I used to think that a painting was something you saw with your eyes… that a symphony was something you heard with your ears. I believed this because it was something my art teachers and music teachers had taught me to believe, all my life.
I don’t feel that way any more.
I open a book of photographs I love: Lukas Felzmann’s Waters in Between. It’s a thick, hardbound collection of shots — some in color, some black-and-white. Some dreamy and surreal, others stark in their sense of quiet realism.
I carry the book over to the sofa under the bay window. Open it to a page of tangled black branches against pale sky.
Then I lay the book down on a pillow.
I am trying to see it a different way …
Or maybe not see it at all.
Slowly — very, very slowly — I am coming to a place where I believe that art is something you experience in a deeply visceral way … not just in the eye or in the ear, but in all sorts of stranger places in the body.
I hear a certain snatch of song and I feel it as a kick in the stomach. Electricity crackles down the length of my nerve endings: at the back of my neck. In my fingertips.
Or I look at a particular painting and I feel myself flinch: the face first, and then the shoulders, arms, hands.
One foot slides backward from the canvas.
The head bows in fear … or love … or prayer.
I stare at the open book in front of me.
Where in the body is the soul located?
Where does the brain end and the mind begin?
What — really — do we mean when we talk of the heart?
I run one fingertip down the book’s spine.
And maybe, just sometimes, art doesn’t have to be experienced all at once.
Maybe memory sows it like tiny seeds just under the skin.
Maybe the subconscious plants it deep, like an autumn bulb buried in my chest.
Maybe the message waits: days. Months. Years.
Maybe it comes back to me a decade later, while I’m penning a grocery list or driving to work, and suddenly — without any obvious trigger — the words swim. The road blurs behind tears.
The seeds put out leaves down the length of my arms.
The tulip inside my heart opens all its petals at once.
I lie down with my cheek against a photograph of shattered glass.
I imagine myself there — write my whole body into the story.
Then, suddenly, I am lying with my back to the desert floor, my face to the sky, feeling the broken shards digging into my spine.
There is a moment where I wonder if I will get up, but I do — shake the bits of sparkling glass from my hair and take a deep breath.
I’m not sure, anymore, where the art ends and I begin…
And I like it that way. ❤