To me, one of the most fascinating things about our world is that a similar object or situation can be interpreted a myriad of different
ways depending on the perspective of the interpreter. Since we each create our own reality, reality is actually subjective. Art, in all of its glorious forms, often gives us a chance to look at the world in a new light, from the perspective of the artist. I recently had the privilege of seeing the world through the eyes of Pablo Picasso thanks to an exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art which brought a selection of his paintings, sculptures, and sketches to Richmond. I left the museum with a new knowledge of Picasso’s world, and an inspiration to turn the world inside my head into art.
From a young age, Picasso was able to render highly realistic drawings and paintings. Classical art was not a challenge for him, and his style was academic starting out. But when he was exposed to French impressionism and other avant-garde styles, he embraced art as a form of personal expression; his “long and productive career is marked by an unflagging spirit of exploration and discovery” (VMFA pamphlet). I saw in his abstract figures a reevaluation of what forms really are: instead of depicting what meets the eye, he painted emotions and impressions, relationships and contrasts.
Moving around France and Spain in the early 20th century, his images are also a history lesson, at times depicting members of the circus and Parisian bordellos, and other times exuding angst over one of the four wars he lived through. “Picasso devoured influences and spat out innovations one after another.” He worked in many different styles, and the exhibit displayed selections of his pencil, and even some crayon drawings, collages with wood and pieces of newspaper (he was one of the first artists to collage), and even his bronze sculptures, mostly of stylized busts. Overall, his images attempted to reach the essence of his subjects, rather than presenting their superficial shells.
He frequently painted his lovers, their portraits expressing more of their personality traits than their actual appearance. One of my favorite tidbits from the audio tour was a quote by Picasso, explaining that his faces seem distorted because he paints his sweetheart as she looks when he is embracing her and seeing her close up: large nose, distorted eyes, elongated forehead, etc. Indeed, his many paintings of lovers embracing show two forms creating one entity. His passion for life exudes through his work, and inspires the viewer. I loved seeing and examining his original brushstrokes, each one done deliberately and confidently, each one an essential part of the whole picture.
Of all the impressions I got walking through the exhibit, my favorite was the sense of playfulness that dominated his works. An unwillingness to take life too seriously, lest we get caught up in sorrow and defeat. As Picasso himself said, “Painting isn’t an aesthetic operation; it’s a form of magic designed as a mediator between this strange hostile world and us.” His art reminded me to not take my own endeavors too seriously, lest I get caught up in the prospect of failing or not being perfect, and thus never start in the first place. For instance, I always say I want to create art more often, but I don’t because I feel like I don’t know how to draw things right, or match colors properly. But “painting is just another way of keeping a diary,” said Picasso, and no one can tell you how to write your diary.
Another lesson the exhibit taught me was that inspiration is everywhere. We can chose to see it all around us, or we can chose to see our world as dull and boring. If we chose to see inspiration in even the most mundane situations, more than likely we will find more and more beauty around. But if we chose to see our world as dull and monotonous, well, that’s the world we’ll be stuck in.
So, reader, be brave, never doubt that you have something to offer, and believe in the uniqueness of your mind. Witness, examine, absorb, and interpret your world. At least try your hand at writing, drawing, painting, dancing, singing, or any other form of artistic expression that intrigues you- you’ve got nothing to lose and lots to gain. I’d encourage anyone in Richmond to take advantage of the exhibit if they haven’t, and people everywhere to visit a local art museum or gallery and take in some fresh perspectives.