On a previous entry, I talked about the East Coast road trip my dad and I took the summer following my first year of college. On that same trip, we visited some friends in Virginia. I forget the name of the town, but it was summer, so I remember the insects. We went for a walk outside and there were mini velociraptors everywhere, landing on my shirt, scuttling across the road, buzzing by my head and brushing past my eyebrows. It was as if we had stumbled into their rush hour – bugs on the move.
My parents knew this family because, before moving to Virginia, they had attended the church in Santa Cruz where my dad served as a pastor from 1983 until 1999. I didn’t know them all that well but, during that visit, I remember liking the feeling of being treated like an adult in their conversations. I was in college after all, so I was starting to know some stuff, or, at least, I was beginning to feel like I had some tools to participated in adult conversations about things that seemed important.
The couple had a clean, modern home with art on the walls. I think the wife was a museum curator of some kind. She caught me looking at one of their paintings. It was a white canvas with a red square and a blue triangle on it. “What do you think?,” she asked me.
How am I supposed to respond, I thought. It’s a red square and a blue triangle. That’s it. Except for the fact that it’s rather large and it’s in a frame and it’s hanging on the wall in a lovely home. What am I supposed to say? Be honest, a voice inside me said.
“Uh, I don’t know. I don’t get it,” I stumbled, “It’s just a red square and a blue triangle. Anyone could do that. Even I could that.”
“But you don’t,” she said.
I don’t remember the rest of the conversation. I might have tried to argue some more, but she had already made the point that needed to be made, and I am still thinking about it all these years later. Sure, some art is better than other art, but the best art is the art that someone has actually made. And the question is not so much was it worth making or could I do just as well, but what does the art do? That simple piece of art created beauty, launched a conversation, and sticks with me to this day. Who knew a red square and blue triangle could do so much?