(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 9/28/14)
As I delve more deeply into this creative recovery of mine, I keep receiving the message of how art and creativity can be extraordinary tools of self-healing. Last night that idea was driven home at the Artworks for Healing gala, a fundraising art auction for A Window Between Worlds, a charity organization based in Venice, CA, whose tagline is “art transforming trauma.”
I volunteered my time for the event, as did a couple dozen other interesting and open-hearted people (mostly women, but a few men here and there). AWBW is the beneficiary of our annual production of The Vagina Monologues, and now that we’ll be celebrating our fifth year in April, many of the women and men that work and volunteer for the organization have become familiar.
For the art sale portion of the evening, over 70 LA based artists donated a piece to be sold, each for the same price of $320. Some of the artists are quite prominent, and their pieces are worth a great deal more than the selling price (some upwards of $10,000). The premise is that each piece is displayed anonymously, and guests are invited to purchase the piece which speaks to them the most. Only after the purchase is complete is the name of the artist revealed.
Before the VIP reception began, I had a few moments to peruse the gallery wall and admire each piece before it whispered into the ear of its new owner. I don’t know if it’s because of the work I’ve been doing with The Artist’s Way, but I feel as though I looked at the pieces with a new set of eyes.
I stood in front of each piece, and lingered just long enough until something about it reached out to me, whether it was the subject matter, the medium, the colors, the texture, the implied story behind it, the skill of the creator, or any number of other qualities. I found myself most drawn to two particular pieces. One was a small, rustic painting of three eggs, conceived in a thickly textured palette of earthy yellows and browns. Birds and eggs are particularly evocative subjects for me, in fact I still own a small painting of an egg done for me by the mother of a roommate back in college and gifted to me during the Easter holiday of my senior year. There’s something about that simple egg that I find endlessly interesting. I think eggs represent a beginning to me, most obviously as they are embryonic, but what they become has not yet been fully determined. The egg carries potential, and the suggestion of positive possibility. The sky just might be the limit. How fitting that I received it just as I was finishing my education and being loosed upon the world. Sadly, I never found out the artist of the trio of eggs at the event, as the painting was purchased at some point during the evening, carefully clothed in bubble wrap for it’s journey home, as if those delicate eggs were, in fact, real.
The other piece was a long, skinny portrait in an ornately gilded frame. The face was a portion of the Mona Lisa, but in the place where her enigmatic eye should be there was an iridescent beetle. I have an enormous fig tree in my backyard which produces well over 100 pounds of the Eden-esque fruit every summer. The beetle over the Mona Lisa’s eye looked just like a fig beetle, which descend on that unwieldy tree by the hundreds during the hottest days of August and September. Many people are afraid of the fig beetles – they’re big, they’re loud, and they clumsily fly right into you, bouncing soundly to the ground below. They are harmless, however, and their only prey are the plump purple pouches of the sweet flesh on the tree. I have come to love the fig beetles; they represent life at its most abundant, feeding and thriving off nature’s ascent into overdrive.
The piece was strongly reminiscent of Magritte, my favorite of the surrealists. It was simple in its execution, and certainly provoked a visceral reaction from those who gazed upon it it’s unseeing eye.
“Bug Eyes”, as it was aptly named, was not purchased by the end of the evening, so before leaving I lifted it from it’s moorings on the gallery wall to find out the name of the artist. At that exact moment, a man appeared behind me, identifying himself as the artist. Steven Salzburg is his name, and he’s had quite a career which has included working with and designing album covers for the likes of Elton John, Dire Straits, Phil Collins and more. I had a lively conversation with him about how the piece was created and whether or not a fig beetle was intended. It is such a unique pleasure to speak with an artist about their creative process, and I treated myself to several of those discussions throughout the evening, as many of the artists were on hand for the event.
Most of my life, I’ve breezed through museums, seeking out those pieces with considerable fame and merely glancing at those that lined the path to the masters. But I’m becoming more and more interested in spending time with each piece, discovering through quiet, almost meditative moments what message it is sending to me. I think a trip to LACMA or an art gallery is in order soon.
How do you look at art? How do you determine what you like and what you don’t like? Are you more attracted to color, texture and line or subject matter? Do you think art has the potential to heal? Art is such a personal experience, I’d love to hear your thoughts about how art affects you.