I’m slowly circling around the parking lot at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. I’m stunned by the cherry red Fiat, the cobolt blue Prius, a bright orange Jeep. Where did this stuff come from? Oh, and there is the early autumn rust, like nails left outside, of a half dozen spindly trees. The green above the parking attendant’s booth feels like a shock to the system.
I’ve just walked out of the first day of the Matisse exhibit. I’ve studied this guy all my life and I’ve never seen him. I bounced around from gallery to gallery laughing as I recognized a blemished creative process that gives way to astounding beauty. Forget that you can easily see modern art creeping into his still lifes like a thief at an open door. Forget that abstraction hovers about in all his backgrounds. Forget that he was practicing over a hundred years ago and it all remains relevant.
When I went into the museum today I wanted only one thing. I told myself all I wanted was to walk out of the museum today with only one thing from the Matisse show. I knew something was up because I couldn’t take advantage of the 20% off at the bookstore. All the titles looked flat after seeing the show. I thought that I must have missed the one thing that I wanted. So I went out to my car and on the way it hit me – the cherry red Fiat just sitting there in the parking lot.
Color was suddenly everywhere. The saturated orange, the deep blue, the over the top sky soaked through with pigment. Matisse, without knowing me, gave me color today, or gave color back to me. It was there in the shadows of the oak trees spread across 38th street as I headed back toward the center of the city. Flashes of color squinted at me from the flowers on the graves in Crown Hill Cemetery.
I took my foot off the gas. I wanted to slow down, keep myself from the life I left before Matisse shoved a purple table cloth in my face. What can you do with it? For me, I gained some ground on my own developing sense of genuine playfulness. “Wow! Look at the peach color in the clouds.” I said this to my daughter a little while later as we were standing out on the street watching the sunset. “Do you see the purple dad?” I looked and there it was buried in the middle of gorgeous.