Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Different Perspective

I first noticed this painting in the window of the local thrift shop on one of my lunch hour jaunts. I was immediately drawn to it, feeling as though I was there underneath the snow-laden boughs, peeking out at the landscape that lay beyond. The snowy canopy reminded me of one from a particular afternoon walk along a trail when I had emerged from under a group of pine trees laden with clumps of snow, blue-shadowed in just the same way. I was so taken with the scene that I felt compelled to go into the shop (which doesn't take much prodding, truth be told, when it's a thrift shop) and fished it out of the window, to check the artist. As I suspected, it was Lawren Harris, one of Canada's Group of Seven. It is a partial view of his 1915 "Snow II".

What I didn't expect though, was the discovery that the painting had been placed upside down in the display. And right-side up, the scene was not nearly as interesting to me, just a group of snowy trees. What I took to be the trunks of the two trees at the centre are actually the tips. What I thought was snowy ground was actually the sky. Disappointed, I replaced the painting, careful to put it back in the window right-side up.

A few days later I was passing by the window and noticed that someone had shifted the whole display. The painting had been moved over a little and again was upside down. How peculiar. What is it about this painting that makes people see it so differently than they way it was painted?

Taking this as an omen, I decided to buy it (not really a major purchase at $1.99). The painting is a reminder to keep an open mind, to try and see things in different ways. Maybe we should all turn the artwork in our homes upside down now and then, just to see things from a different perspective.

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