One of my favorite artists passed away recently. I discovered Andrew Wyeth in high school, and was immediately drawn to his spare, evocative landscapes, particularly those set in my native New England. His subject matter was not always particularly cheery – he painted his fair share of abandoned houses, empty rooms, and barren vistas – and yet I always perceived a quality of hope in his art. For me, this was most evident in his paintings of windows. Open or shut, there’s something inherently hopeful about Wyeth’s windows, whether it’s a certain quality of light that beckons from beyond, or the wind from the sea that blows in, carrying with it the enticing tang of a distant horizon. When I look at Wyeth’s windows I often feel I’m standing on tiptoe, holding my breath, caught in a fleeting moment in time that is ripe with possibility.
“Painting,” Wyeth once told an interviewer, “is about love.” I’ve been thinking about that statement a lot since I heard of his passing. I think, perhaps, that it just might be the single best description of art that I have ever heard. Wyeth made it clear in the interview that he wasn’t talking about the “in love” kind of love, but simply love itself. Doesn’t this word distill all that is beautiful and yes, sometimes painful, about the act of creation? Certainly Wyeth’s statement applies to all the arts, writing included. Love wells up from the heart of every artist, spilling onto canvas or page.
I write because I love. I love my craft; I love practicing my craft, even when it means wrestling with frustrations and set-backs. I love what William Maxwell once called “the happiness of getting it down right.” Most of all, I love the thrill of connecting with readers through words, and the way words knit hearts together, for truly love is what connects artist and audience.
If art is about love, then, does it follow that the more we love, the better our art will be? Something worth pondering, perhaps.