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?

Alone at last?

Must we be alone to find peace? Must we be in the midst of our cherished desires to be finally at rest? An artist steps amongst the stones of a shallow stream, distant in thought.

Stones become gems, and idle moments are rendered timeless when we are alone; that is, if we find ourselves a likeable companion. If not, being alone is a living hell that we feel obliged to share.

But when we’ve crossed the stream, when we’ve come this far to do what we set out to do, when we have finally arrived at a secret accomplishment, there is the possibility of peace with ourselves. And then, perhaps one can be a friend at last.

painting by Elizabeth Luallen

Original encaustic by Elizabth Luallen