Daily Life, Bastille Day and Modern Art and poetry—unable to settle on a theme turns into a topic.

I’ve been married for 43 years and my husband has told the same joke for all 43 of those years and I still laugh. This is something for which I’m extremely grateful.  Coffee in the morning consists of random sharing– bits of email, internet news and morsels of analysis about life as viewed from the downhill side of its trajectory.  The wisdom of the awareness of how these little things contribute to a satisfying life is not new, but every morning I’m conscious of the truth in that. Not much could be more important to me than to be able to laugh at an old joke with someone with whom I’ve shared 75% of my life. It may not be the stuff of romance novels but I consider myself to be very lucky to start my day in this way.

Yesterday was Bastille Day.  I wanted to do something French.  I didn’t and felt lesser for it.  But it will pass….

However, I got to thinking about what it was about Paris that fostered Impressionism and Modern Art. Is there any other period in art that is more universally loved?  Sure, there were important movements in other locales, but in the late 19th century everybody, especially artists, looked to Paris as it led the way to a revolution in the art world. Art history is full of answers about this. But I think a large part of it was due to the redesigning of the city by Baron Haussmann.  New boulevards, parks and public works in Paris replaced gritty, dark, narrow medieval streets with places that invited strolling, gathering and enjoying nature on a daily basis.

Our new poet laureate, Charles Wright, says: “Most of my poems start with me looking out the window or sitting in the backyard as dusk comes down, and what that sort of translates into…..”

Painter Pierre Bonnard enjoyed walking his dog daily after lunch before going back to the studio to paint. He said, “I have all of my subjects to hand. I go and look at them. I take notes. Then I go home. And before I start painting, I reflect, I dream,” —from one of my favorite (hubba-hubba) art historians, Michael Kimmelman’s Accidental Masterpiece, whose lessons include: “Art can be anonymous. It can be made by accident and with no apparent effort at all…..(or it can consume a life).”

The link in these fragments–whether it be the reassurance of a morning ritual, the love of a regular dog walk, the peace of the back yard, a place to stroll and meet a friend—is about how the everyday space we occupy and the things that fill the day become the shape of our lives. And maybe these bits and pieces are all that’s needed to shape our art.  “The answer to the frequent question: “What to paint?”, can perhaps be revealed by a practice of paying attention to daily fragments seeing how things connect and become resonant.

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