With all of the chaos of the past political cycle, I will admit to feeling some anxiety about the divisiveness in the country regarding race, sexuality and religion. There have been debates, protests and an ongoing dialogue of hate and violence being spewed from both sides of the aisle. There are conversations that are dividing people even on social media that has lead to Facebook friends un-friending each other because of differing opinions. As Americans, we fully embrace the rights afforded to us, ALL OF US, under the Constitution, and by these principles we are all different but equal under the law. Knowing that we live in a great country with freedom to speak up for what we believe, the freedom to practice religion without any threat as well as the freedom to cast our votes for the candidate of our choosing should be enough to unite us rather than divide us. I have grown weary of the disagreements, debates and meanness of some of the rhetoric that I hear daily so I have been thinking a lot about unity and how people like you and me can change our behavior and attitudes to help ease the divisions and offer hope and peace.
Have you ever thought about your own story and how it has shaped your identity? What does your story reveal about the choices you have made in your life? Yesterday, I visited the Salvador Dali Museum and listened to the docent describe some of the history behind Dali’s paintings. He was undeniably talented even though his art is somewhat bizarre and “interesting” to say the least. Each canvas is rich in color and cleverly crafted to tell his life story without the need for words. One of the largest paintings in the collection is named, A Portrait of My Dead Brother, which honors his dead brother. The portrait is full of elements that point to the struggle Dali had with his dead brother. The man in the painting, who bears a striking resemblance to Charles Lindberg, was an adult version of the first and eldest Salvador Dali, who died at the age of 2-years-old. The second son, Salvador Dali, the artist, was born a year after his brother’s death. Dali spent his entire life feeling like he was a replacement child for his lost sibling. I understand that it was a common occurrence for parents to give the deceased child’s name to their next child. Ironically, this practice not only affected Dali but also was the case for another famous artist, Vincent Van Gogh. Both men lived with feelings of unworthiness and throughout their lives struggling to be known in their own right and not be defined by their dead brothers. Dali’s art is intentionally rebellious, bizarre, and at times disrespectful and defiant in appearance. Many of his paintings illustrate his challenges with family, his difficult relationship with his father, his questions about God and his issues with religious authority. In so many ways, his art was pure genius.
Another artist on display at the museum was the Mexican artist, Frida Kahloe, who was known for her self-portraits, her passionate nature and her bold use of vibrant colors. Frida’s early life was also filled with the pain as she suffered from polio at the age of 6 years, which affected her walk. At the age of 18 years, she was involved in a terrible bus accident, which left her with a severely broken body. Unbelievably, in her 47 years of life, she endured 34 surgeries to repair her brokenness. As a student, she intended to focus on medicine, however after the bus accident, and being confined to a bed for many months, she began to develop her artistic abilities through painting. She lived a physically and emotionally painful life, spending a good portion of her life in a hospital bed recovering from surgery. On a personal level, she was entangled in a very public tumultuous relationship with her artistic husband. When you look into the eyes of her self-portraits, you can see real pain, sadness and resilience. Her paintings are splashed with bold, rich colors that shout her story of strength and power in such a way that words could not.
What I appreciate about these two artists is their willingness to give us a glimpse into their somewhat tortured lives. I wonder if fear drove them to paint with such fierceness and extraordinary intuition of their inner pain. As the story goes, Dali had a constant fear that he would be known only as a replacement for his brother. Did fear and sadness drive Frida to paint her self-portraits in order to show the world her pain? Near one of her paintings, this was written, “I paint my self-portraits because I am so often alone and because I am the person I know best.” Both Dali and Frida’s artwork is so dramatic, intense and full of emotion that I wonder if they ever found what they were looking for hidden in their painted stories.
Spending the afternoon looking into the lives of Dali and Frida has me contemplating my own story. What would my life look like in pictures? How is my life defined by my choices and actions? While I love art, I am not blessed with the skill to paint my life on a canvas. But wait, a friend pointed out to me that my life started as a blank canvas and with each new experience, struggle, pain, joy, peace or even dream, new colors are added to my picture. My life is a developing story that is rich in creative design and exploding with vibrant colors. Some of those colors even reflect those Sunday afternoon chats with my mischievous brothers. What is your story?
Denise seeks to empower people to live into their true potential...