Emotion and the arts

April 19, 2011

I was at a Mexican restaurant the yesterday and noticed a picture of Frida Kahlo lacquered onto the table top. I started thinking about her — how to me she is surrounded by the same magic as Vincent van Gogh. We love these figures in a strangely familiar way. We call them Frida and Vincent as though they are dear friends of ours. They are dear friends of ours. Why is that? Why do we feel this way about them? More specifically, why do we feel this way about them and not other artists? I don’t love Albrecht [Durer] like I love Vincent — the thought feels out of place.

Vincent and Frida both created out of pain — Vincent’s emotional and mental, Frida’s physical. I believe we love them because we feel they empathize with us. They understand and, more than just experiencing, they found a way to express the pain that we all feel.

As an artist and as a Christian, emotion is precious to me. I believe that the division between time and eternity wears thin when we feel deeply. As a believer who hopes for an eternity where all is set right, even my pain draws me, because Christian hope is not the hope of the english vernacular. Hope to me is no wishful thought or slim chance. Hope is a looking forward to something that is promised by one who cannot lie.

Frida began painting while lying on her back recovering from a bus accident that eventually killed her. I have new appreciation (if not actual understanding) of her experience after my own close call propelled me into a renewed passion to create. I’ll never forget opening my eyes on the scene, hearing the sirens and the calm voices of firefighters, but seeing nothing. I now know that blindness is a frequent temporary response to shock, but I had a moment of staring into the blackness and letting reality sink in. I didn’t know that 24 hours later I would wheel out of ICU and go home as though nothing had happened. I remember thinking calmly “So this is it. I wonder what the new normal will be like?”

At that moment I understood hope, emotion, the draw of eternity. I’ve been driven to express ever since.