This week I have been (not really) helping a colleague put on a fancy schmancy art exposition featuring local artists. The opening night was a reception complete with cocktail dresses and wine. If I am being honest, I find that whole aspect a little silly. It's like dress-up. It's not reality. Reality is the flip flops and brightly covered fabrics on the impoverished people in the trash covered streets just meters outside the walls.
Still, I went. I dressed up, I put on makeup and I smiled at the other people there pretending, believing, they are really important. I let Curlygirl go with me. She was excited. She loves art. For an entire 30 minutes she was intrigued by the paintings and sculptures. She was ready to leave after that, but settled for serving drinks with her African friends who were running the bar. Every now and then while I was in conversation with someone I would see her pass by with a tray of glasses destined for washing. She would smile sweetly at me and wrinkle up her nose---which meant she was really excited about getting to act all grown up working with the wait staff.
The paintings really were something of beauty. Each artist had poured his and her heart and soul into these works. They had something to say and so they painted it.
Yet--not one of the pieces of art that were displayed could compare to the beauty of something I had witnessed earlier.
In preparation for the exposition, we had contacted carpenters to help us hang some of the pictures on the displays. I had gotten busy with other things but as I passed one of the rows of displayed art, I came upon one of the carpenters, an old man whose posture reflects the time. He wore his work uniform and clutched a hammer in one hand and a measuring tape in the other. There, with his frame and frock a perfect contrast to the art he studied, he stood too busy to even notice I was watching him...I didn't mean to stare but I could not help it. He was lost in the painting he beheld.
It was beautiful. I wished I had my camera. I knew that nothing in the building was as beautiful as what I was seeing right then. That's a gift, isn't it? To recognize a moment is "a moment" when it is actually happening. Well in that moment, I knew I was seeing something special.
In a few hours I would be surrounded by wealthy people who would use intellectual terms to describe the art they appreciate. They would speak of depth and technique. I knew, though, that it doesn't take intelligence or achievement or success or status to really understand and appreciate art.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.