The Half-Told Story

Never underestimate the power of art to influence and affect how we see our world. The better the art, the more powerful its impact, but the more subtle its effect.

In “Red Shoes, Yellow Hat,” one of several works that include red shoes, by American artist Elizabeth Luallen (1935-1995), a woman relaxes on the lawn in an adirondack chair, gazing away, we know not where, contemplating the afternoon amidst quiet reading. We ought to share in that relaxation, but somehow we cannot. The grass burns like fire. Her shoes appear more like embers giving off greenish white smoke. A yellow hat covers her face, her expression hidden. Not even her neck can escape that chiffon dress. Only her hand and chin are visible. Obviously, she is wearing a yellow, straw hat. Obviously? Look again. That hat, skewed and worn, hides something significant. It is a strange hat. Could there be the suggestion that it is like a nun’s yellow habit? Yellow carries contradictory values in its symbolism. On the one hand, yellow symbolizes remembrance, sunshine, happiness, loyalty, and joy. On the other hand, it symbolizes cowardice and deceit. We see “on the one hand” rivulets of yellow.

endless summer paintings of Elizabeth Luallen

Red Shoes, Yellow Hat, original masterwork by artist Elizabeth Luallen (private collection)

Can you see what lies embedded in the straw “habit”? Can you see them? Lovers in the straw? [click on the image to view more closely]

Recollection of love broken through infidelity leaves perhaps the deepest of scars: the eternal dance of love and betrayal, whose only lasting remedy is spiritual lightening of being. The old, disfigured straw hat of yesteryear turns, through graceful contemplation, into a corona of acceptance.

A book lies face down on the grass, its story only half-told. We are left to end the story. Is the ending of peace or pain?

Out for an Afternoon Ride

"An Afternoon Outing" by Elizabeth Luallen

“Out for the Afternoon” by Elizabeth Luallen

The fine upstanding ladies of this here town have come out to parade through the hot dry prairie. What are they doing here? There is nothing but wasteland. The mangey dog scrounges along beside the wagon hoping against hope for some sudden good fortune. And the men seem to be bit friendly with each other. They enjoy some discrete understanding or joke, or had a bit too much to drink, as they size up the wagon’s occupants in the desert plains just north of the middle of no where.

It could be the oldest profession, but even if you are well established, you’ve still got to get out and beat the bushes. And, if you don’t have a babysitter you might as well bring along the kids. Yes, the West was rude and brutish and often short, so one had better get to the point and make it brief. Marriage then was more like buying a car today. A test drive, two bits on the dresser for the trouble, or you got hitched, and in the most immediate way. Simpler times. Perhaps better?