A true artist restores your sense of beauty, wonder and awe. Watching the swirling tail of a goldfish glint in sunlit water will do the same. The light speaks to you in a language only your eyes can understand, offering up changes in colors so subtle, yet so distinct if only attended to, that a part of your soul begins to understand secrets heretofore unknown…
I’ve always loved the way goldfish tails refract light and show you motion in its most delicate nuances, and how the shining orange of their scales looks like no other color anywhere. (It makes me wish for an English word more elegant than “orange” to describe it. “Passion” would be a good choice except it’s already taken.) It’s one of those colors that burns into your retinas, like the red of Sylvia Plath’s Tulips:
The tulips are too red in the first place, they hurt me.
Even through the gift paper I could hear them breathe
. . .
The tulips should be behind bars like dangerous animals;
They are opening like the mouth of some great African cat,
And I am aware of my heart: it opens and closes
Its bowl of red blooms out of sheer love of me.
I remember staring at the lone, red tulips in the backyard of my college farmhouse on summer days while reading Plath, and thinking–yes–they are simply too intense for the eyes to bear. Like the glints of light shining back at you from a goldfish tail through mirrors of water, these colors announce their presence as if characters in the novel of your life.
~ ~ ~
My love of goldfish in art began with my first Matisse, torn from the back cover of a Reader’s Digest so I could tape it to my wall. This was one of my first glimpses of Art and the beginning of a lifelong affair:
I spent a lot of time in my room as a teenager, and not always by choice. This gave me a lot of time to consider the goldfish on my wall. I escaped into my art, refusing despair in place of inspiration. To focus on beauty and transcendence became my main motivation–and my revenge. To me the goldfish came to represent the magic hidden in plain sight, and the mystery in everyday life. They became messengers offering solace in their otherworldly color and grace, and their beauty was a reminder that there was more waiting for me in my life than what I could see in that moment around me.
For more than twenty years now I’ve felt my heart leap a little every time I see a goldfish depicted in art. (It’s like a delicious secret I share with myself, a love no one knows of but me.)
~ ~ ~
Imagine my delight the other day when a friend sent me this video. I’m always amazed by Japanese artistry but seeing this master at work really carved a canyon in my day:
Inspiration can be such a peculiar and personal thing…where do you find yours?