I’ve been reading a book about Paris during the time when writers such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and other expatriates lived in the City of Light. The author’s intent in Walks In Hemingway’s Paris is to focus specifically on the places where Papa Hemingway hung out; not so much to offer yet another biography on the late writer, but to make the locations come alive for the potential visitor.
One particular Hemingway activity, however, stood out for me during last night’s reading. Papa spent time intently studying the paintings of Paul Cezanne, the French post-Impressionist who brought to life the complexity of visual experience. His observations of Cezanne’s work gave Hemingway an epiphany that he could add more depth to his own writing, which is famously known for its short, declarative sentences.
A question quickly arose in my mind: Am I making any space in my life to gaze at a painting long enough for a fresh “a-ha” moment? Is art just a peripheral, background accessory among the fast lane—something that “other people” produce or enjoy—or is it integrated into everything else so that I’m constantly going deeper?
I can think of a personal example from a while back. I was at the Frist Center in Nashville, with my family in the kids’ room on the top floor. My girls quickly got lost in the wonder of creating new works with paint, chalk, scissors and other tools. I observed them and the other kids completely in their zones, with the creative act both the means and the end. And my epiphany was, be more intentional about pursuing activities where the work and the goal are an integrated whole—stay passionate about work, play and relationships.
What does art mean to you? How can painting, music, film theater, and so forth make you a better worker, spouse, parent, friend? Do you pause long enough when you experience art to have an insight that compels you to do something different in a “tangible” sense?