The possibilities of a painting

My brother and I grew up looking at this painting. I remember laying on the shag carpet in the family room when I was a kid, staring up at it. It informed the ways that we each made our first pieces of art. I remember sculpting and drawing people that looked like these for as long as I could draw. My brother has, at different points, asked if we could share it, if it could live with him for a while. His wife has told me she’d rather we didn’t. She’s very content to see at my house and not hers. My husband wouldn’t mind if we saw it at theirs. I guess having an affinity for it must be genetic.

Declan was looking at it this morning. He decided the pink circle must be the moon. I asked him what else he saw in the painting.

“I don’t know, what is it?” he asked.

“Well, this a painting. A painting can have whatever you see in it,” I said. “There’s no right or wrong.”

My son, who has a touch of perfectionism that makes him want the right answer most of the time, seemed freed by this. He started pointing at different things, explaining what they could be. (I put several of his comments in notes of the image on flickr. If you click through, you can see how he describes it.)

In fact, this painting was made by a nun. It depicts her survival of sexual abuse. I never saw this in it. It never felt that menacing or sad to me. I was much older when I learned its origin, and still, I find a sense of strength and joy in it.

I’ve got to make sure I get my son to look at art more often. It’s liberating.

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