When given the choice of what I wish to do on Mother’s Day I usually always choose between art and/or nature. Because of the “iffy” weather we had all week, I decided to go for art while still hoping for a glimpse of nature during the day. I want it all, you see. After years of a demanding career and doing my best to be a good mother and wife, I now want to enjoy the fruits of my efforts. This Mother’s Day I got a chance to do that.
I first thought we’d go to the Frick Museum and the Neue Galerie in NYC. The Frick because they have a show on the portrait artist, Von Dyck, and a lovely courtyard garden; the Neue Galerie because they have a show on Munch and a lovely Berlin-style cafe where I imagined we could share a tasty plate of goulash or Wiener schnitzel accompanied by a crisp Pilsner. My plans changed, however, when I realized that given the current entry fees, it would cost us about $100 for five of us just to get into either museum, never mind what it would cost in addition for parking dinner and drinks! I chose the new Met Breur instead; admission is a suggested donation and that seemed more plausible for us.
The choice of the Met Breuer turned out to be a huge success. The current featured exhibition is called Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible, and covers two floors of the museum. The exhibit included paintings and works of art from the Renaissance to the present. I was knocked out by the works of many of the earlier painters including Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Titian, Turner, Manet, Monet, Picasso and more. The theme was fascinating, I thought. Apparently, what is considered “finished” in the art world has been the subject of debate amongst artists and critics through many periods of art.
I gazed at a beautiful Corot, a spring scene of trees just coming into delicate bloom, which, according to its description, was considered “unfinished” by critics at the time. I thought it was exquisite; the blooms on the trees looked so delicate; the scenery was full of light and air. There were a lot of paintings with accompanying descriptions that indicated that there was no consensus on whether or not contemporary critics considered the works intentionally unfinished, or left unfinished by circumstances.
As the time period of the exhibit moved closer to the Impressionists, the issue of whether or not a work was completed became an overriding one as well as a turning point in the history of painting. Today we accept the lack of detail in the work of the Impressionists as intentional as well as artistic or “impressionistic,” but this was, of course, not true during the actual period of Impressionism when the paintings were considered incomplete by a public used to a more detailed, studied, formalized look.
As I spent the day with my family, I thought a lot about experiencing different phases of my own life through my experiences with my children. We often took the “kids” to art museums and still often go to them together. As we sat at a bar later in the day having a Mother’s Day drink together, I thought about my own “canvas” and the results of my best creative efforts: my two children now ages 32 and 34. They are both bright, sensitive, capable people living creative, productive, compassionate lives. My canvas is “unfinished,” but intentionally so. As they became more independent, I put away my paints and brushes and stepped back for a different perspective.
There are so many stages ahead for each of them that I hope to live to see in the years ahead, but probably my most creative work is done. It is now up to them to complete the canvas with their own intentions, in their own style. From here on, I’m just an admirer of their work.