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A Work of Art

Appreciating a work of art

Confession time: I don’t really “get” art. It’s not that I don’t like art, or that I can’t appreciate a beautiful painting or a masterwork. It’s just that after a minute or so of admiring it, I’m all set. Two hours is roughly my maximum museum tolerance (I have a similar tolerance level for malls). So while I respect people who can spend hours staring at a painting, I can’t really relate.

I recently read a book whose main character was an artist. She described how moved she was at seeing a new painting and how she could lose herself for hours absorbing its details. I’ve heard art lovers say similar things before, and it never resonated. But this time, it suddenly struck me: that’s how I feel when I see a new part of the world.

Experiencing a completely foreign place – not just through photographs, but actually being immersed in it – heightens my senses and gets my synapses firing and my emotions flowing like nothing else. And even after the “new place smell” wears off and familiarity starts to creep in, there are always new things to discover, more nuances to appreciate. I can easily pass a day sitting still, soaking up the details of the people and places around me. The world is my art.

I’m afraid that in traveling, too many people rush from one place to the next, ticking off the “must see” paintings and historical sights, without appreciating the wonder of where they are. They’re missing the forest for a few very specific trees. There is beauty and artistry in a bustling city square and a quiet mountain vista and everywhere in between, and you can see it if you pause even for a moment.

Art is everywhere and everything around us, and we don’t need to pay an admission fee to make it worthy of our attention.

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