“Life is elsewhere. I have a misplaced longing for glamour.”

Summary: “Doing the modest things that are expected of all of us is enough.”

Welcome to the second of a series of art posts, derived from the ‘Art as Therapy’ show written by John Armstrong at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Woman with a Child in a Pantry, c1660, Pieter de Hooch, (1629-1684 Dutch)
“De Hooch,  “Girl in the Larder”

When I came upon this painting in the newly restored (2013) Cuypers Cathedral, I was struck by the beauty of ordinariness.

This famous painting by de Hooch is very out of synch with its status … because, above all else, it wants to show us that the ordinary can be very special. The picture says that looking after a simple but beautiful home . . . watching over the children . . . and doing these things faithfully and without despair, is life’s real duty.

This is an anti-heroic picture, a weapon against false images of glamour. It refuses to accept that true glamour depends upon amazing feats of courage or the attainment of status. It argues that doing the modest things that are expected of all of us is enough. The picture asks you to be a little like it: to take the attitudes it loves and to apply them to your life.”

I once had an artist friend who created “The Lucky Duck Club.” I was a member. Carole made art badges for each of us. One that I remember fondly was called “the normal living badge.” You could get it for brushing your teeth, for making a cup of tea for you and a friend, or remembering to breathe ten times deeply in a day.  “The normal living badge” is what De Hooch is reminding us to reclaim, here in the kitchen parlor; the simple act of giving and receiving between adult and child.

Another way of looking at this is how to make sacred the mundane. I think there is no grandiose answer. It’s just about doing whatever is before you, or being in the moment with your authentic self. The ego is on vacation.

How might you reframe the modest aspects of your life?
What normal living badges might you give yourself?

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4 Responses to “Life is elsewhere. I have a misplaced longing for glamour.”

  1. Phyll says:

    Being in the moment with your authentic self and leaving the ego at the door is a good idea.
    Living a life of voluntary simplicity, appreciating every breath/moment you’re alive makes for an intrinsically fulfilling life. My pup is old, now, and my job is to take care of her as best I can. This means changing her diaper every 2 hours, encouraging her to drink lots of water, providing 4 little meals a day and carrying her into the backyard for exercise often. Our rhythm and routine has been dancing like this for about a year, now, and I cherish every moment with Sweetie Sue. Just returned from a much-needed respite, in Vermont, and feel refreshed and ready to care for my darling Sweetie again. . .and again. I agree that it’s the mundane, every day responsibilities of caring for others, living with gentleness and mindfulness, cultivating friendships that nourish our souls, and going forth with dignity, creativity and appreciation that make our lives truly meaningful.

  2. Elaine Naddaff says:

    Hi Eileen, Thank you, again for sharing special parts of your trip to your readers. I think the painting you have selected talks to you. Your observations reveal your appreciation of art,
    domesticity and realms of reading. What is it the older woman is handing to the young girl?
    You have contrasted ordinariness and glamour in such a manner that I think you should visit
    a glamourous costume exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or the costume show at Winterthur, I think jewelry can be glamourous, even though it is materialistic by nature! I do not fully accept glamour as an interesting value, but I marvel at those who can show “it” off and “attain the status”.

    Did you see the paintings of Johannes Vermeer at the museum? I loved Vermeer’s art!

    I do not merit a badge, but many extraordinary people have earned a “Magic Wand” in life and will continue to do so.

  3. Elaine Naddaff says:

    Please pardon my typos and grammatical mistakes. I should have had a light on to see the keyboard. So sorry. So sorry.

  4. cynthia mackay says:

    Eileen I cannot imagine what it would be like to lose a beloved sibling. My mind tries to go there and then it veers away. As you say the only solace is living your life and letting the stream of days slowly wash away some of the sorrow.
    I hope you continue to find solace in your love of art and in your writing.
    I think of you and your family every day.

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