Suspending the desire to be elsewhere
Last night I had the chance to meet the artist, Louise LeBougeois. I have the pleasure and privilege of owning one of her paintings. This isn't the one I own, but mine looks similar:
Here are a couple of other examples of her work:
The digital images, though beautiful, fall short of conveying the luminosity, reflection and depth of the paintings. They feel like portals you could fall into, and their dimensionality gets lost on the computer screen. In real life if you walk by one you can't help but stop and slip into its spaciousness.
Buying one of Louise's paintings was at once one of the easiest and hardest things I've ever done. On the one hand, the piece we bought, transported me straight past thought, into yet undiscovered quiet in my body. Small pools of stillness collected right below my breast and belly. They ebbed and flowed in hypnotic unison with the work, and I knew.
The piece communicated something about life and the world that agreed with every cell in my body and I wanted my home and my life to reflect this wordless experience.
And yet, I had never bought anything like this in my life. From a rational perspective it was difficult to defend spending money on something so impractical. I worried that we would should be doing something else with the money, like saving it or donating it to charity. But we had a big blank space, and spending the money did not preclude us from saving or making donations, so we took the plunge. We entered into a relationship with a piece of work, with an artist we'd never met, and with the gallery owner, Lisa Chadwick, who showed the work.
Last night we had the chance to put all of the pieces together. Louise was having an opening in San Francisco for her next collection of work, and in yet another completely impractical line of thinking, Graham and I hauled up to the city on a weeknight to experience an opening night for the first time.
We got the chance to see a broad collection of her work and to meet her in person. My favorite part of the evening was getting to talk to Louise about what it felt like to work as an artist. She reported that she has been an artist her whole life. She studied art and psychology in college. And after taking a few different jobs to make ends meet in her early twenties, she decided that it was time to get practical and apply to graduate school to become a clinical psychologist. One day, as she was starting to write the essays explaining why she wanted to become a psychologist, she, and this is in her words, "fell apart crying." She knew she was an artist, and she knew she had to give her art a shot, even though she had no idea if she could ever support herself or find professional success. What she said was, "I knew I would rather fall flat on my face than never try at all."
I am so grateful that she kept the faith. Living with the kind of love and devotion that she put into her work is a blessing.
Lisa Chadwick, the owner of the gallery, read us this quote, which, for me, explains so well the impact that Louise's art has on me and on so many others:
"Great art suspends the reverted eye, the lamented past, the anticipated future; we enter it with the timeless present; we are with God today, perfect in our manner and mode, open to the riches and the glories of a realm that time forgot, but that great art reminds us of: not by its content, but by what it does in us: suspends the desire to be elsewhere." --
As Lisa described it last night, buying beautiful art is more than buying more things. It is supporting the work of an artist and stewarding a message that has a life of its own. If the work outlasts me, which I hope it will, my home will have been a temporary haven in the journey of a timeless, wordless message. I suppose this isn't practical in the usual sense, but over a long arc of time I hope the effort proves to be useful.
If you find yourself in Union Square this month, consider visiting Dolby Chadwick to experience Louise's paintings for yourself. I'd be so curious to hear what you think.