It was a painting of a little girl, cast all in shades of grey. Her eyes were wide with horror, her hair unkempt, her clothes rags. The background was dark and indistinct like clouds of black and green. Out of the shades reached a black hand that clamped around the girls arm. Sticking out of the canvas is some pieces of bent metal and crime scene tape.
No matter how little time I had I always spared this painting a glance as I walked by, and no matter how many times I saw it it always struck daggers straight into my gut.
Throughout history many people have argued about how we should define art. Can I stick needles in my eye, stand in a museum and be praised an artist? The truth is, the debate goes on. Some argue that art must be beautiful. In which case, the painting hanging outside my Psychology class room is definitely not art. There is nothing beautiful about the little girl who stands as the focus on the picture. There is nothing beautiful in the dark and almost putrid color scheme. There is nothing beautiful about pieces of old metal and sickly yellow crime scene tape.
But then, the artist never claimed there was.
I don't remember must of what the information hanging beside the painting said, though I must have read it a dozen times. In truth, I always got stuck on the first sentence. It has been ingrained in my mind and I doubt if it will ever be going anywhere. "This painting should not exist".
The painting hangs outside my Psych class to symbolize rape. It shows the death of innocence, it shows the dark of hopelessness. It shows everything with a raw emotion that seems to hang in every ounce of paint on the canvas and protrude with the pieces of metal. Rape is not beautiful, and neither is the painting.
I want to take a moment to mention a painting done by Pablo Picasso.
Guernica is far from beautiful, and Picasso would not want it to be thought so. Picasso felt the cruelty of the Nazi's first hand and saw it displayed many times over. In the face of such raw evil it is no surprise that such emotion would bleed over into his canvas. Guernica was a city that was bombed by the Germans. Guernica felt the devestation and choas that Picasso choose to memorialize.
In 1940, Picasso was questioned by the Gustopo. It is rumored that one office saw this painting and asked him, "Did you do that?"
Picasso is said to have turned to him and replied, "No, you did."
I imagine that the words "This painting should not exist", would also fit nicely beside Guernica.
You may at this point ask, if the painting should not exist then why did the artist make it? The answer to this is simple. The artist did not make the content, the artist merely showed it. The artist did not invent rape for the sake of his canvas, he merely showed the effect of it. The unknown artist who hangs on my college wall and Picasso both had one thing in common. They painted works that in a perfect world would not have existed. They gave voice to those who no longer could speak. Picasso's work lives on forever speaking to us through history, and the artist speaks on in my mind continually.
I find it no surprise they choose to put this work outside my Psychology class room, because every day when I walked by it I remembered why. I remembered why I wanted to study Psychology and understand the human mind. I remembered why I have commited myself to years more of college than the average person. I remembered why I want to be a therapist. Because that painting shouldn't exist, but it does.
These two works, and countless others stand as memorials to a fallen world. A world of pain and atrosities that turn the stomach. To stare into one of these paintings can change a life, if one allows the change to occure. These paintings speak when others are silent, and work when others are motionless. Now tell me. Must art be beautiful?