“Jazz Me Blues”
The Colors of Jazz Collection
©2020, Molly Larson Cook
28″x22″, Acrylic on canvas
In his book, A Passion for Seeing: On Being an Image Maker, artist and teacher Frederick Franck writes: “Art is neither a profession nor a hobby. Art is a Way of being.”
A phrase like that might initially sound a bit pompous, a little elitist, possibly exclusionary, the kind of thing that inspires some people to pronounce themselves Artists with a capital A which is usually just an excuse for behaving oddly, if not downright badly.
But on second thought, Franck’s phrase is none of those. As the title of the book makes clear, he’s talking about passion. And for visual artists, the passion is all about seeing. Seeing as clearly as possible.
Most artists know about Claude Monet and his later paintings which, although great because – well, he was Monet – were clouded by cataracts. His water lilies are the best known. He eventually agreed to surgery and, bothered by what he saw, destroyed many of his other pre-surgery paintings.
Without going into more detail about Monet and his problems, I’ll reveal here that I have been diagnosed with cataracts and will be headed in for surgery next week. I know it’s a highly successful procedure and have been assured that it’s painless, mostly just mildly annoying while things heal. I’ve read all the material from the doctor about the practical aspects of this relatively minor medical complaint.
I know I’m in good hands at my clinic, and I have a willing partner to take care of the rest.
What I don’t know – and what is most on my mind, the most pressing question is – how will my art look to me once my eyes are better?
My doctor tells me I’ll see details again. Do I want to see them?
“You’ll see leaves on the trees.” This is a good thing. “You’ll be able to drive at night again.” Great! “Colors will be brighter.”
My mind spins – Brighter colors? What about the colors I’ve used recently in my paintings? Are they off? Wrong?
More details which translates to seeing more wrinkles on my face. Yikes! Not sure I like that one at all. On the other hand, I’ll be able to read small print and street signs with no trouble. Good news.
The list, and the considerations, go on. Back and forth. Yin and yang.
I hear from friends that the surgery is a piece of cake, and that I’ll love the results. Easy for them to say. I appreciate the support, but they’re not artists. Me, I look at my paintings from the last few months with a wary eye. I work with color, all color all the time, and I mix my own, choose carefully. I’m particular about the colors, as an artist should be. I work to get just the exact shades I want. And now I question those shades. Maybe my eyes have deceived me and I’ll get a bad surprise when I see them “after.”
Other questions come up. Does anybody else see the colors as I see them? I mean people with good eyes. What do they see when they look at the paintings?
The takeaway here, as I see it (no pun intended), is that there are no answers, none that will satisfy. It’s wait and (no pun again) see.
Meantime, forgive my navel-gazing as I hark back to Franck and his statement. I’m not just asking questions about my eyes. I’m concerned with my entire Way of Being. My life in art.
I was once asked in a newspaper interview to describe myself in one word. I chose “spirited.” I’m sticking with that right now because I don’t know any other way to be. We’re struggling with a pandemic, shut downs, a heat wave, chaos in our country. All kinds of things are changing and won’t be changing back including my eyes.
This is no time to give up on being spirited. One way or another, I’ll continue to love jazz and to paint it. I’ll continue to co-exist with color which is an animal that wags its own tail. I’ll have an art show in October.
If I need to rethink my art, I will. But for a spirited woman, it will take more than that to kill the passion.
2 thoughts on “Art as a Way of Being Although the Eyes Have Had It”
An excellent question, David, and the answer as I know it is, Not likely. It’s even a cultural thing. I recall from anthropology classes that In some places people “see” only three or four colors where we see the spectrum. But then our spectrum is somewhat incomplete, too. Speaking of rainbows, have you ever seen a sunbow? Beautiful and mysterious on a bright clear day…
Stay safe and keep your colors flying! Moll
I’ve never been convinced that we all see the same colors. I understand the light waves and how a prism works, and all those tiny raindrops that form a rainbow. But is my blue your blue, or is it your red?