Andrew Wyeth passed away this morning at the age of 91.
Growing up, my parents had a copy of his painting, “Christina’s World”, hanging on the dinning room wall. Sitting here, I couldn’t even begin to count the number of meals I had looking at that painting. If I close my eyes, I can see every detail, the wagon wheel tracks leading from the house, the decaying barn, and the part that always held my attention the most, the part which I most often wondered about; the fact that Christina is in the tall grass, not the patch of mowed grass just a few feet away. I often wondered if she chose that area, if she was more comfortable amongst the weeds than the softer surface where she could have been placed.
Wyeth presented that scene and told the viewer nothing more about it. Christina’s back is turned, her face is not in the painting, so all you see is all you know. As I got older in life, I learned more about that painting, more about Christina Olsen, and more about the entire series Wyeth did on the Olsen family. What I learned, the details, changed the way I looked at the painting, and unfortunately it became hard for me to look at that painting the same way I did when I was a younger.
I’m not going to tell you anymore about the painting, if you’ve found this blog, then I’m sure you know how to google. If you’re curious, I’m sure you can find the whole story.
Or, you can take what Wyeth gave you and live in that second. You can stand still, hearing the breeze in the grass. You can gaze at the barn, the house and the wagon wheel tracks, and of course, at Christina. You can know as much about her as every person you see from behind, passing on the street, glimpsing in the next subway car, or ahead of you on the check out line. Draw your own conclusions, complete the story in your mind, who’s to tell you you are wrong?
“Christina’s World” and what I’ve learned about it was the sole reason I was against starting this blog in the first place. Now please – I am by no means comparing myself to Andrew Wyeth – but I always thought, and still feel that art is to be interpreted by the viewer. Who I am to tell you what you are supposed to see in a photograph I have taken?
My favorite pastime is talking to people about my photos. I know that’s probably the most conceited sounding thing ever, but it’s not meant to be. Nothing fascinates more than hearing what others see, I could give a crap less about the “It’s great.” or “You’re so good.”, those comments churn my stomach. Do you like it? Yes? Why? What do you see in it? I love the answers – and more often than not I am shown something even I didn’t see. I wonder if Wyeth ever felt that way.
So I’ll keep blogging, and keep sharing, and please, keep commenting. Actually, it’s what keeps me going in the first place.
Well… I’ve painted myself in a bit of a corner, so to speak. This is supposed to be a photo blog, not a yappity yap blog, and now I’m not sure what photos go with what I’ve been yappity yapping about. So I’ll do something I’ve been resisting the urge to do for awhile. I’ll share with you the photos I’ve taken, that I like. My favorites. The “OMG, I took that?” shots.
Here are a few, I’ve got more on Flickr if you’d like to see.
(in no order)
It’s a difficult thing to go most places with class of children on the autistic spectrum, but the Queens Science Museum was probably one the most ill-conceived and poorly executed trips I had ever been a part of. To expect five to seven year old autistic children to be even mildly interested in concepts that quite frankly bore older mainstream children was simply ludicrous.
But like the say, when handed lemons, right…?
So we ate lunch in the cafeteria, which was a timed affair, BTW, since there were so many schools there that day. The teachers huddled and all of them saw this as going south really badly of we were to stick with the museum plan. I was called in because I was the only one from the area. I suggested a few ideas, but then someone noticed a small playground across the street. We were all in agreement, so once the children were done eating, we all marched out the museum doors (“No return admittance!!”) to the playground.
The rest of the day was spent forgetting about the science of the how and why and just living in the reality of a sprinkler, jungle gym and slides. Since there was already one teacher or para for every child (and me) all the kids got individual attention. It was so warm out that soon almost all the children were in the sprinkler. I played with James on the jungle gym where he climbed to the highest perch like the monkey he is. We rested at the top and I began shooting.
I took several shots that day, most of which can be seen here in slideshow form.
The shot though that most consider to be the shot of the day is the one I call “Joy”
This one, as in all of the shots of that day, is of a child experience the unique summer time fun that seems to fall away when you grow older. Something about a child and water just leads to pure happiness.
To me though, the real joy in that playground that day was the fact that for a few hours they were just kids. For a short time they had broken the chains of autism and were speaking in the immortal language of just having fun.
I’ve been asked if the subject in the photo above had autism and the answer is yes. I saw him at school awhile later and he was having such a rough day he had a pressure vest on. He was screeching and wouldn’t get on the elevator. He was lost in the sucky world of his condition. However, I knew somewhere inside him was the same joy that was on his face that day.
Maybe all he needed was a sprinkler.