Tag Archive: Metropolitan Museum

Boy Leading a Horse

Last weekend, I went with a friend to see The Steins Collect at the Metropolitan Museum.  I made a special effort to see the exhibit because of the incredible impact on art and culture that the Steins had by virtue of their collecting.  Many of the paintings in the exhibit were familiar; I’d seen them before either at the Met for those from its own collection, at other museums, or in books.  Some, which have ended up in other private collections or in the collections of museums that I have not visited, were completely new to me.

Among the paintings in the exhibit is Picasso’s Boy Leading a Horse (which, as you can see from the link, the MOMA website currently indicates as “not on view”).  I’ve seen the painting many times before at MOMA.  The shift of location and context shook up my perceptions of the painting, and I indicated that to my friend.  Another woman who was looking at the painting too engaged in the conversation.  “It seems wrong here,” she said.  “It’s a different view,” I replied.  “It is disconcerting, but seeing it in different light, context, and company is enabling me to see new things in the painting and to find a more enhanced appreciation.”

I have been thinking this week, and talking about it in my classes, how a change of context can bring us new vision.  How often, when things just keep going in a set pattern, do they collect dust and cobwebs (literally or figuratively)?  I asked my therapeutic students whether they had preconceived notions about various challenges of embodiment, especially the chonic ones.  Do you see them as part of your identity, something that causes you pain instead of giving you the joy of movement?  What if you embraced being ever more conscious of alignment instead of being conscious of pain and limitation (and learning better and sooner when you cannot get out of injury without outside help)?

What of it?  What of the change of perspective?  After all, things get rearranged for us and the dissolution can be gradual or violent or something of both and be something of greater or lesser magnitude.   Times of flux and dissoluti9on are the perpect time for questioning, for new vision, for discovering new ways to experience what had become too familiar, for seeing how one might wish to shift one’s own perspective for the good, to know and take responsibility for one’s own place and piece of this relationship to whatever it is that is shifting, dispersing, or dissolving., to seek to become unbound from the habitual binds of whatever invisible clothing we might be wearing.

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Ardha, Kama, Dharma, Moksha

Friday, when I was traveling through New York City on my way home from a business trip, I detoured to the Metropolitan to see the Walker Evans’ postcards and the Bonnard, Late Interiors.  The curator chose this quote to inform the viewing of the paintings:  “Material concerns and worries about the future are troubling me a lot, and I’m afraid that painting may abandon me because of a lack of mental freedom.”  Pierre Bonnard to Henri Matisse, September 1940.

The quote made me think of the yoga principles of ardha, kama, dharma, moksha. In classical yoga, in order to reach liberation (moksha), we need to have our material life — how we eat, consume, dwell, etc. (ardha), our love and relationships (kama), and our work/life path (dharma), in right order.  From a tantric perspective, when ardha, kama, and dharma are aligned so that mind, body, and spirit are united in our day to day being, then we are living liberated — jivan mukti (moksha).

In 1940, the Nazis were growing in power and World War II was impending.  Bonnard had lost his love, Marthe, was ill and aging, and was in some financial difficulty.  He was afraid of losing his vision, his creativity (dare I interpret “painting may abandon me” as “loss of connection to spirit”) because ardha and kama were out of alignment.  The late paintings carry a sense of yearning of spirit — perhaps because of the consciousness that struggling physically and emotionally challenges our ability to truly see, to feel connected to spirit.  The paintings are lovely with color and light.  The subject matter makes them accessible at a surface level.  Shadowy figures and ambiguities, though, give a sense of longing and seeking.  Although there is a certain basic prettiness because of the color and the subject matter, they are not comfort paintings.  They invite one to think about whether color is enough, whether home is enough, what we need to be in a place where we can rest at one with ourselves.

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