A handful of out-of-town family members and two friends were in town recently and they all insisted that we visit the Art Institute of Chicago.
So we went. Three times in one week. I spent more time there than I had in years.
On that second visit I noticed that I was taking the art in differently. It wasn’t simply that I was viewing pieces for a second or third time. I was seeing them in a deeper way. Like I had been absorbed into them and was viewing them from the inside out.
The painting above is a great example. I was mesmerized by it. So crafted and chaotic at the same time. It conjured up the memory of a subway wall I saw in New York City a few years ago:
Which is all chaos and no craft, but beautiful nonetheless. Just a wall. Exposed to the elements.
A few days later at the Chicago Botanic Garden – I know where to take out-of-towners – I saw this rock:
How amazing is this? It got me thinking about how life makes its mark. Not only on rocks and walls, but on us, too. In ways we can see like our scars, wrinkles, freckles and bruises. But also in ways that’s harder to see: The weather system of feelings and emotions that live inside us.
These moments made me grateful for art, nature and out-of-town visitors. But it also deepened my appreciation for personal narrative. For the process of getting it onto the page and the gift of reading or hearing it.
Which left me with this thought: That the lines and curves in the letters that make up the sentences that constitute our essays and memoirs are the writer’s art. The visible marks of life’s imprint on us.
Photos by Ellen Blum Barish. Copyright 2016.