the year was 1982 and i was a junior in high school on a field trip to the milwaukee art museum. growing up a country girl in a very upscale vacation destination i had not been raised in a cultured atmosphere. my theology and spiritual experience was stripped of any beauty or design and worship for me took place in a white square box with avocado green carpet and dusty gold upholstered pews. for someone who receives information visually this failed to engage the deep recesses of my soul.
i remembered the first time i ever felt those depths engaged - it was overlooking the shores of lake michigan in a room that was glassed in on each side, except for one - and it held this image. it is so real to me that there are tears running down my face as i reminisce like it was yesterday. the first time i was able to worship in a place of beauty with visual imagery.
i was so moved that i spent hard earned pennies on a post card of the image and it's little 4" x 6" beauty held prominence in my room and eventually my dorm. it was all i could afford, but although tiny, it was a window back to that place where it happened. proof that god was far bigger than the walls of that small little white box called "church".
i recently found this postcard in my old creative memories scrapbook that i used to pitch my wares. it has two little thumb tack holes and the back shows evidence of the scotch tape i used many times to move it from place to place as my residence changed.
i have searched for this card and searched online for this image. i googled it and could never find the artist or any information on it. it is called "the two majesties" was painted by jean-leon gerome in 1883. it measures 27 1/4" x 50" - but in my memory it was giant sized. i guess it was just the room. i have done some research on the room, trying to see if my memory of it was enhanced by time also. it was not.
here is the information from the MAM website:
The 1950s & Eero Saarinen Building
Eero Saarinen Building Famed Finnish architect Eero Saarinen (popularly known for his St. Louis Arch) designed the building,with Maynard Meyer of Milwaukee as associate architect. Saarinen's unique design for a floating cruciform with cantilevered portions created excitement in the community, and is now considered a classic in the development of modern architecture.
nice to know that at least part of my memory wasn't super-sized too. i remembered that i was ditched by my friends, or maybe i wanted to be alone. the chattering and giggling was probably interrupting the serenity i felt at such holiness. most of the displays that lead up to this room were very modern and cheeky, i enjoyed them and their commentary that resonated with my teen-age angst. as i mentioned before my art teacher was a chauvinistic taxidermist and he only painted water colors of old barns and underwater fish and expected us to do the same. blair says he sounds like a character out of a stephen king novel. i liked that. he was.
so this trip not only spoiled his tight control on my art, but it foiled years of indoctrination into the tight walls of my religion.
i remember being drawn to the view - the windows pulling me out to the cantilevered space - it was only when i turned around that i even saw the painting. i think it was supposed to happen that way. i know when i saw it i gasped. here was the aslan of my young memories, engaging with the beauty of the sea. i know the artist had no knowledge of c.s. lewis and the land of narnia, but the refuge of the story i had found myself in only allowed for the allegory to be that much more rich and right.
i lost track of time sitting there on the small bench set up for the weak in the knees like me. i wish i had the kind of teacher who would have sent us with sketch books or at least journals as i would love to know what my young mind would have recorded. all i have are my memories and my post card. and the echoes of my soul. it cracked open that day. and nothing could stop it. and for far too many years nothing could fill it.
so little has lived up to it's spiritual promise for me, but every so often something rings deep in those echoes, in the immense cavern of my soul and i remember.