All the times I’ve visited art museums, one particular occasion during my teenage years is one I remember most. Standing before the Masters I’d heard of, and many I hadn’t, left me in awe. Captured moments, stories, hidden meaning, Biblical truth, and family lies carefully hung on plainly lit walls that promised to not detract from beauty. The artists pulled emotion from their subjects. Saw through human eyes and captured vulnerability. A wisp in time. Seeing what no one else did. Varnished and sealed. Expression lasting longer than their collective heartbeats. Cold, aging bones within a musty crypt now, lie in contrast.
Then, a lady’s portrait. Carefully I step closer to the art before me. Closer till my eyes can see every brushstroke. Focusing on my favorite oil-slathered pigments I wonder what he was thinking at that moment. Did he love every subject he painted? Only a person who loves deeply could do this. Any of it. My pubescent teenage mind imagines being the subject. Adored. Loved fully enough to be studied. Flaws portrayed with the faintest touch. Light and shadow creating the whole. Curves and folds relished by the brush. Colors not seen, but imagined. An intimate knowing.
My heart races, face flushing hoping no one can hear my thoughts. Deep within my abdomen I ache with longing. To be understood and loved like that. I see amorous words exchanged, poetry written, and songs sung by the masculine. Adoration. My quivering hand lifts as if it is drawn by magnet. Closer to the canvas. I pause. Looking around the vacant room I see a uniformed gentleman watching me. With misting eyes I quickly straighten and drop my hand. He graces me with a knowing smile, turns and walks away.
Turning back, I quickly steal my moment and touch the corner of the canvas. I feel the layered paint. The brushstrokes. The creators work. Hoping to be part of it. That it might somehow absorb into me, unaware at the time that all I really want is to touch God and understand His love. To feel love and intimate knowing. To be written in song. Adored by the Master.
Now almost a criminal, I walk from the gallery. The smiling gentleman approaches me, and reminds me that I’m not allowed to touch the art. My eyes drop to the floor. I feel exposed. Sinful. Ugly. He adds, “But I think you appreciate it more than most. You wanted to connect personally.” He then suggests that I schedule a tour or purchase a book. I lift my head and apologize, promising to obey the gallery rules. I smile shyly, still feeling the memory on my fingertips of touching brushstrokes, straining to touch God.