Monday, May 21, 2012

Pursue Your Passion

A few weeks ago I saw the Gauguin exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum. I was very much captivated by the exhibit, but it wasn't just the artwork. It was also the story behind the art. It was the tale of an artist's pursuit of a dream above all else. As a fellow artist, it was a tale that spoke to my heart.

Paul Gauguin was a stockbroker in Victorian-area Paris. Disillusioned with the corporate world and European civilization, he sailed for French-Polynesia in 1891 for an initial extended stay. By 1895, he left France again, this time never to return. Fascinated and intrigued by the exotic beauty and raw primitiveness of the native Polynesians and their land, Gauguin embarked on the pursuit that would consume the rest of his life: capturing his elusive paradise on canvas.  Thus he began his life's work as a legendary Post-Impressionist painter and master of bold, vibrant color.

Three of my favorite paintings from the exhibit are included below. However, I must say the conversion into pixels doesn't do them justice.

Les ancĂȘtres de Tahamaha, 1893

Private collection, 1897

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, 1898

Gauguin's actual experience in Polynesia didn't mirror the fantasy realm he captured in his paintings. His life was marred by a broken marriage, children in early graves, syphilis, alcoholism, and being an outcast in society. But then again, we don't follow our dreams because they promise us money and a comfortable life, do we? While occasionally those things are a by-product, the more common term we hear bandied about is "starving artist".

Gauguin died penniless at age 54. He painted because he had to.

What is it that you have to do? What does your heart tell you you must do when it's the dead of night and you finally allow yourself to listen? What feeds you? What nourishes your soul ? What do your organs and the marrow in your bones cry out for you to do?

Heed the longings of your heart. Pursue your passion.

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