Smudges of paint on canvas shift with the ever changing slants of light. Colors dance and our reality adjusts as the hours of our days, and the hours of our lives pass by. But the joy in beholding the image before us is ever present.
Life presents itself in these seemingly random smudges of paint. When the picture is too close sometimes we can’t make sense of it; it’s blurred and random, distorted and disorienting, chaotic and abstract. But if we’re to remove ourselves, step back for a moment and engage in the big picture, we can sometimes find an image that makes sense. It’s not always the image we might choose, the world of our wanting, but there is a beauty there if we allow our eyes to focus.
In Stewart Leavitt’s “Concert Singer,” a small and intimate painting of only 7 x 5 inches in size, we’re invited to enter that space via a strong diagonal slant of contrasting values. The splash of red on the singer’s hair draws our attention upward from the finely detailed textures of her cobalt dress; a transition from cloth to skin that has no defining line. She is bathed in a flood of light that beholds the entire spectrum of color in muted hues. And with the exception of one small flicker of warmth in the crowd, we’re left with a cool palette, even in the yellowish-green stage lights below. This is an image done with fondness and sensitivity; a craftsman in love with his craft.
The composition affords us a place of intimacy. We’re no longer simply in the audience, wishing to be entertained, or the performer, endlessly trying to find acceptance, but now we’re the observer of both. We have stepped back from the picture and regained our focus, secretly observing this event from our hidden view backstage.
What emotions must the singer be feeling, exposed in the light and vulnerable for all to see? We don’t know, we’re not privy to her facial expressions, nor the audiences’ for that matter. Leavitt allows us to engage our own imaginations in the process of this simple setting and write our own scenarios. Although somewhat reflective, the picture isn’t sorrowful. It’s filled with grace. There’s a sweet and tender love for the subject matter. “Step into the light and let me watch you shine” it seems to say. Sitting in the corner, the artist quietly admires all that his senses take in. It’s that moment when the air is heavy and all breathing has stopped; the pause after the final note has sounded. The performance is over and the song has been sung. We’re endlessly frozen in time.
Now all we can do as the viewer is wait expectantly for that silence to break…Bravo! Bravo! It’s time to take your bow.