One of my favorite things to do with my mother, who was born in 1934 and turned 80 years old last year, is to go to the De Young Museum which is located in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California, USA. My mom loves to go to exhibits with art from all parts of the world. My mom and I as well as other friends have seen sculptures of sub-Saharan Africa, American artists, art of the Olmec people of ancient Mexico as well as European artists – Mattia Preti, Domenikos Theorokopolos (also known as El Greco), Claude Monet, James Mc Neil Whistler (the painter known for “Whistler’s Mother”), Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Paul Cezanne, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Vincent Van Gogh – and modern artists, like Keith Haring and Jackson Pollock.
My mom had a series of strokes that began in 2006. These strokes made it very difficult for her to communicate at first. I later realized how much she was able to learn and understand when I took her to the De Young Museum. I asked her if she wanted to rent the device which would allow her to listen to a description of the art. My mom said, “Yes.”
I pushed my mom in her wheelchair through the exhibit as she listened with her headset. I would roll her to each painting, paying careful attention to what she said she wanted to see. At her request, we stopped at virtually every painting for 3 to 5 minutes. She listened to every recording – the entire recording – about the artists, the paintings, and the history of when the paintings were created. Often, we would enjoy a delightful gourmet lunch on the patio, looking out at Golden Gate Park. These visits were wonderful and have been some of my most joyful moments with my mom as we took the time to absorb great works of artistic masters.
Art has the capacity to transform us. Symbols are very powerful and can affect us deeply. A movie such as “Schindler’s List” or a painting, like the “Mona Lisa” moves many people very powerfully. A picture is worth a thousand words. Just one flash of an image can have a profound effect on our emotions and thoughts.
Silence is also very powerful. We are often afraid of solitude in our American culture. Our iPhone or television can drown out silence all day long, all year long. For a lifetime, we can be cut off from our interior life. We may wake up at 3:00 in the morning with an anxious dream – sweating.
In silence, we can find our compassion and creativity pouring through us. Once we thought we would never find creativity, then it comes through us like a burst of fire. The embers of creativity always lie within us smoldering. This creativity inside us is just waiting us to notice it and express it. Join Sue Renfrew in this video and learn how to meditate and contemplate about a painting, whether you are at an art exhibit in a Museum or anywhere else.