The Language of Art

An afternoon stroll with a photographer in Nevada City, Calif., proved to be an adventure for me.

The afternoon was planned; no agenda, no time crunch, only the expectancy of gathering ideas for future art and preserving them with photographs.

I discovered early on that two artists were looking differently at things. Tiffany White, a photographer, looked at everything in lines, details, texture and in architectural design.

I, as an artist, saw color and flair in series, themes and stories.

As the afternoon unfolded, my mind was whirling with excitement at the many sights, colors, people and life that were passing me by. Everything was a painting to paint, or a story to write.

Early on in the afternoon, doors became the focus. I said to myself: I know I will do a series of paintings with doors; open portals catching life unawares, closed doors with mystery, colorful doors, stained glass doors on Victorian homes, and carved antique doors with history etched in them about the oldest mining town of California.

Then, I turned my attention to people carrying cameras. They looked like cartoon figures on vacation, and another project popped into my head. Oh, all this was going to be great to paint when I get back to my studio in Pagosa. My gait was brisk, my mind was noisy, and I felt the acceleration of moving forward to the goal.

As I waited for Tiffany, she took her time and, as she was bringing up the slack, my eyes darted around for the next find. She was smelling the roses as she went, I was smelling success for the day.

I surveyed Tiffany at a short distance away, I noticed how she held her camera two inches away from a gnarled tree, clicking shot after shot, then she moved slowly into an alley where I questioned in my mind, “what could she possibly see in those stark white walls with a partial cast shadow?”

Her manner was quiet, thought provoking, not minding anything around but capturing a small crack in the sidewalk and the texture on the old bricks. Her camera pointed not on the chair but the shadow on the cement where the image of slats had fallen. Another jolt, I would have captured the chair.

She bent over a small blue flower that was hidden under a leaf, and with gentleness she snapped her camera, not even her breath disturbed the beauty of the inconspicuousness. When she passed by, it felt like the flowers perked up just to get their picture taken.

The conversation was slight, as not to fill the moment with words, except when I found something and I shouted excitedly, “Look! Over here!”

Then, there was that moment when we were finished and she said, “I’m thirsty, let’s stop and get a Jamba Juice.” Her job was done. I got great ideas and much more — I discovered my granddaughter, the photographer at the age of 17.

I once read, the old are not to judge the young, but the young should be judging the old.

That thought will not let go of me; it makes me question my own walk as an artist and the ones I pass by because of my own agenda.

Have I handed truth concerning the arts to the young artists? Have I encouraged them, have I given them the reins and not insisted they look at it my way? Have I taken time to meander the streets with them and let them catch their own vision about who they are and how they look at things?

Did Tiffany discover her grandmother that day?

I don’t think so; she was busy discovering life.

But, there might be a day when she is telling her grandchildren how she walked through the streets of Nevada City with her grandmother, and with only a few words, the language of art was between them.

And, in those few words volumes were written on their hearts.

Quote for the Week

“Art is everywhere, except it has to pass through a creative mind” — Louise Nevelson.

What’s happening

We are excited to announce that the High School Artists’ exhibit is on display at the Pagosa Artisans’ Co-op. On Sunday May 17, the Co-op will host a reception for all the artists who are participating. The winners will be announced and prizes from the following sponsors will be awarded.


Photo courtesy Betty Slade
Tiffany White has her sights set on a career as a professional photographer and will be shooting photos in Pagosa Country this summer.