Friday, September 17, 2010

Faraway Nearby: Updated

Often, in the midst of researching and studying material for one thing, I find a gem which casts a new light on a previous piece. Such is the case with my stated understanding of Ms. Georgia O'Keeffe's "Faraway Nearby."

About one-quarter of the way through my copy of Martin Buber's "I and Thou" I discovered something quite illuminating about the language of "primitive" peoples, "whose life is built up within a narrow circle of acts highly charged with presentness." These "primitives" use "words in the form of sentences" which "mostly indicate the wholeness of a relation."

The key words to consider in this are "presentness" and "wholeness of a relation." Consider that these words indicate that "primitives" were present in the environment, believing that they and their environment were interconnected. Be they inhabitants of mountainous regions, tidal plains, valleys, forests, wherever they were they were there. They knew the life of the land was their life as well. Further, I interpret this "presentness" to mean that they were mindful in whatever activities they undertook. They were focused. They would be overwhelmed, I think, by the current culture of cell phones, 3-G devices, and multi-tasking computers.

It occurs to me that to a great degree these notions of "presentness" and "wholeness of relation" are practices evident in the lives of artists. Ms. O'Keeffe is a case in point. Whether in the wild places of New Mexico, the urban landscape of New York, or her boundless vision of poppies and pelvises, Ms. O'Keeffe was mindful of her surroundings.

Ms. O'Keeffe mastered her language of color and brushstrokes upon canvas, vividly illustrating these concepts of "presentness" and "wholeness of relation." Her paintings speak to us of her understanding of herself as one with her environs.

Regarding words as language, Martin Buber informs us that while "We say 'far away'; the Zulu has for that a word which means, in our sentence form, 'There where someone cries out: 'O mother, I am lost.'"

Perhaps there in her 'wild places' Ms. O'Keeffe considered herself both lost and found?

[Bibliography: Buber, Martin. "I and Thou." Scribner Classics: New York, 1958, 2000 (p. 31)]

[Photo: Artwork in MARTA station, Decatur, GA; Barbara Butler McCoy, September 2010.]

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