I am a grown-up! The day has arrived. I looked around this past week and realized that everything I’m doing and wearing these days fits under the category of “Grown-up Things to Do and Wear.” Examples:
High heels. Holding a bachelor’s degree. Dress pants. Having my own computer and a big stack of files waiting for me every day. I found myself reading New York Times articles this week, not the comics. J. M. Barrie would be ashamed of me. I’m now all alone all the time. Sigh. Grow-up, grown-up, grown-up. I take solace in the fact that at least I’m still me, even if I am adult me. My work clothes are still colorful, and of my own choosing, and I swap them for sweatpants and t-shirts the second I get home each day. I ate a whole batch of oatmeal cookie dough this week and didn’t work out in penance (can’t catch very many of my adult peers doing that). Lunchtime and my morning and evening commute (and the attendant people-watching) are still my favorite moments of the day- so many people with so many stories hurrying off to lives I will never know.
I feel like the difference between being a kid and being an adult is, now I just keep all of the joy that these moments bring inside of me (and also, small side note, money has become a very worrisome daily nuisance). Being grown-up is all about holding it in, doing your duty, spending your money on unpleasant necessities, and on a positive note, getting wonderful things done. Or at least that’s what I’m shooting for, that’s why I took this job so far away from friends and family. Most of my favorite adults are accomplishing their wonderful works in their homes, with their families. Also, in their service to God and community and work.
I am hoping that my work at the Hirshhorn will help me in my quest to make a career of bringing beauty to people's attention. That’s something that I think will always make me, me. I was born with an attraction to “the finer things of life,” and by that I do NOT mean luxury cars and expensive watches and VIP tickets (although the inaugural ball this week sure would be fun to attend… the mall is CRAZY right now, rows and rows of portapotties and the Secret Service has staked out our roof a couple of times). No, no. I consider the finer things of life those things that “enlarge your soul,” as a wise prophet once said (Alma 32:28). Things that enlighten your mind and are delicious to you, that make you more grateful to be experiencing this fleeting moment that is your mortality. (Feel free to call me a hippie). To me, the finer things in life include beautiful, historical artworks that capture some portion of human existence. They also include songs, adventures, the meeting of interesting people, the feeling of a good hard day's work, and the wonders of nature. I find so much joy in bringing that sensation to others. That’s why I am so attracted to the ideas of teaching and museum-ing and publishing deliciously nerdy art historical papers (my newest goal to accomplish in the next 5 years).
Uncle David, here’s your next piece of art, a particularly fine example of turn-of-the-century Parisian painting. It's a particular favorite of mine, truly a "finer thing of life." It resides in a museum in Philadelphia, which I just visited with my roommates this weekend (brr…. But super fun!)
My final paper of college talked about this 1899 work entitled “The Annunciation.” I know I’m a little late, and it’s no longer Christmas season, but I figured I’d share it with you anyways. It’s by Henry Ossawa Tanner, an African-American painter who trained in Paris at the notorious Academie Julien. He was an anomaly in his day, first because of his race and second because of his beliefs. He was a devout Christian, even amongst the godless Parisians, who were all busily propping up scientific reasoning and secular individualism as the new gods. He stuck to his guns both morally and artistically, very shrewdly picking out popular painting “flavors”, such as Symoblism, Impressionism, and Orientalism, and combined these ism’s with Biblical subject matter. The beautiful results made him very famous and successful both in Paris and back home in Philadelphia. This work is a symbolic representation of the Angel Gabriel (aka the Impressionistic streak of yellow light on the left) announcing to a very Israeli-looking Mary that she will bear the Son of God (Orientalism, incidentally, was the trend of going to Palestine and learning to realistically depict the Holy Land, which Tanner did right before he painted this masterpiece. Notice the bare rocks and authentic woven textiles). I feel like I am slightly stuck, like Henry Ossawa Tanner, in a hostile contemporary art environment, surrounded by dubious morals and sometimes squeamish and depressing art. But like him, I am going to try to pick out the best and most beautiful of today’s flavors and with any luck, and all of the effort my little brain can muster, I will find success bringing my kind of beautiful and faithful into our culture.
Or at least that’s my grown-up plan.