The Red Horses, c. 1930 -- oil on canvas (Influenced by Marc Chagall, "the quintessential Jewish artist of the 20th century.")
The artist's name is unclear. We will call him Wolfson. As the story is told, he was a Russian immigrant to the USA. He lived and worked in New York City.* While we are not sure of his name, we are more certain of his inner personal narrative.
Although he immigrated for reasons of religious persecution and political dislocation, he was often homesick. He grieved for the comforting familiar, the people and towns and language of his childhood homeland – his Motherland. He expressed his grief and longing especially in his paintings. This picture is an example. Take another look.
Note the blackened doors and windows and the absence of people. And yet, through his tears, Wolfson found the promise of life, a celebration: blue sky, green growing grass, horses helping, and a wagon full of fresh hay. Also, with such a vivid blue sky and white puffy clouds, we have a sense that the sun must be shining somewhere nearby. HOPE.
And, of course, the picture’s dominant bright color is red, considered by some to be the warmest color in the visible spectrum. In the Russian language, the words “red” and “beautiful” come from the same Slavic root. Red Square in Moscow meant “beautiful square.” In ancient Roman times, red also symbolized courage; soldiers wore red tunics. The color holds vast, international, cross-cultural symbolism – for instance: majesty, nobility, liberty, power, love, happiness, fire (“Chinese red”).
If he were asked today, maybe Wolfson would have chosen all of these words to describe his works. We are left to wonder and imagine. That is finally the enduring beauty of art: the beholder’s eye and the perennial question, “What was he thinking?” We see Wolfson’s resilience – and our own – in this picture. Resilience: the ability to recover, to rebound, to spring back from an impact even if it takes a lifetime. His painting shows us that he did not succumb to sorrow. It reveals that he could use his sadness and bend it and mold it … and heal from it. That is strength and growth. In his grieving, he also found a way of giving to others through his artistic talents. The ability to give to others is itself a gift. As he gave, his gift for painting returned to him much recognition, praise, and a highly favorable reputation in the world of visual arts. That enhanced his self-esteem, confidence, energy and inspiration to continue painting. It brought him community, support, and encouragement. It soothed him, like palliative self-care for the mind.
He was not defeated nor diminished by loss. He transformed his suffering, making it, for long and memorable moments, a dance of light and life.
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*A firmly implanted family folktale with probable and significant alterations of name and places. Memory for facts is sometimes unreliable, but the feeling tone remains strong, unmistakable, and well defined. RLG 24 February 2016 Tags: #art #painting #red #hpm #grief #courage #hope #resilience #giving #transformation
“You will come to a place where the streets are not marked. Some windows are lighted, but mostly they're darked. But mostly they're darked. A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin! Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in? How much can you lose? How much can you win?” ― Theodor S. Geisel