest she is feeling truly isolated both mentally and physically.

It is said that Hopper used his wife Josephine as the female subject in many of his works and in this particular one, I don't feel the audience even needs to know this. And despite having just shared it, think about how nice it is to have this nameless person gracing the center of this warm piece because she does not diminish the all too real feelings the rest of us experience. All of Hopper's work is conscious of this, as a matter of fact, which is partly the reason for his rise to fame in the 1920s.

And in this very moment, I can sense you are relating to the moment captured here and the very same feeling. You are thinking back to moments in your life where things became overwhelming and you too found something to stare at blankly getting lost in the purity of the moment. These are wonderful moments I know I cherish, and much like Hopper's paintings to the world, I try to take them and pass them along so others can be reminded that we all need them from time to time. For it is poetic and beautiful that hectic periods in life can be aesthetically escaped when nature and simplicity surround you. Embrace them all and do mankind a favor by sharing.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Les Enfants de la Place Hebert

So what's wrong with being different, unique? What's wrong with standing out in a crowd because you refuse to conform to ideals and stereotypes? Are you hurting others? Are you hurting yourself?

Are you genuinely you?

I won't profess to know the human psyche well enough to definitively say how we humans develop through adolescence and into adulthood, but from my observations, it typically goes something like this:  Innocence to curiosity; curiosity to exploration; exploration to decision. The process of becoming someone--something--isn't the same for anyone and can certainly take longer for a select few. For example, by the time I was 24, I thought I knew what I wanted. Relatively speaking, I was on the same track I'd later decide to continue to pursue but I had the wrong motivations and intentions. Life was topsy turvy for me 15 years ago and it was pretty evident I was unique and entirely different than the rest of my family. It wasn't intentional; it just was.

After settling back into what I felt was the correct path in life for me, I found out later I was wrong yet again. What I felt was a spiritual decision to venture in the direction I did was actually still very rooted in the same selfish purposes I had when I was in my young 20s. And by the time I hit my 30s, I was having to restart my life all over again. The emotional maturing and development I went through was supposed to have happened when I was 10 years younger, but for some reason, I stumbled into it later in life and to this day, I continue to develop. Frankly, I don't think I'll ever stop.

The paradox that is opened when choosing to take certain steps to define who we are is quite complex. To dumb it down a bit, we inevitably turn into dead-ends or open wastes that yield no direction. While we could be back on some other path headed towards success and satisfaction, we're instead trying not only to find a glimmer of hope, but ourselves. For the most part, we all wade our way through the difficult eras and then find our niche in life. Many will look back and regret the choices he or she made while others will admire the scars they endured and the experiences wrought along the way.

Ultimately and philosophically, we could then surmise that childhood is a beast, but only in hindsight. For me, the emotions I felt as a kid doing various kid things I cling to now with deep affection. Just the other day while I was on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland, I had a moment where my chest started pounding with child-like excitement when we cruised through the cave of skeletons and treasure chests and gold and maps and cobwebs. I instantly relived dozens of moments from my youth and when we spat out the end of the ride, part of my soul was rejuvenated. I like it like that! Yet my heart hates that those years are gone and that I failed to develop in the same way many of my friends and siblings have. Where they are all married and doing family things, I'm about to hit 40 and am momentarily focused on developing my career because I really don't have much else to do.

Les Enfants de la Place Hebert, by Robert Doisneau (1912-1994)--a photographer and pioneering photojournalist--is the black and white image of three children on the streets of Paris. Capturing a moment like this isn't easy, especially when your subjects are three individual sets of random emotion and movement. Yet Doisneau has frozen time in such a way that with each child, we the audience are able to evolve our emotional response as our gaze moves from face to face.

Poignantly capturing the three basic phases of development, innocence, curiosity/exploration, and decision are mirrored in the respective looks and attitudes. In each child, we're able to recognize moments of our own lives during development and for those who are open-minded, the emotions of those moments can be felt once again. The small girl at the bottom center; such a cutie! She's completely mesmerized by the camera and moment and it's easy to tell that nothing else matters; she's completely Innocent. Right behind her and seemingly in charge of the youngest is Curiosity mugging for the lens while exuding her femininity. She's awkward yet signs of developing grace and ambition can be seen. And lastly, leaning against a police call-box, is Decision; he's cool, he's careless, he's not bothered nor interested in the moment. Oh, but he is ... he just refuses to accept it. Feigning his collection and suave appeal, he's at the ripe age of knowing it all and his choice to be who he is, is final. At least for now.

It's a simple image of three simple beings who have no clue what may lie in store for their lives in 10 or 20 years. Each one is rightfully ignorant of the trials and tribulations of adulthood so in that, they are all three very similar. Yet each one is at a stage in life that will set the foundations for whom they become later on in life. It's saddening, evocative, exciting, and almost morbid all wrapped up together. But who are any of us to discourage the explorations of others except to intervene when eminent danger lie ahead? For the most part and much like our three children here, we're all average and miniscule in the sea of others who are at their own stage of becoming who they want to be, wish to be, and hope to be. It can get crowded and uncomfortable and at times, elbows can be thrown, but we're all in this together and thus capable of being supportive and encouraging. Focus not on the aspects of how others develop, but embrace your own recognizing the philosophical journey is one you are not alone in doing. In the end, you'll come to realize it's all about harmony and that each step forward is a success.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Migrant Mother

She was earnest in her attempt to explain to him he meant the world to her. It wasn't meant to be but she ignored the quiet little voice in her head and figured she should at least try and explain to him how she felt. He cautiously listened--much to her surprise--and seemed to inch further away from her with each spoken word. She noticed but she didn't let it phase her, she was determined to show him how genuine her feelings were.

They spoke for a brief time and it did not go how she had hoped. She expected a bit more appreciation if not mutual affection and what she ended up with was pain. He explained who he really was wiping away the facade that had been "him" for the past six months. Each moment they spent together, she swore she could feel a connection that felt stronger with each meeting. Yet throughout, there was never any mention of romance or commitment, just friendly banter that often led to encouragement and optimism. And there, that night, the leap of faith of truly expressing her desires to him backfired in a way she was not expecting despite having the emotional scars of someone twice her age.

"I could never be with someone like you--at your age. It might be great for a while but I would worry as time went on that you're too old to be a good mother," he said without malicious intent but as if it was fair, relevant, and even logical.

She could feel the blood drain from her face as her mouth gaped open ever so slightly. There wasn't much she could say as the tide of emotions from this bold rejection overwhelmed her entire body. After a few moments, she could only look down, accept reality, and nod her head. She was done. Her case was plead and jury deliberations were quick and painful. She utter a few more words that were probably unintelligible, picked up their trash from the table, and headed out the door without looking back. The long walk to her car actually felt good and after getting in, she sat there for a while letting the truth sink in. It would appear his stinging honesty must have reflected how others feel, too. And so her thoughts turned to a grim outlook for her future and the seeming perpetual singleness that would plague her for the rest of her life.

Migrant Mother, by Dorothea Lange (1895-1965), is the black and white photograph of a woman named Florence Owens Thompson and three of her seven children. Her expression is derived from their family's car breaking down just minutes before the photo was snapped, yet in her eyes we can see miles of struggle and the last bits of hope fading off in the distance. In her arms is her youngest while her other two hide their faces in admitted shame; meanwhile her husband and two of their sons are off someplace else attempting to find someone who can repair their vehicle. Taken in 1936 during the Great Depression and during a time where many were still struggling despite some miniscule upswing in the markets, the image and the family exemplify pure poverty and destitution far too many others suffered during those days.

It feels as if this one moment captures an expression of how we all feel in our hearts from time to time. It's as if pessimism is no longer a reaction but a means to face reality. When so much has been lost and each attempt to move forward is met with failure, as a defense mechanism our emotions and minds begin to expect nothing good can ever come. For if nothing good is expected, only then can good truly be recognized as good, right? At least for some, this is the type of philosophical ideology that is accepted and is exuded in this portrait.

Reality, however, is not evil. The inclination to think the worst is all one can expect and to emphasize adverse aspects only serves to beget the worst. Therefore, I would suggest that pessimism is a faulty emotion stemming from weakness. Being human, of course there will be moments where it's near impossible to expect anything less than rubbish. But should one allow that emotion to run rampant and overcome one's ability to see beyond one's own feet, then one has allowed the reality of the future to become meaningless. And how foolish is it to think that?

Beyond our own pains and struggles, there lies the very real and true future of what has yet to pass. One could argue that tomorrow could bring fortunes a plenty, or a catastrophe that leads to one's ultimate demise. So who am I to suggest that either future outcome is something to be met with optimism? Because I have experienced both. I have had moments where amazing opportunities have been handed to me or earned, and I have lost my mother to cancer. Selfishly, those opportunities brought financial and professional benefits I am still able to reap. Unselfishly, my mother's passing has helped me grow up to be a man with strong morals and passions few others have the chance to experience.

And while imperfection lies at every turn my life takes and I have my moments where my heart expresses the same weary hopelessness we see in Mrs. Thompson's eyes, I have the experience to know that tomorrow is in fact a new day! Will tomorrow be wrought with fortune and blessings? Maybe not but it will most certainly have moments where I'll be challenged as a person, a professional, a brother, a son. And that's because I allow my optimism to overrule my inclination to be pessimistic. I've faced my own fair share of struggles but I decided long ago that I would learn from them and to accept my own failures as opportunities to make me a better person. And were I to die tomorrow, I can rest peacefully knowing those who have seen my plight to improve my life can find hope for themselves. I cannot change what tomorrow will bring and by accepting that, I can change how I will bring myself through tomorrow.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Vase of Flowers

The chill of the morning being wiped away as the rising sun peaks the horizon and its warm light bathes your face.

The simple sense of pleasure as you squeeze your eyes shut and inhale the enchanting aroma of a rose.

Wheezing through the thin air, you exert what's left of your strength and give it your all to pull yourself up the final rock as you crest the mountain only to behold the breathtaking view on the other side.

That instantaneous moment as you are on one knee, looking up at her face, and she answers, "Yes!"

Isn't it convenient that each moment we are met with a sense of optimism is the same moment one of our senses is overwhelmed? Well, perhaps not convenient but a blessing? With each of the examples above, though, if you're able to empathize with those moments, you're able to remember how it felt and how nothing else in the world mattered. Being overcome with reality in a way that surpasses frivolity is a moment in your life where optimism and hope were real. You were able to find a tangible source to remind you that things really are not that bad.

All too often and almost always coupled with complacency, individuals will miss out on the positive things in life because selfishness has become the dominant catalyst. Self-centered and apathetic towards others, he or she ignores the alleviating emotion that exists in nearly every single moment in life. Instead of walking away from a seemingly tragic moment reminded of one's own fortune, the individual allows his selfishness to promote anger. Instead of feeling genuinely happy for a newly wedded friend, the individual allows his selfishness to promote envy. You get the picture.

Not all circumstances in life will usher in obvious opportunities to feel good. In fact, it's foolish to expect it. But the individual who seeks to find the good in all things is the one who will yield the most fulfilling life. No matter how great or difficult life can be, it's up to every single one of us to dig beyond our own centric ideals and find the wisp of promise and relief that resides in each and every moment.

Vase of Flowers, by Jan van Huysum (1682-1749), is one of the most vivid still-life paintings ever created. On display at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California, this work is masterfully described as:
Arranged in a terracotta vase displaying an antique relief, Jan van Huysum included flowers from all seasons of the year--roses, anemones, hyacinths, tulips, and more--and painted them directly from life. The flowers' nearly overripe quality attests both to nature's bounty and its transience. The bouquet is ordered in a loose pyramidal shape, with flowers and greenery almost bursting to be free of the vase. Butterflies and other insects fly or crawl amongst the arrangement, and drops of water are visible on leafs and shiny petals.

Meticulous in his method and famous for the genre, van Huysum would sometimes painstakingly take several years to complete his paintings.

I've never honestly been a fan of still-life. It's never felt expressive to me until I recently saw this piece in person. At the time, I was mesmerized by the stark detail and incredible colors. It felt like I was looking at something created on a computer rather than a 18th Century art piece. And then the last two weeks happened. Frustration after frustration, set-back after set-back; it was a relentless barrage of negativity and spurned on by apathetic masses who wallow in ignorance. With each wave of vitriol and having the responsibility of policing it, I kept screaming inside at the faceless crowds hoping it would end and that they would see the light.

And that's just it! There is light there! There is light everywhere!! No matter the circumstances or your understanding of the truth, there is light and if you refuse to find it, you are hurting yourself and everyone else around you. It's a simple law and it is flawless. When faced with adversity, if you seek to find the good, the hope, the light, you will inevitably bring good, hope, and light into your life and to those around you. Optimism is not a disease or a chore but a gesture of kindness, a sign of wisdom, and the result of a selfless attitude.

When I spend time examining the details of van Huysum's Vase of Flowers, I'm lost in color, beauty, detail, and simplicity surrounded by glorious complexity. The burdensome weights of this world and life and responsibility no longer matter as I am optimistically swept away with still-life that is calming and wonderful. If you're capable of doing the same, then no matter what type of situation you face, you can repeat the practice. Go on! Find the wisp of reason to be optimistic and then share with me what happened. I would truly enjoy it.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I

I am patronized by her face, by her eyes. She's at an unreachable distance right now, and at times, I can feel my heart become overwhelmed with frustration and desire. Just look at her! Mesmerizing in emotional portrayals, intelligent and talented; she's the crème de la crème of what the perfect woman can be. And in a wake of wantonness, I struggle to stay afloat in my mind's flood of projections and longing.

Why, oh why can she not feel what I feel? How do I subconsciously prove to her I'd be the special man in her life she's expressed yearning? In a fit, my emotions stomp and flurry around inside my chest each time I see her, and my screams for attention go unnoticed as if I'm trapped inside a soundproof cube of glass. Her world scurries around her as does mine; a chaotic dance of parts and responsibilities that swirl and clash, and all I want to do is brush them aside.

And with everything in perpetual slow-motion and the distractions falling to the ground around us, we'd finally be able to make that silent connection. We'd approach other and exchange looks that say we're both anxious, satisfied, and excited. No words would be spoken. We'd just suddenly, totally understand. Our lives would change and become that much more enriching. We'd spend as much time together as we could with each passing minute being more quality than the last. The move from infatuation and curiosity to pure love would be as smooth as pouring paint from a can. That love would be whole and unbreakable. She and I would completely know that our souls are now one having been enhanced in a way they never could have been without the other.

Are you able to feel what I feel? Right yourself at this dizzying moment of your life and see the subtle hints I've expressed. I know they are there, it was with purpose that I left them behind. Never has a moment passed that my attempts to connect were without the sole purpose of expressing my hope and true feelings. And I know in my heart of hearts, we'd make an incredible pair.

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, by Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), is the stunning and beautiful painting of a wealthy woman from Vienna, Austria. Using oil and gold on canvass, Klimt weaves together a sense of hurry, sophistication, style, and fragility all at once which dazzles the eye and mind. Surrounded by implied movement, varying shapes, thin brush strokes, and bold, bright colors is the pale skin of a gorgeous woman lending momentary relief. Focusing closer, one begins to notice her expression, her lips, and her gentle eyes furthering the sensation of peace amidst havoc. This piece has long been heralded as iconic for the art nouveau philosophy and is one of the most duplicated and expensive paintings in the world.

I am struck by a sense of attraction, curiosity, and even pity as I take in this portrait. Immediately, I notice her beauty and delicate frame, and my desires to be in a relationship are inflamed. Then I notice her face and the look in her eyes and wonder if she's okay; if she's feeling something she wants to express but doesn't feel she can. Finally, I find her humble pose in striking contrast to the wild environment she's in and I want to pull her away, I want to help her find relief from the choking vividness in which she does not appear to be comfortable. This painting--for lack of a better way to put it that's not cliche--is haunting to me.

In the same way, when you see someone for whom you are suddenly overwhelmed with attraction, it can often be muddied by a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions. Like the dancing colors, shapes, and lines, in the middle is the heart of that person you may not know very well but can certainly feel an immediate connection. The world around both of you clogs your ability to express your feelings, and you're left with nothing but frustration and a muted heart that cannot be rescued. It's agonizing, it's unfair, and it leads to unrequited conviction you fear may never be answered.

There is no reason to lose hope, I say! Being an example of someone most people overlook or misunderstand, I know all too well what it's like to know deep down that a woman to whom I am attracted would find everlasting appreciation and dedication in me. Much like this two-dimensional painting of a woman I can sympathize with and towards, I am unable to remove her, to embrace her and help her understand that it's going to be okay; you're going to be okay. At a distance I cannot surpass, she has no idea at which lengths my passion for her stretches and that's just it! It's merely distance! Nothing is holding me down but my own fears of rejection. No, I cannot control her mind or her heart but I can control my own. And this is where we as humans are separate from inanimate objects of desire. We're capable of taking risks and we're not bound to an immovable canvas. My only hope is that my meticulous efforts here won't go unnoticed.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss

It is already beginning to feel like Spring in Southern California.  The past few days have been extremely pleasant with a touch of rain, plenty of sunshine, warm afternoons, mild evenings, and chilly nights.  It bodes a sense of hope that draws closer as Valentine's Day approaches and lovers come together.  Yes, this is a wonderful time of year and I, for one, can picture great things.

This sanguinity of love, however, reminds me of sacrifice:  To risk my whole self for the sake of the one who may capture my heart.  It is welcome and despite some nay-saying, it is anticipated with great optimism.  For to know her will grant me a sense of completion; an enclosure around the spinning motions of my life as I've tried to prepare to be the man she wants, she needs, and she hopes for.  I will be that man.

I have to be.

Sonnet 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed.
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

--William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss, by Antonio Canova (1757-1822), is the gorgeous and elegant sculpture of Psyche being brought back to life with a kiss from Cupid.  Very well known for his remarkable works, Canova creates a graceful and delicate piece which features a moment of love and tenderness that is difficult to capture in this form.  Psyche portrayed as a weakened but beautiful woman shows no signs of distress from her recent demise, but is enraptured in the moment as she brings her arms up and around Cupid's head.  Likewise, Cupid is portrayed as gentle but athletic as he carefully and ably lifts Psyche from her eternal slumber, doing so with grace and passion.  The lines and motion are phenomenal and it is no wonder this is one of the most beloved sculptures in the world.

Studying this sculpture brings me a sense of peace and hope.  It would be silly to fantasize about a moment in time with a woman that would mirror this moment, but in my heart, I feel it is absolutely relevant and will be experienced in spirit.  Struggles, disagreements, physical ailments, all such maladies will be met by me with heroic attention.  It's the gentlemanly thing to do.  And yet, this piece also suggests the need for practice which is all too often missing in far too many individuals.  Apathy and selfishness misdirect emotions and moralistic tendencies such that love has become a disposable engagement rather than a cherished enhancement to one's life.

Oh yes, Spring is coming and with it, I foresee the chance to love and be loved.  It's been the same these past many Spring seasons but giving up is not an option.  I was not raised to be that way and it would be a dishonor to my mother.  Some quip that chivalry is dead; I am here to tell you:  No it is not!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Death of Socrates

I'm staring over a steep cliff into a fog-filled canyon where only the lush pine tree tops can be seen sticking out of the clouds like volcanic rocks along a beach.  Behind me is a thick forest and the shadows within push towards my back and I feel trapped.  I swing my head back around and gaze out into the narrow crevasse in front of me and I think, "How the hell am I going to make it through this alive?"  I clench my eyes shut tight and methodically step forward.  The rush of adrenaline is as immediate as the g-force and wind wrapping around my body.

Risk taking.  I've done enough in my life to fill twenty books or more; to have a very long series of films.  From career oriented ventures to dating, it's enough to exhaust me as I think of it.  Yet though I remain willing to tempt my future professionally and am still a bachelor, I cannot fathom a me that would not continue to be a risk-taker.  If I had an uneducated say, I'd assert that it is embedded in our DNA; that being subconsciously provoked to make risky decisions is who we truly are as human beings.  There are indeed some who scoff at the idea of making waves or even appearing to create dissension, but in my mind, there are far too many gray areas and unspecified lines that need to be explored.

For you see, I'm a tactile man.  In learning, I glean the most when I'm knee-deep in what I need to learn, running my hands in and through, along and around whatever it is I want to know more.  In love, I'm a wholehearted advocate of Public Displays of Affection, of lots of closeness, and of ensuring my sweetheart knows with each touch and each look, she's on a pedestal of appreciation she will hopefully never have felt before.  That's just who I am.

The unfortunate side to all of this is the lack of appreciation folks seem to have for those of us who are risk takers; for those of us who are expressive even unto the very last moment.  We sacrifice our own dignity and self-respect for what we are truly passionate about and in the eyes of far too many, we're shunned and outcast as weird, as weak, as compensating, or as someone who is implausibly manipulative.  Along the way, there are a few who look beyond the superficialities but unfortunately, there are a greater number who would rather selfishly wallow in a comfort zone of ignorance and apathy than step out and see the deeper qualities that make us unique, incredible, and most likely a dying breed.

The Death of Socrates, by Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825) is the painted illustration of the moment the great Socrates defies his option of exile and agrees to be put to death by the Athenian government.  With incredible detail, David captures the moment where Socrates' disciples rue in anguish while Plato (at the foot of the bed) and Crito (clutching his knee) remain in touch with the reality at hand.  And in defiance, Socrates expresses his continued passion for philosophy with a hand raised upwards, face turned away as he readies his final words, while his other hand reaches for the deadly goblet of hemlock his is to drink.

Socrates was a risk taker.  Defining the human psyche and giving meaning to the feelings humans felt, he went beyond what other orators and teachers did with gentle discernment.  One might argue the significance of these assertions I'm making today, but the proof is in his heralded and oft studied works.  One can't deny the fact that even to this day, Socrates life and defiance of then stereotypical prudence has changed the way we understand who we are and why we do what we do.

When judgment leads us with sound reason to virtue, and asserts its authority, we assign to that authority the name of temperance; but when desire drags us irrationally to pleasures, and has established its sway within us, that sway is denominated excess.  When desire, having rejected reason and overpowered judgment which leads to right, is set in the direction of the pleasure which beauty can inspire, and when again under the influence of its kindred desires it is moved with violent motion towards the beauty of corporeal forums, it acquires a surname from this very violent motion, and is called love.  (Socrates)

In both, Socrates lived by example and his wisdom is still revered by many.  Correctly expressed, Socrates defines the balance between reason and foolishness; between lust and love.  For in this painting these things are uniquely illustrated in the various individuals around Socrates.  Even in the background leaving the death chamber, we can see Socrates' wife making her way out before his ultimate demise.  No, she's not waving goodbye, she is grasping for emotional relief from the inevitable.  Much the same, the men around him clamor and cringe in emotional agony save for the two other like-minded philosophers, Plato and Crito.

So where are the risk takers?  Where are those willing to stick their necks out for what's morally right and for the greater good?  Where are those willing to set aside comforts so he or she can grow in wisdom and knowledge?  Where are those good enough inside to find the good inside others?  Where are those who can truly love?

Plato put it best when he said, "I exhort you also to take part in the great combat, which is the combat of life, and greater than every other earthly conflict."

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Portrait of Dr. Gachet

It is with some regret that I, *Dr. Chad Wingerd, pronounce 2011 dead.  At approximately 12:59pm, GMT, on December 31, 2011 exhaled for the last time.  By its side were 2012, Al Gore, the "Hide yo kids, hide yo wife" guy, #Occupy Everything, NYPD officers, and a large pool of representatives from CNN.  2011 leaves behind two siblings--2009 and 2010, who are both still clinging to life-support--and no worldly possessions.  In a fit of struggle before succumbing to death's grip, 2011 was quoted as saying, "It was my intention to be a great year until I took an arrow to the knee."  The "arrow" is to be held at auction to benefit the Lawyers for Solyndra Foundation.

Battered, bruised, and about as ugly as a year can get, 2011 is behind us now.  The 365 days endured were riddled with pointless unrest, severe partisanship, dirty politics, international uprisings giving way to even more uprisings, wild and uncontrolled spending on an international level, and a whole lot of promises that were not fulfilled.  In fact, in my 39 years, I don't think I can recall a uglier year for both the United States and for many other nations.  Oh yes, there were certainly high notes peppered throughout the year and there are some who may argue there have been worse, but frankly speaking, the amount of despair and failure far out-shadows those wonderful things that were only given fleeting moments of glory.

Despite all the negativity and lunacy (for lack of a better way to put it), folks have been rather resilient and hopeful.  In just the past 24 hours, I've seen numerous mentions from a wide variety of people proclaiming their determination to see 2012 become a much better year for them.  It's as if we've all had to sit through and endure a sluggish, sickly year while we waited as a potential remedy worked its course through 2011's veins.

To put it bluntly, thank God it's over!

Oddly enough, though, and putting aside all the negativity and silliness, Earthlings have been rather patient through it all.  Lovingly staring back at better days whilest attentively gazing upon 2011's demise as it slowly unraveled, most folks did their best to keep their cool and give an unprecedented amount of focus on seeing it through and hoping for improvement.  Now that 2011 is officially over, these same people have all breathed a sigh of relief and are now turning their focus towards the philosophy of what goes down, must go up.

Portrait of Dr. Gachet, by Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), is a tenderly painted expression of van Gogh's appreciation for the doctor who personally cared for him during his mid-30s and through a difficult period of illness.  It is documented that van Gogh's first impressions of Dr. Paul Gachet were not too kind but within a matter of weeks, he was able to establish a new friendship and see beyond the reported consistent melancholy expression that persisted on the good doctor's face to see the genuine, caring man he was.

In classic van Gogh style, the doctor is portrayed at rest on his table, seemingly watching over the artist as he recovered, resting his head upon his right hand, medical books and a sprig of foxglove at the ready, against a dream-like backdrop of mountains.  Many scholars would agree, however, that the focal point of this piece is the doctor's face which van Gogh wrote about to his brother Theo:
I've done the portrait of M. Gachet with a melancholy expression, which might well seem like a grimace to those who see it... Sad but gentle, yet clear and intelligent, that is how many portraits ought to be done... There are modern heads that may be looked at for a long time, and that may perhaps be looked back on with longing a hundred years later.
Dr. Gachet was renowned for his care of other artists and was recommended to van Gogh after he spent about a year at the Saint-Paul Asylum.  The painter was beginning to long for the North of France and to be closer to his brother so he rented a room in the doctor's home.  Van Gogh's struggle with inner-demons and illness were well known.  He, of course, was given some infamy for severing his own ear after a depressing fight with friend and fellow painter, Gauguin.  Though the specificity of what truly ailed van Gogh is still not fully known, it's no mystery that he battled with--at the very least--a mental condition that is believed to have been the culprit for his apparent suicide at the age of 37.

I think it is safe to suggest that Van Gogh was obsessive with his work and with his life.  Throughout his struggles both physically and mentally, van Gogh battled his own insecurities while eagerly pursuing his love of painting.  During his life, he painted over three dozen self portraits many of which seem to exhibit him as elderly, even slovenly.  Yet he is best known for his landscapes that still today, dazzle the eye with their brilliance and peacefulness.  But what really mattered to him was to paint portraits.  In his own words:

I should like to paint portraits which appear after a century to people living then as apparitions. By which I mean that I do not endeavor to achieve this through photographic resemblance, but my means of our impassioned emotions—that is to say using our knowledge and our modern taste for color as a means of arriving at the expression and the intensification of the character.
I suppose it is a bit ironic that this particular piece is one of the most expensive paintings in the world.  Rightfully so, though, as it is extremely unique and blends landscape styles that van Gogh normally did not use in other portraits.  But why the correlation of van Gogh to 2011?  Because both needed to be let go.

2011 struggled obsessively with far too many moments that have left far too many people negatively impacted.  Van Gogh, however, was a detriment to only himself and after studying his life in some detail, I've come to understand that his death was his greatest relief.  Both looking back on this year and in imagining van Gogh's life, I envision a feverish flurry of efforts being strewn about hoping to latch onto something meaningful.  In fact, while 2011 was heartbreaking in many aspects and through all the loss suffered by hundreds of thousands of people, van Gogh's struggles nearly bring me to tears.

Someone so special to the world of art doesn't deserve to have suffered as he did.  What could have been for van Gogh is next to impossible to imagine but certainly piques my curiosity.  What if he had a normal existence void of crippling ailments?  Yet am I to suggest that his art would have been better?  Indeed, it seems that the things van Gogh suffered through enhanced the work he produced.  For that, we are all better off and I count it as sacrifice for the greater good.  Much the same, 2011 was miserable to live through yet I'm seeing how it has solidified many, taught us where to tread more carefully, and dropped us all on the doorstep of a new year that could be the beginning of much needed improvement.

Happy New Year, everyone!

*Not really a doctor.  Not legally capable of pronouncing death.  Not responsible for you buying the semi-entertaining narrative.