Picasso’s African Connection

 Saturday I had the great pleasure of a private tour with a group I belong to of the Picasso Exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum. This collection of 150 pieces of art from the artists’ private collection is a representation of his works over his entire life. Photographs, sculptures, and paintings from the collection Musée National Picasso in Paris are on loan for the first ever and possibly last time while the museum in Paris undergoes renovation.

One of the paintings I was particularly drawn to was Three Figures Under a Tree which is a reflection of the artist’s African connection. For a view of this painting, follow the link here: KPLU: Artscape: Picasso’s African Connection (2010-10-10). The three figures in the painting are modeled after African sculptural figurines that Picasso especially loved. As I studied this painting while standing in the museum, I reflected on the connection between the two figures on the right side of the painting that while somewhat genderless, seem to be related in some way and express a certain sense of nurturing and rootedness one might expect of tree beings. It is difficult to tell where the tree ends and the people begin, a notion that I am particularly enchanted by.

In my newly developing practice of lectio divina, I am learning to sit with a phrase or word from scripture as it shows itself to me in new ways. As I approached Picasso’s painting at the museum Saturday, I decided to apply my practice of lectio in a visual manner. My whole experience was greatly enhanced as a result.

 I invite you to try this with a painting – focus your gaze softly on a painting that has particular meaning to you or that is repelling in some way. Find the area that your eyes are most drawn to and let them rest there. As you continue to focus on that area, let your thoughts go and just be with the painting. Try not to force the visual dialogue or allow your inner voices dictate how your experience should be. After a few moments, re-engage with the rest of the painting and then slowly return to your body and the museum, book or internet page your painting is in. Sit with the experience and see what the painting has to  say to you.

The gift I received from the Three Figures Under a Tree was a feeling of warmth, nurturing and that protective quality that trees and nature represent for me. What did your painting hold for you?


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