First of all I should tell about my cousin. He was the most talented person that I ever have known. He was talented in any medium that he chose. He was musically gifted, he could put to paper only what I dream of, he could paint with any tool at his disposal, he could draw, he could take miraculous photos. OK you get the idea, the man was a talent hardly ever seen. And I loved him. He died this past July and I miss him terribly.
When I was in my early 20s I sort of went to college. I say sort of because all I did was take classes that interested me, without giving any thought to how they could be molded into an actual field of study or degree.
I took an art class. I didn't understand art. I knew what I liked but not why. The teacher assigned a paper. He gave us a list of pictures that were on display at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. We were to pick one, write a paper, and describe what we saw, felt, if we liked it, and possibly what the artist wanted us to feel when we looked at it. I asked my cousin to go along with me to help me. I wanted him to explain to me what was going on in the picture. What I was supposed to be feeling.
We decided to look at a picture of I think either a blue dog, or a blue boy, or a blue horse. I can't remember now what it was or who painted it. But, evidently it was supposed to me a "masterpiece", I just don't know.
My cousin and I wandered around the art institute for a while before lighting on the blue picture. He was trying so very hard to enlighten me. I am sure I frustrated him. He wanted me to see the things differently that day and to learn to appreciate all that we were looking at.
We sat down on a bench in front of the blue picture. He told me to study it for a few minutes before we started a discussion of the picture. I stared at it, I got up and stood close to it, I looked at it from far away,and from very close up. I wanted to be ready for this discussion I was going to have with my hero cousin. I wanted to sound intelligent. I wanted to sound very adult.
The time came. He asked me, "What do you think?" I replied, "I think it's dumb ." He wanted to know why I felt that way. I told him, "Because it's blue." In my mind it was that simple. I mean really whether it was a horse or a dog, or a boy none of those things are ever blue. Where is the reality in that? Why would it be blue?
Oh my dear sweet cousin just about gave up on me. He saw the painting through an artist's eye, which is something I have never been able to achieve. He told me what he thought the artist was trying to say with this blueness. He told me what he felt when he looked at the picture. He had the soul of an artist.
He valiantly tried to get me to see these things. I just couldn't get it. It was blue. That is all I saw ....BLUE.
We eventually had to leave the art institute. We made our way home. He tried to help me understand. I tried to not let him know how embarrassed I was to have been less in his eyes. I am sure he didn't think less of me but my heart ached because I thought I had failed him.
When we got to my house my mother had homemade turkey soup ready for us. What a surprise we both had when we realized that we both like peanut butter sandwiches with out turkey soup. And oh yes we had to dunk the sandwich into the soup. All was well.
I wrote my paper. I don't remember what kind of grade I received. I just remember that day with my cousin.
A few years later I took a short story class. He was having a difficulty in his life. I wrote my story about him. About his difficulties. I hand wrote it into a journal type book and gave it to him for Christmas that year.
He said to me with tears in his eyes, "This is your art."
Golly, how I miss that man.