Raphael Soyer at the Columbia Museum

I’ve always been drawn to artists who explore the plight of broken people. I’ve also been drawn to artists who are broken themselves, but that’s for another day.  Recently I went to the Columbia Museum of Art in South Carolina and I saw a piece by Raphael Soyer that made an impression.
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Soyer was an artist who explored the part of the human condition that interests me. According to the Smithsonian, his “portrayals of derelicts, working people, and the unemployed around Union Square during the Depression reveal more of a poignant vision of the human condition than the art of social protest popular with many of his contemporaries. Throughout his life Soyer painted people—his friends, himself, studio models—with an unerring eye for intimacy and mood.”  And the mood that most attracts me is reflected in the broken people in his work. Put another way, “his sympathetic and melancholic paintings expressed the aspirations and disappointments of ordinary people.”
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It’s the melancholy look of “Entering the Studio” that caught my eye. There is something tentative about the subject. It’s almost as if she’s seeking permission to enter the room but doesn’t expect that permission to be granted. But there also seems to be a sense of disinterest in the subject’s face. Maybe she’s waiting to interrupt someone in the room in order to give them some sort of message…and that she feels bothered by having to engage in the effort altogether. Either way, there seems to be some apprehension, struggle, or other disappointment bubbling under the surface…and I find that fascinating.

I spoke with my Uber driver tonight. And I think that made her happy.

Today I spoke with my Uber driver more than normal.  Usually I try to keep my mouth shut.

It’s not that I have anything against speaking to the driver, it’s just that I get anxious about having to make small talk.  I don’t have a problem speaking with other people, but I get anxious about needing to maintain chit-chat for a 30 minute ride. That’s a lot of chitting and chatting. But today was different.

This driver seemed like she needed someone to speak with.  She was going through some pretty rough stuff with her children and grandchildren and I got the feeling that she just needed to tell the story to someone with a sympathetic ear.  Once I sensed that, I encouraged the conversation— and for those of you who know me, you’ll realize that that’s very much unlike me.  Even though the majority of my career involves speaking to others, I tend to be pretty quiet when I’m off the clock.

The driver had some tough stuff going on— her small grandchild had severe medical issues; her daughter dropped out of high school last year and she’s embarked on a career as a stripper.  I imagine that those aren’t the kind of problems that are easy to share.  So I listened, and I didn’t judge.  And I could tell she was happy to have the opportunity to unload.

I think the driver appreciated our conversation.  It made me feel good about myself to know that I might have given her an opportunity to vent.

I’m glad I decided to speak to the driver tonight.

Letting go of my wish list

There are items that I have on a wish list of things to do.  It’s a bunch of things that I want to get to one day —  like learning a language or gettin better at playing blues guitar.  The thing that makes me sad, however, is that I’ve been carrying those things on that list for years and I haven’t made any progress on any of the items. Is there really any reason for me to continue to keep that list?

It appears that I won’t ever get to them.  I mean, I’ve had down time here and there and I didn’t chose to dedicate that down time to pursuing those things.  I’m just starting to come to the realization that I’m not going to get to do those things.  And that’s painful.

I feel defeated. I’m upset with myself for not pursing those things.  But I take solace in the fact that the reason I haven’t pursued those goals is because I’ve been dedicating my time to achieving other long term goals.  And I’ve made significant progress in those other areas. For instance, I’m pleased with my career, and I get out to see fun shows and interesting art, But it appears that I won’t ever learn that other language nor achieve some other wish list items.

I should move on.  I should take them off my list.

But I won’t.

Sometimes I need a little Mt. Fuji

There is something calming about Mt. Fuji.  I admit to not really knowing much about the icon, except that it holds a very special place in the hearts of the Japanese people. All I know for sure is that when I see it I feel a sudden sense of calm, and I need that every now and again.  That’s why I subscribe to the Twitter handle @Fujidelic.  Every so often, amid the noise of my Twitter feed, up pops a serene picture of Mt. Fuji.  And I stop and breathe deep for just a second.

Picture from @Fujidelic

Chance the Rapper is Awesome

If you like Hip Hop and you’re not listening to Chance the Rapper, you  need to start.

I know I should have heard about him earlier, but I’m just discovering his work.  I’ve been listening to his album “Coloring Book” for a few days now.  It’s got a lot of depth and the production value is incredible.

(Warning: if you don’t like explicit lyrics and the n-word, then don’t watch this video).