Thursday, October 17, 2013

Art That Becomes a Part of You

I just read a post on Facebook that said "11 Lessons That Jane Eyre Can Teach You."  All of a sudden I had a flashback to the first time I read Jane Eyre, a personal favorite.  It is common knowledge that the book was ahead of its time, and it is one that I believe is not an acquired taste.  You either love it upon your first read, or you don't.

All of us have our favorite pieces of art, music, film, and literature.  All of us remember certain times when we first discovered those favorites.  They become a part of us and stand the test of time without wearing our their welcomes as we get older.

I don't why that article suddenly sparked this thought in me, but it did.  Here are a few favorites and when I discovered them.

Since Jane Eyre was the reason for this post, I'll start with it...

When I was a freshman in college at Brigham Young University, and away from home for the first time, my roommate was a very nice girl from Colorado.  She was amiable and quiet, but rarely home, a year older than me with a boyfriend, and in the ROTC.  She had a best friend who would often come looking for her and waiting until she came home.  One day this friend came to do just that, bursting with enthusiasm over just finishing Jane Eyre and wanting to tell someone about it. As I was the one home at the time, she told me, giving me just enough about the plot to interest me but not enough to spoil the ending.  She must have done well, because I read the book, loved it, and still love it.  As far as the film adaptations, I've seen about 6 of them, and the casting of Mr. Rochester is, in my opinion, almost more crucial than the casting of Jane.  The 1980's BBC version with Timothy Dalton is the one that comes closest to my vision when reading the book, with the 2006 version with Toby Stephens coming in at a very close second.
My freshman year was a year of great exposure to wonderful things.  It was also the year I heard Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera for the first time.  They were both incredibly popoular.  Phantom's story is pretty basic, and easy to follow from just listening to the soundtrack, but Les Miserables is not.  Because my roommate was gone so much, I became especially close to the girls across the hall.  One of them, Gail, who is still a close friend, came over with her cassette (CDs were very, very new.) Over the course of 2-3 hours we listened to the entire thing, pausing between songs for her to tell me the story and preface what I was about to hear.  I was awestruck at the power and beauty of the music.  About a year later we saw it onstage in Salt Lake City.  It remains one of my favorites.

If you know me well, then you know the name of my favorite film.  Singin' in the Rain put itself in the top spot as soon as I saw it. I was in grade school when I watched it on TV at my grandparents' house.  I'm guessing it dethroned The Sound of Music because of my age, but it remains at the top, just as Gene Kelly remains my favorite actor.  (One of my greatest regrets is missing an opportunity to meet him in person because of a wedding my family had to attend.)  Although Singin' in the Rain is not a complex story, like some of my other favorite films, I love it for its seamless and unfailing buoyancy.  It is my permanent remedy for a really bad day (fortunately I haven't had one of those in a very long time) and it succeeds upon every single viewing.  And, there is something about this film that makes it feel like its mine, maybe because it has been a favorite for so long.

When I decided to switch my major to Humanities halfway through my sophomore year of college, there was a great need within me to attach myself to the beautiful creations I learned about.  That is the reason I could not be just an English major or just an Art History major.  I needed all of it, and I still do.  I am always on a quest for beautiful, clever, impressive creations in all mediums.  It is a strange thing that drives me to find a great book, a great film, a musician, or an artist I've never heard of.  But at the beginning there was Renoir.  Like with my favorite film, my favorite artist is also "mine."  I love his work, his treatment of women on the canvas, and every time I think of him painting in his 80's with brushes strapped to his arthritic hands, it breaks my heart.  That many of his paintings reside in The Norton Simon Museum, minutes from where I grew up, means I can visit them in person several times a year.

I try not to get more cynical as I get older, but the world can be a horrendous place.  One way I balance my own sanity with the garbage the media throws at us is to hold on to the fact that beautiful things do exist if we look for them.  They aren't the mainstream or the most popular, but they are much more enduring and uplifting.  They're out there. Go find them.


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