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Discover Challenge: How Art Can Help

via Discover Challenge: Radical Authenticity

The origin for this post begins at the link above, which originated with Dani Shapiro’s post. I realize not everyone has time to read a series of blog posts like nesting dolls, so the overview: Many of us (esp Americans) have a growing anxiety over the lives portrayed on social media by friends and strangers which lend to us feeling “less than”. It is the Land of Should, and it’s a small, dark place.

I recently read the book Girl with A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. My favorite passage in the book deals with color theory for painting. (Hold on, it’s related.) In it, Vermeer asks the maid, “What color are the clouds?”

So many of us would say white. Pure. Simple. Perfect.

But, isn’t this an illusion? One magically broken by taking a moment and truly looking. A quick meditation will show you the clouds are many colors, and in this we get depth and nuance. Our lives are no different. Those Instagram accounts with perfect living rooms and FB posts with ideal overseas vacations are perfect white clouds. They might satisfy a visual craving, but they miss the way reality can bring us together in pain or anger or sorrow.

Some of my favorite classic art involves the ugliest of emotions:

Myhrra by Gustave Dore

Judith Slaying Holofornes by Artemisia Gentileschi

Melancholy by Dominico Fetti

Even paintings which portray something simple, like water lilies, are formed from complexities of light, shadow, and colors mixed.

The Water Lily Pond by Monet

Art, like life, feels like an acknowledgment of detail and honesty, even when it is morphed almost beyond recognition.

Nude Descending A Staircase, No. 2 by Marcel Duchamp

It brings value and touches us. It goes beyond the Land of Should and reaches into the World of Connection where we can feel understood, relate to all emotions and empathize with one another. It bridges distance and time.

I think that’s because it incorporates the ugly along with the beautiful which highlights, rather than hides, authenticity.

The dialogue begins with you. Do you find yourself experiencing sadness when using social media? If so, how do you cope? If not, what’s your secret?

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