Honoring what wasn't
I recently ran across the work of Isaac Levitan, a Russian landscape painter who died at age 40 in 1900. The artist that brought him to my attention said when he first saw one of his landscapes tears came to his eyes. Traditionally he mentioned artists in the past ranked landscape painting as 3rd in importance behind portraiture and historical painting. He felt Levitan's landscapes changed the hierarchy. When I saw one of his landscapes, I too softened from inside as I viewed the pine trees in a friendly landscape spaced nicely with streaks of sunlight between them. The light brought me to the moments as a child when I would see certain lighting and feel at the same time sad and excited and hopeful and afraid. It could be about the duality of sensing there is something more but also clinging to what is precious here and not wanting to relinquish it. Oh what a master this Levitan was to capture this. What I would give to be able to also capture such moments. Is this not perhaps the reason that attracted me to art in the first place?
Around 21 years of age I went to an aged portrait painter in Boston who was a bit crazy but had many insights and ties to the past. I never stayed but I read a book he wrote and the words of it stuck with me. He said he felt for the artists today who have talent but who have not inherited an artistic language with which to express themselves. Their deepest feelings and insides will never have expression. So so true. From this perspective, what a loss.
I was on the phone with my dad a few days ago. Normally I keep my artistic issues to myself as help here in art, accept in the most general ways, is not to be found. His orientation is psychological, not visual. This time, however, I voiced the feelings I had when looking at Levitan's work. I told him that by having gaps in my knowledge of painting I’ll never be able to preserve certain special moments I wanted to preserve when I was a kid.
My father offered a nice answer. He said that I have overcome many obstacles and difficulties and that I should be proud of what I’ve done and feel good about it. He said that good will come out of it. How nice. True, he can be simplistic because it is easy. But still,this was nice, very nice and he meant it.
I said, well, by seeing the Levitan I am able to at least honor and respect the artist in me that could have painted like that. In a sense I’m honoring and paying homage to what might have been. I’m accepting and forgiving the potential in this venue that never came to be.
Dad heard me and agreed. So now I’ll move on. I'll accept what I have and have done and continue to look for a path into the future.