At the end of my fifth grade year, my then teacher, Ms. Barnes, gifted me with a Georgia O’Keeffe print on a poster. Though I’m not sure what happened to it afterwards, I remember a swirl of bright orange hues, moving along the crinkled lines suggesting the inner ruffles of a flower. I remember too, the joyful awe I felt at being entrusted with such a gift.
I felt almost the same way today, when I stepped out the back door and found this peony bloom swaying precariously on its too-thin stalk. It truly amazes me that the small hard marble-like blossoms can hold the extravagance of ruffles that is a fully opened peony bloom.
One of art’s purposes (among many) is to teach us to see. Without the Georgia O’Keeffe poster, I may have noticed the beauty of flowers, but would I have the desire to drink in their color? To marvel at the lines and patterns whose life, energy and beauty only a consummate artist can express? To stand in awe as the recipient of such a gift?
18 years have passed since that day, and though I’ve since lost the poster, art (both visual and written) continues to teach me to see–and to receive beauty as a great gift.