Loving the Woman in the Waves

....let Gaugin's painting lure you in to the depth of unknown passions....go to the Cleveland Museum of Art

Dear "In the Waves",

My secret passion.   The painting which stirs me most.  Please, don't ever change.  Don't ever leave.  Do not fade.  Do not disappear into storage.

I secretly pine for the passion within your strokes.  I feel inspired to bare my own soul and enter the churning green.  Your upraised chin and determined diagonal stance with creamy elbow poised to pierce the wave....the sight of you reminds me I am not alone.  I too can dive in.  You are leading the way.

Until we meet again I will remind myself with the postcard of you that hangs in my bedroom next to the untidy piles of the trappings of my modern life.  I will rise above those piles and find the beauty in my daily life.  Thank you for the inspiration.  I'll be back soon....hopefully alone.

Love, Colleen

Paul Gaugin's painting "In the Waves" stirs a secret passion in me.  I love it deeply...it inspires me.   I feel tempted to strip off the preoccupations of my modern life, get down to bare basics, and follow her into the churning brushstrokes with similar abandon and determination.

    I am lucky to be able to occasionally go to the Cleveland Museum of Art, just about 10 minutes from the comfort of my home and the routines of being a modern woman juggling demands of motherhood, marriage, and life's daily tasks.  I enter the beautifully designed building with a mounting inner excitement as I anticipate the encounter ahead.  To be soon surrounded by a collection of works of art of such variety, such quality, each imbued with the passions of an artist who was creating something meaningful and expressive...I feel truly fortunate.

     Gauguin's Woman in the Waves calls to me most passionately.  Sometimes I go directly to her.  Sometimes I must be patient and wait to visit her presence later in the visit...especially if I am not alone.  Especially if my 5 year old is with me.  Even when I visit the museum with my family, though, and eventually reach the corner of the gallery where this mysteriously alluring woman is displayed, I manage to feel a secret , silent connection with her which I share with no one.  Our relationship has developed over the years.  Now I feel I understand her urge to strip down and dive in to the wild waves for some time alone.  Even if I only manage a few minutes to focus my eyes on this sight, I feel it gives something deeply meaningful back to me. 

    The brushstrokes up close are so varied, each filled with motion.  The many colors subtly dancing across the surface of her creamy skin inspire me to choose a wider variety of colors myself in my life.    From a distance her complexion looks so much smoother and simpler.   Like each of us, she is composed of a surprising variety of subtle layers.  The composition pulls the viewer into the surf.  The colors and brushstrokes stir the passions.  It refreshes and stimulates simultaneously.

    Were he there, I can almost imagine giving Gaugin himself a chance instead of just writing him off as a troubled, self-centered man who supposedly often objectified women.  He really succeeded in capturing something precious on this canvas.  It is timeless.  It can speak to any human.  In this painting, the woman he portrayed so sensitively and skillfully is the victor over her situation even though the waves appear so overwhelming.  Her back's toward the viewer and she does not care about what or who is behind her.  She is free to venture independently into the waves and just fend for herself.  Perhaps she will even discover great satisfaction there in the shifting current.  Her chin is raised in confident determination, body flexed to challenge the diagonal.  But, no.....if Gaugin himself was there next to me enjoying the view of this scene he invented, I would not engage him in conversation after all.  Instead I would continue to gaze with a deep appreciation at the work of art itself. 

   The painting itself and the woman portrayed stir my admiration and desire.  I feel inspired to search for my own way to enter the waves with such courage.  I love this work of art.  I will return to her whenever I can.

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