“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”
– Simone Weil
Dearest Yogis of the House,
Last week I spent a morning at the Seattle Art Museum at the Kehinde Wiley exhibit. I watched the hour long documentary on a screen in the middle of the room that hosts his paintings. I was moved to tears. Wiley is both reflective and irreverent. His work is magnanimous and provoking, transporting and empowering. Wiley paints modern African Americans in street clothes in the poses of the rich and powerful made famous in classic European painting. He says, “I think I’m simply pointing to moments of beauty, moments I definitely recognize as being worth of being celebrated.”
Wiley finds his subjects to paint while walking around the streets of Harlem. He is paying attention to “a sense of self-possesion, a type of swagger, a sense of grace in the world.” He calmly yet boldly asks people on the street if they want to be in a piece of art. Most people walk by him thinking he is crazy but a few stop to listen. One can tell that the few that stop to hear more about the artist and his work are “seen” for who they are and they are curious about the potential of the process.
The vivid backgrounds of patterns, colors and place take your breath away. The paintings are so “hyper real” that you can’t help from being caught in a moment of awe and inspiration, contemplation and conversation.
After leaving the exhibit I walked to the Pike Place Market and noticed the unintentional street casting that occurs. The guys at Sosios produce waved me over, “Hey there, how are you? You have to try the purple asparagus!” The fish market guys in their white rubber overalls shouted and gestured at me in a friendly way to check out the wild salmon. The ladies peeking out from behind what looked like hundreds of buckets of yellow, pink, fucsia, purple and red tulips. People, sounds, smells, shapes all calling for my attention. All of the vendors emanated a confident “self-possessed” essence. I decided to give my full and fearless attention. I talked to the produce guys about how I used to come to the market with my mom when I was a kid…one of them said, “Yeah, is that right? I was probably here-35 years ago!”
And, so the day went on…art begetting art. It is by paying attention that a certain quality of connection and aliveness is discovered all on its own. What Kehinde Wiley can do through art-seeing the “unseen” and finding grace and empowerment in human beings just going about their regular work day is an example of how to live a colorful and meaningful life.
I am touched and grateful when an unexpected experience can uplift my spirit and ripple joy from my heart out in to the world. Art, yoga, nature, conversation are some of the ways I can more deeply see myself as who I am – with all the textures and colors, brightness and darkness, joy and pain. It’s all mysteriously and curiously there.
As Spring has bounded in with its full swagger and bold beauty I find it a perfect invitation to join in the celebration of bloom and growth, attention and generosity . I hope you join in too!