Golden Tears

Obviously I talk about art therapy here on Where Creativity Works, but I think I discovered a new form of therapy involving art but in a whole other way. I recently went to an art museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and found something I wasn’t looking for. I think that’s serendipity, and it was exactly what I needed. I think people do it all the time with out even thinking about it, almost like retail therapy but with art in museums or galleries. We go to places that keep our minds off other things and we find something there that turns out to be the exact thing we needed.

Man with crown and blanket washing feet in a riverWhen we got to the Met, of course, I ran upstairs to the European Paintings; a professor had told me they had Caravaggio’s there and I’m a sucker for chiaroscuro so I just had to see them. As I made my way through the museum’s various rooms, I finally found the Caravaggio’s and just my luck a huge tour group was in front of them so I turned to another wall to occupy myself while waiting. This is when I saw the first painting to ever make me cry. Midas Washing at the Source of the Pactolus, done by Bartolomeo Manfredi (a follower of Caravaggio), was so elegant that tears started streaming down my face. I stood for a long while staring at it. A woman, I believe she was French, saw me and I smiled mumbling just how beautiful it was and her face lit up with a smile and in her native tongue she said something pointing to the painting while pointing to her eyes and her fingers traced down her face as tears would; I knew she understood me even though we didn’t even speak the same language.

The more I looked at it the more I noticed its details. I read the story next to it explaining what it was showing: the greek myth of a man, Midas, who wished that everything he touched would be turned in to gold, this unfortunately turned into a curse considering he couldn’t eat. I feel like he would’ve been awfully lonely as well. To be freed of the curse he had to wash himself in a river, Pactolus, where the water ended up turning to gold but ultimately freeing him. It was a winsome legend within itself and the painting portrayed it perfectly.

me and Midas Washing at the Source of the Pactolus

Photograph by Ryan Calamia

I was by no means looking for this but I found it, or maybe it found me, but it was truly serendipity because earlier that week I had found out my grandpa, Bapa, had passed away and that was weighing heavy on my heart and I think in some way this painting allowed for me to see the beauty in pain, and all in all it made me become vulnerable in front of it, letting everything out. There is an underlying power in art that I think is often forgotten, but when the right audience is at hand it comes to their attention in many different ways. This experience was truly the golden lining in my sorrowful week.

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