Pierre Bonnard, Woman with a Dog, 1891. © Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

Pierre Bonnard, Woman with a Dog, 1891. © Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

Look dear, the dog’s name is Bonnard. What a darling puppy! Is it a poodle?

(If paintings could speak. . .)

No, no that’s the artist’s name. French, impressionist, part of the Nabis group. . .

And don’t you love her gingham dress. What a cheery polka dot scarf.

Yes the dress is interesting for its sheer flatness, the way it starts a dialog of pattern that circles around the painting. . .

And her sister’s curly hair. Lord, I’ve spent hours ironing my sister’s kinky hair to get it straight. Back before they had flat irons that is. We actually used an iron.

Mmmhmm. See how her curly hair pulls out the whorl of the dog’s coat, similar colors even, and then talks to the shaggy flowers and rattan chair at the left. Yellow playing at the perimeter of the painting.

And the men, just setting there like bumps on a log, watching while the women help the poor puppy, probably has something in its paw. Well, that’s just like a man.

Wait… the contrast of yellows on blue, the patterns and the shifting perspective, the delightful textures, the floating narrative. . .

Maybe I can buy a card for my niece for her birthday, do you think they have this puppy on a card? She loves dogs.

Probably in the gift shop, next to the needless mousepads.

Oh Patty, just look over there, at that wretched yellow Gauguin! It is Gauguin isn’t ? I so dislike him.

I like the dog too. Probably a terrier. . .

Georgia on my mind

Georgia OKeeffe Inside Clam Shell, 1930

White is a color. Or is it? Yesterday, a fashionista at the mall told me that white is a “neutral.” I hated to argue with her, because youth is infallibly certain. But white isn’t neutral at all.

White is breathless. When I approach art I usually clamor for stunning color or a nuanced message worthy of prophets. Intellectual vigor of form or composition.

Georgia sweeps all that away in this painting and confounds us with whiteness. White interests me for all its myriad associations.  Purity, cleanliness, godliness.  A white canvas or paper to some of us signals dizzy anticipation or nail-biting terror.  But here, it is divested from  spiritual or moral connotation.

I see an alien landscape, the twilight side of the moon. Craters and ash, shadowy gorges and soaring peaks unmeasured. Is this an internal landscape sweeping and bare or the external in infinite magnitude? Georgia reveals her surprise, it’s the inside of a clamshell.

Oh it’s so much more though. She makes the small and insignificant, grand. With sweeping lines, and hints of color, rivulets of green, glowings of yellow, she elevates white to legendary status. Mythic.

Pair that with your colored denim crops and skinny jeans people.