Art vs. Farm

A Dead Rabbit and The Marvel of Virtuosity: Why I Can’t Leave the Art World Behind

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A Dead Rabbit and The Marvel of Virtuosity: Why I Can’t Leave the Art World Behind
Illustration by Ria Brodell

The dab of white on the grass didn’t look right from a distance. It was tempting to identify the object as a rock and not descend the crest of our lawn to get a closer look. As I neared, selecting a stick from the edge of the woods, I grasped the surrounding quietude and singularity of my attention. It wasn’t a rock, or scrap of birch bark, or a figment of far-sightedness; it was the head of Clover, our white, blue-eyed bunny. With the end of the stick, I turned what remained of her over and just stood and looked. Face, ears, no eyes. I levered her to a nook where I dug a grave and marked the overturned soil with a ring of stones.

A few years ago I ended a way of life by unsubscribing from the art market. Rather than chase the tail of a long departed soul, I settled into the unknown. Exhaustion and solitude followed. Two years of letting go has circled me back to the thing that has marked my entire life: art. And now I ask, how can I make this meaningful again? I refuse to close my eyes and walk a worn path, and I hope people will recognize the difference.

Aside from “you’re back,” the phrase I’d most like to remove from recent conversation is “good luck.” I try to receive the well-meaning offering, but am left wishing for the creativity of longer explanations, like, “I’m skipping to where there is no reception, or, let me know if you can see my thumbs up from really far away, or, I go to church on major holidays, or, I sponsor a small child in Guatemala, or, I love buying art at charity auctions.” Innocuous conventional phrases are like standing on a hill and ascertaining a distant white dab as an aesthetic contribution to one’s own lovely morning. I say, get closer.

Looking is more confounding when the thing you are trying to absorb and understand is moving. Like performance art. There are still some people who can’t grasp an objectless form as art. How can you “have” motion, gesture, or time? I’ll admit to my affinity for “having.” However, I also have tremendous respect for the things that evade ownership (and I don’t mean when the price is out of reach).

What I am referring to is The Marvel. This is the moment when a painter blotches out the most successful moment of her working composition to open space for its entirety. This is the moment when a daughter gazes intently with her mother at Monet’s golden haystacks, watching the straw, field, and sky specify into a myriad of singular brushstrokes. This is the moment when two bodies spin violent, beautiful spells into a room of awestruck, receptive viewers. The Marvel is the thing that has us. You know the feeling. And you know the difference between this and not this.

This is why I will never leave art. It is the one arena in life where I have consistently discovered The Marvel, again and again. Two years ago I lamented and mourned the loss of my receptiveness to a surface-interest, self-congratulatory art market. But, under the clamor that now is slowing to an overdosed lull, the artists, the lookers, the ambassadors of The Marvel remain. And so returns my passion for getting closer, for not shouting from a distance, for embracing the ungovernable tenacity of things we can’t understand, and for making change where we can.

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