Written by 1:14 pm Art Is Essential

Art is Essential vol. 2

Writers on the art that matters to them

Look Away

Elizabeth Houseman

I often find myself inspecting the framed print that hangs in our living room, but more so, I find myself looking away.

It has luscious reds, beautiful browns. The cliff, the waters, and the deep sunset are always gorgeous. It is called Cotopaxi, painted by Frederic Edwin Church. Every time I look, I find something new. First it was a tiny bird flying into the dying light, then a hiker with a llama, white and clean on the dusty path. But I don’t want to intrude, so I allow the art some privacy.

I’m afraid that if I keep looking, the painting will grow shy. I don’t know how long I’ll be trapped here without anything new to inspect. There’s plenty of art in the house, like the awkward one-dimensional knight, or the basket of blueberries. But I look at those and they remain the same. Beautiful, but undeniably the same. What will I do if the sunset becomes that way? What if I’ve got nowhere else to look?

But my attitude is wrong. I should gobble it up while privileged to, taking in every ounce and detail until I have bled the landscape dry. I should let it divulge its secrets until I leave with a full heart and bloated belly.

I’d like to step into its golden frame. I’d love to feel the burn in my legs as I climb along the curved path, or the warmth of the setting sun. However, I am thankful for home, and especially thankful for the painting. It hangs consistently above the sofa, promising a way to be mentally free, even for a moment.

How foolish of me to believe that I could take away its loveliness. How silly to think that I had that power over it. It is beyond me. I find myself looking often. Today, I won’t look away.

Elizabeth Houseman is a reader, writer, Christian, and wife living in coldhearted Michigan, and you can find her on Instagram and Twitter at @bethyhouseman.  

Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900) was a member of the Hudson River School of landscape painting. He painted Cotopaxi in 1862. At the time, the work was regarded as a response to the American Civil War. The painting is held by the Detroit Institute of Arts. 

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