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Posts tagged ‘Michelangelo’

Naked in Florence

I’d been seeing pictures of this naked guy for most of my life.  Now I was finally in Florence and I figured it was time to see if the real thing measured up.

I’m talking about Michelangelo’s David – what were you thinking?

For almost 375 years (1504 – 1873) years he stood outside in the Piazza della Signoria. Then he was moved inside to the Accademia di Belle Arti to protect him . . .  personally I think it was to move him somewhere they could charge tourists to see him.   I guess the Piazza was looking a little lonely, because a few years later, a replica was put in his place.  That’s right, a fake David replaced him.

I have a tendency to exhaust myself on vacation, I want to see and do EVERYTHING.  So by the time I got to Florence, I had already seen Rome, Venice, Assisi, Siena, Pizza, a dozen smaller towns and enough of the stunning Italian countryside to make me dizzier than the Italian wine.

I gazed at the fake David in the Pisa, it’s beautiful; I was tired and broke; for a moment I considered skipping the very long line and the very expensive ticket to the Accademia.  I will never regret slogging my tired tourista butt over to the line and paying the exorbitant price to see a statue that was commissioned and carved to be on public (FREE) display.

The copy is impressive and beautiful, the original is alive.  I know, I know you’ve now decided I’ve lost it and are about to flip over and check out someone else’s blog, but before you do, take a second and go with me.  I’m serious about this, that 17 foot hunk of marble man is breathing.  It’s as though five hundred years ago some seventeen foot naked guy was walking through the Accademia and someone over to his left yelled “Hey Dave” and he looked…he’s still looking.

There is a life in the original that is not in the copy, even a stunning copy.

You are an original.  When we live our lives as copies of someone else: trying to live up to someone else’s dreams, expectations or limitations, we lose originality; we lose life . . . NO ONE wins.

Live your life as the original masterpiece it is and everyone around you wins . . . even the people who think you should do it their way.

Pay the extra, go see the original; go the extra mile, be the original.  It’s worth it.

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What I know about graduating… 25 years after the fact.

I had a note from a student who will be graduating from college in a few weeks.  Graduating and going out into the job field was getting a bit threatening.

I’ve been teaching at the college for 18 years, suddenly I’m having a flashback to 25 years ago, when I graduated from college.  WOW a quarter century later.  Have I learned anything?

For what it’s worth, here’s what I know about graduating:

1)Keep the people who matter close to you. It gets a little harder to stay connected after you graduate – do it anyway.  Those people keep you motivated, supported, connected, grounded and sane.

2)Zoom in on your strengths.  At school there’s a LOT of focus on fixing your weaknesses, STOP IT.  Do what you do best.  If Michelangelo had spent all his time trying to fix his crappy his social skills we wouldn’t have the Sistine Chapel or David, Florence would have had a frustrated artist with a fake smile on his face.

3)If you’re not sure what your strengths are– that’s cool, we’re all still sorting that out, but here are a few tips:

Ask the people around you; we have a tendency to dismiss our strengths because the things we’re really good at are easy.

The next time you’re asking yourself “Why can’t they just get this, it’s so easy?” PAY ATTENTION…that’s a unique strength of yours.

4)All change is good and bad.  You decide what you focus on.

5)You’ve heard that success means sacrifice – it’s true, but NEVER sacrifice your integrity, your dreams, or your authentic self.  Giving up on those serves NO ONE!  Trust me on this one.

6)You and your dreams are going to change a LOT in the next few years.  Learn the difference between changing your dreams and giving up on them.  One is about growth, the other is death.

7)Never stop learning.  The best learning is accidental.  We were NOT your best teachers.  I like to think we were good, but Life and your own intuition will teach you FAR more than we ever could.

8)You’re not entering “The Real World”.  School is real, what you have here is real.  You’re just moving into a different place.

9)In the end, don’t listen to me – trust yourself.

Outside the Lines with Michelangelo

Photo credit National Geographic, December 1989

Photo credit National Geographic, December 1989

Outside the lines detail

Outside the lines detail

I was 25 years old when I first saw God separating light from dark and seeming to change his mind.  I’ve remembered it clearly for over 20 years, OK 23 years – do the math if you want.

I’ve seen thousands of pictures, probably hundreds of thousands since then – this one sits in my sub-conscious and pops up every now and then.

A few years ago, I tracked down the picture and looked at it again.  I know why it stuck with me.  Taken during the restoration of the Sistine chapel, it shows Michelangelo living, and painting, in the moment.

Frescos are a pretty unique art form, they need to be painted into wet plaster – it’s why they can retain their color for so long, BUT they have to be painted quickly.  Once the plaster’s dry, it’s done…whether it’s done or not.  So – first you draw a full size cartoon* – just the outline and then transfer the outline into the wet plaster.  On this piece, Michelangelo pushed a pointed object (a stylus or the end of a paintbrush into the wet plaster, but here’s why I LOVE this picture.  He went outside the lines.  He was a consummate planner, drove people crazy with his insane attention to detail and his insistence on doing it all “right”.  I personally think he was a bit of a curmudgeon…but I haven’t actually met him, so I’m not judging.

He plans it all out meticulously, carefully transfers it into the plaster and then – in the moment of creation, he goes with his guts and changes the arm of God.  If you look carefully, you can see that the outline of God’s left arm is not where the etched outline is. I LOVE IT!

I know I have a tendency to over think things – for decades this picture sat in my brain telling me it was OK to go outside the lines.  Michelangelo didn’t outline God separating light from dark and then get up there and paint David and Goliath, the structure and form were the same and most of the fresco is exactly as he planed it, but he gave himself freedom to be in the moment and as a result, we have a great masterpiece.

The greatest work of art we will ever create – our consummate masterpiece – is our own lives; plan it all carefully, but in the moment of creation – when we go to actually live our lives…go outside the lines trust your guts, trust the moment – it’s where genius lies.  I wish I’d know this when I was 25 – but I’m working on it now.

*This was the first use of the word cartoon – the outlines for frescos – kind of nerdy cool don’t you think?

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