I’ve read that Michaelangeo ‘saw’ a completed sculpture inside each new block of marble. The figure was there, he said, he had only to chip away the stone and free it.
I believe it. The eye of a true artist can see what few can. Naturally it takes a combination of hard work, technique and artistry to produce art, but the eye is what makes us see the face inside our personal blocks of stone. Not that the eye always cooperates. When I face a piece of fabric which I hardly remember buying or face the blank computer screen which practically sneers at me, I have the greatest desire to chuck the dreadful thing out of the window.
I suspect that we all have been there. There are times when we question the clarity of our vision and wonder why we even bother. No doubt even the great Michaelangelo had such days. But sometimes everything falls into place; a line in a newspaper or a slice of conversation catches the mind and a plot leaps into life and proceeds to practically write itself. And sometimes I will look at a piece of fabric and know exactly what it will become. No pastoral scene here; this bit of cloth will become a far-away planetary system with binary suns and a frozen moon! I don’t know about you, but I live for those days when the eye is in full throttle.
But I’ve learned that the eye is not confined to art. One evening Mike and I stopped in at a small restaurant after the theater. The play had been charming, but the elderly waitress who served us was anything but. Her expression would have soured milk. She snarled out a demand for our order, practically threw down napkins and silverware, and stalked off muttering to herself. I wondered whether we should leave and said as much. Mike said that since we were there, we might as well stay. “Perhaps,” he added, “she’s had a bad day.”
No wonder, with that attitude! I almost wished that she would forget about serving us—but a few moments later she came marching along with our drinks and dessert. As she slapped them down in front of us, Mike asked peaceably, “Hard day for you?”
She looked surprised and then everything changed. Her mouth softened, her shoulders—so stiff a moment ago— slumped. And standing there she told us of her child’s illness, her inability to pay for treatment, and the worry she had kept within herself all day. As the words tumbled out, her eyes filled with tears. “You’re the only ones who asked,” she whispered.
And I understood that I didn’t need to create great works of art or write the best novel of all time. To have the eye one only needs to see inside the stone that too often hides the human heart.
Imprisoned in stone
Lies the greatest masterpiece…
Now, work to free it!