I have volunteered as a docent at our local art museum for the past five years. It’s been a wonderful way to give back to the community and also guarantees that I spent quality time amongst the amazing collection our museum possesses. It takes time to enjoy all that a quality art museum has to offer. I spent my early years studying and enjoying a tondo by Botticelli, a small Titian, and a Raphael. Two pieces by Andrew Wyeth were also favorites. Early on I stuck to the big names and well-known pieces. Over time I’ve been able to explore more of the museum and was drawn to other amazing works. One in particular that I have enjoyed is entitled, “Flight into Egypt”. It depicts Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus escaping the death edict of King Herod by travelling to Egypt to hide from the destruction. Joseph is shown as old and stooped over, leading Mary and Jesus as they rode on a donkey. Mary holding the tiny baby in her arms. No one knows the name of the artist who painted the picture. As I spent time enjoying it recently, I wondered to myself why I had not noticed it earlier.
The answer? The unknown artist.
I was drawn to works by the masters, artists I had heard about and enjoyed before. As a novice to the fine arts I felt that I could trust the masters. I didn’t trust my untrained eyes. I worried that my uncultured opinions would cause me to miss out on what I most needed to see. It was like the 3-D pictures that were all the rage a few years ago. If you stared at the picture and unfocused your eyes just right another imagine would appear, extending out toward you from the original picture. I was always amazed at the people who could walk down the aisle of pictures and see the hidden image immediately. “A dolphin wearing jewelry, two hobos eating dinner, the space shuttle landing at a McDonalds…” and on and on they would go. Even people who couldn’t see the images, finally nodded and talked about how amazing they were, afraid of being left out.
We are all afraid of not seeing what we are supposed to see. We want to see the world the way everyone else does. We fear being exposed as lacking something that others have. This fear is the enemy of originality. When we strain to see the world the way everyone else sees it, we miss out on what only we can see. It’s easier to adopt the views of the majority when it comes to beauty, politics, and relationships. It feels risky to have our own voice, but it’s a risk that we must take.
The way you see the world is a gift that only you possess. When you limit yourself to thinking whatever everyone else thinks, two things happen. First, you miss out on being who you truly are. When you adopt whatever opinion is popular, you are never able to discover your own unique perspective.
Second, when you only focus on the majority, you miss out on all of the “unknown artists” out there who have something valuable to contribute. There are authors, musicians, and artists , mostly unknown, that are masters at their craft. So don’t be afraid to explore the unknown or unpopular, they may help you find your voice.
It’s easy to go with the flow of popular opinion, but the world needs new opinions. It needs yours. May you find your own voice and perspective, and may you then share your originality with the world.