Last week while I was in Chicago, I visited the Art Institute where I saw Monet’s various paintings of "Haystacks" or sometimes called "Stacks of Wheat". I have always been fascinated by these paintings…the subtle,yet rich colors…gold, yellow, purple, pink, blue, periwinkle, deep red….all seen as if through a veil of light. Until Wednesday I had only seen prints, never the originals. To see the various paintings, all of a haystack, yet painted at different times of day, in different seasons filled me with emotion. I can’t explain why. Certainly their sheer beauty was part of it but more than that I think it is the simplicity of the subject, given center stage in such a masterpiece. Hay….the food of animals…a covering for barn floors….elevated to the single subject, a thing of beauty, by such a wonderful artist.
Each painting captures the myriad of color created by the play of light on the haystack as Monet observed it throughout the day . The intensity of the light changed with the seasons….summer much different than autumn, even different as the snow of winter covers the scene. I imagined Monet trying to capture the colors of sky and land. His practice was to move from canvas to canvas at half hour intervals as the light changed. The colors he observed, then painted, were those that the haystack absorbed through the shifting light of time and season.
Sitting on a bench where I could observe, from a distance, six of the twenty-eight paintings Monet created of this scene, I was able to allow my eyes to drift slowly over each. I was able to enter into that scene in a meditative way. I wondered what might happen if I spent the same kind of intentional time observing a single object over the play of daylight, over the slow stretch of seasons. What might I learn about the play of light? What might I learn about the object? What might I learn about myself?
Light…it is a metaphor used by most faith traditions to describe the experience of the Divine. As the Light shines into our lives we are changed, transformed,revealed to be more than we originally believed. As we absorb the Light, we become not just mere human beings…..we, too, become works of art, masterpieces of the Creator.
"What has come into being was life, and the life was the light of all people." John 1:9