As my foot landed on the elaborately tiled floor, a chilling atmosphere pricked my body. The air that embraced me was suffused with the history, the art, the surrealness of the images and work inside. In trips prior to this, San Diego’s ambience welcomed me as a sun stained, satin blanket would. Each summer vacation, it’s humid kiss faithfully rested on the cheek full of all my touristic desires, but in this place all felt-new. Before both my feet were even in the door, I was welcomed. The oiled canvases began to orient themselves in a way in which the images that formed, danced for my eyes, luring me over into their sanctity. The sculptured pieces recreated their timeless positions and purposes, just for me, each spec of material molding and reshaping its alignment to depict the freshest version of itself.
At the entrance of a museum is where I stood. I was not alone. I was with over fifty people. The employees that stood to greet my church group and I stared with disapproving eyes. Their pupils spoke differently than their mouths did, than the presence inside did. Their glares were that of conquerors peering at ignorant savages. As I was entranced by this glare, I was simultaneously led forward by three or four of them. As I stepped fully into this palace of art, the last words I remember hearing were from one of the palest gentlemen, he sounded unamused when he said, “Welcome to San Diego’s Timken Museum of Art.”
Never before had I encountered a place that so meticulously organized details of history before. Each textured wall was carefully spotted with works that all slightly resembled each other, all appearing to be part of a similarly larger group. My feet were drawn by the emotions and stories that reverberated off each painting. I wandered and saw Europeans, American men dressed as women, royalty, history’s victors, roses that told of love unrequited and images that attempted to enlighten the secular world on the more spiritual facets of life. But as I continued to wander, I eventually stopped. I, along with the fields of time that always surround me, ceased. My eyes bemusedly wandered from the souls of my feet up towards Fitz Henry Lane’s, Castine Harbor and Town.
I stumbled over what I was looking at, but then I realized that oceans and ships and people and towns and the skies need no explanation, only interpretation. The blank white canvases spoke first. From their seeming silence, they whimpered for the brush of color that the radiating sun and the town provided. The ship’s white canvases spoke of stories not yet written, lands and places still yet undiscovered and untamed. The relentless waves rolled unquestioningly in my mind at the stroking command of the ocean. Then there was the sky. The sky and light called out to the ships, beckoning them to move on from their comfortable reality and move towards an abyss, an ocean of endless possibility, infinite opportunity, the unknown.
This painting whispered to the explorer, the writer, and the thinker in me. It challenged me to never allow myself to conform to an endless cycle full of the mundane, or an eternity of mediocracy and the ordinary, but to always sail towards a greater calling, a more excellent purpose full of the unknown.
The summer of 2018 is when I traveled to San Diego’s Timken Museum of Art, where I found the discoverer in myself.
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