Beauty, Creativity, and Healing
Edited By Bandy Lee, Nancy Olson and Thomas Duffy
A Vocation for Light
by Anne Davenport
Pablo Picasso once confided that he painted as a means of exorcism, in order to protect himself from powerful forces that threatened to overwhelm him — Earth, Sky, the Minotaur, Women, Goats. Pierre Tal Coat, in turn, had a special fondness for rocks and labored to reveal their soul. My mother simply had a vocation for light.
It came to her early, at an impressionable age, through the Spanish Masters. A short block from where she grew up in New York City, Goya’s Duchess of Alba was housed in Huntington’s Museum, quickening her pulse, like a Revelation. This was her first encounter with Beauty. Presented in its purest noumenal form, Beauty filled her with both rapture and dread. In Goya’s Duchess of Alba, as in Rothko’s greatest paintings, there is nothing except the dominion of light. Through Goya my mother learned, much too early, that Beauty is a terrible Angel. She also learned, from hours of gazing at the canvas, that the color black makes light perfectly visible. Later, she would love the paintings of Soulages.
As soon as she was able, she traveled to Spain, on the eve of the Civil War, absorbing all she could at the Prado from Velazquez, Goya, Zurbaran, El Greco. The masterful way that Spanish masters mastered light by accepting to be mastered by light evoked in her eyes Jacob’s sublime struggle. It left her initiated and unworthy — in the words of Garcia Lorca:...
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