I remember the first time I saw "Christina's World", Andrew Wyeth's famous painting. I stopped in my tracks, as good works of art can often make me do, and stared at it completely transfixed. Its a simple painting with a simple subject matter, and yet, nothing about it is truly simple. At first glance it looks like just a woman in a field. This woman was Wyeth's neighbor, Christina Olson, who suffered from polio. She would often drag herself across the field, never once giving in to her illness. Though the color palette and landscape can feel ominous, the sense I get from it is hope. Maybe its the slight tinge of pink in her dress, or the way her hair blows around her, or the fact that her gaze (if we could se it) is firmly set on the house to which she crawls, but what kept my eyes glued to this piece was the quiet hope I saw in this woman.
A recent article in The New York Times by Laura M. Holson explores the very house and field where Wyeth painted "Christina's World". She compares the Olson house to Giverny, the gardens that captivated Monet and occupied much of his work. The Olson house had the same pull for Wyeth as Giverny did for Monet. It made me think about how artists have these tendencies to draw inspiration from places, so much so that they return to it again and again. And sometimes it isn't a place at all but a person or thing. Van Gogh had fields and sunflowers, Sally Mann has her children, Ansel Adams had the mountains of the west.
I don't think I've found my Olson house or Giverny gardens quite yet. But I think in time something will show itself to be irresistible and overflowing with inspiration and I will return again and agin and again.
If you're an artist do you have some place or thing of inspiration?
[image of "Christina's World" via MoMA. Image of the Olson house via NYTimes]