They say that the smile painted on the Mona Lisa is inscrutible. Was she happy, perturbed, patiently waiting, romanticizing, maliciously planning? No one knows. Perhaps Da Vinci did not know.
Today Hilary and I saw a painting up by the University with the same properties. It was hung in a public place, and apparently for sale. The little sign beneath read “Eleanor Howell, Zana, 2013, For Sale.”
It was largely impressionistic with a young woman of Mediterranean features seated with chin on hand and looking into the distance. Behind was the vague suggestion of another person, gender uncertain, and looking toward “Zana”.
I asked my wife Hilary for her impressions. She is the art student and has taught me much, wandering through various significant galleries. Her comment was “angry, disillusioned, robbed, joyless, burdened. Like many of today’s young people.”
I could see all of that in this excellent piece. As we talked and scrutinized again, another thing came to mind – absence of wonder.
I have heard our Canadian society described as Post-Christian with many tendencies toward New Age self-worship. I am what I can make myself to be. The goodness is within me waitng to be drawn out by the right mechanisms and disciplines. I can succeed. I can be healthy. I can be popular. I can negotiate peace. I can heal a wounded planet. I just must self-actualize to a greater degree.
These young people, and particularly in our Waterloo academic environment, have been trained to emphasize science, math, engineering and computer technology. They tend to by-pass the arts and humanities – the places where wonder might be found to be acceptible, and where one might still be heard to say “I just don’t know, but still somehow…”
It becomes a very lonely, frustrating and disappointing place where one must forego wonder, or inspiration or Divine gifting, and look only to self for answers or relief.
The face of the young woman in the painting said all of that. For the talented artist’s link…