This table is not real!

Years ago, I was teaching a group of students on reality and I banged on the coffee table in front of me and said, “This table is not real!”

Doubtful, startled and with a look that said, “prove-it-to-me,” they rolled their eyes in complete disagreement.

A friend reminded me recently of this episode. “Do you remember when you banged on the table and said, ‘This is not real?’”

“Yes, I do,” I said. “I don’t know how I knew, because I didn’t know what I was saying, yet I knew there was something more than the physical, life was more than dead wood that looked like a coffee table.”

So what is real? Most of us have caught ourselves crying over a movie, knowing it wasn’t real, but it sure felt real. The actor brought life to the physical film and script. Or maybe, we’ve studied a piece of art and wondered how the artist painted a certain object, such as a chair. The chair wasn’t real in the painting, but it sure seemed real enough. It is because the artist painted the image in a way that brought it beyond the confines of paint and canvas. It is the organization of colors, values and shapes that gave an illusion that it was real. Organization comes from the artist and it is the artist that breathes life into a dead object by his expression.

In relating this story to a friend, a pianist who has studied Bach with intense fervor, he immediately directed me to a music video by Rosalyn Tureck in which he asked me to consider the same thought of organization in music. Tureck had a profound influence on the musical world, especially in the field of Bach interpretation.

Tureck says Bach’s music was not made for one instrument only but excels beyond any one instrument. His main interest is the organization pattern itself, more than tone color. “Organization is non-material, non-physical,” she says, thus making his music abstract. “This brings us inevitably to the wonder of life and to spirituality and that is another major aspect of the ground that Bach shares with us in our intellectual, aesthetic, and spiritual movement into the future.”

What did Tureck mean? Whether we speak about music, painting or wood crafting, it is the human spirit that we embrace and the artist’s spirit that we behold in the work of art. The artist leaves behind some imprint of his spirit and we behold it in the abstract which is beyond the lines we draw.

“The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.” These are words by Michelangelo. Spirit is invisible to the eye, but it has substance and is weighty. It is more than a ghostly quality, like the air that we breathe, it is the life we live and this is the mystery.

My good friend who directed me to Tureck’s video says it this way. “Bach had the ability to organize notes to make music. But doesn’t every good composer do that too? What about him is not like the others, that he has in common with Rembrandt, but not with Chopin. Chopin’s music is as organized as Bach’s, but he develops his artistic product out of sonorities for a specific effect, which is lost when played on the wrong instrument. Bach seems primarily focused on organization patterns, so the beauty he captures remains in place, even if the sonority is changed.”

This is all too high for my thinking, but the coffee table? Well, it came and went, and where ever it is, probably still holds magazines and the organization of wood, paint and polish represents a table. But, we still carry a moment in our minds when a statement disturbed the students and they questioned whether it was real or not.

The spirit of Rembrandt and others live on and transcends into our time A Rembrandt has never lost its substance or life, neither has Bach. And as uniquely our spirits continue to live in our work.

The Final Brushstroke! Spirit is the substance that artists create with. Paint, canvas, paper or wood are just the vehicles that express it.

Comments from readers 

If you have any comments or commentary for Life in the Artist’s Lane, we would enjoy hearing from you. E-mail us at bettyslade@centurytel.net

Quote for the week

“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem wonderful at all.” — Michelangelo.

What’s happening at the Co-op

The High School Artist’s Exhibit reception is almost here. Come by the Co-op (150 Pagosa St.) Sunday, anytime between 1-4 p.m. and meet the incredible high school artists and see their work. The winners will be announced at 1 p.m. and prizes from the following sponsors will be awarded: DSP Pizza, JJ’s Riverwalk Restaurant, Shanghai Restaurant and Nello’s.

Visit our Web site, www.pagosaspringsartists.com. We are still receiving works by artists and craftspeople who want to become members of the Co-op.


Photo courtesy Betty Slade
Ashley Iverson’s “Beautiful Wind” is one of the works featured in the High School Artists Exhibit at the Pagosa Springs Artisans Co-op. A reception for the artists will be held Sunday.