(Portrait by Picasso is described within the text of the blog. Picture clipped from an Internet source, if there are copyright concerns, let me know and it will be taken down immediately. )
"Kismet," niece Shannon declared on her arrival, explaining that she had wanted to see the Picasso show when it was in Seattle but had not been able to get to it, the fact that it was here at the Art Gallery of Ontario seemed like destiny had bought her a ticket. We met there at the gallery in the early afternoon and headed in to see the exhibit. I admit that I don't know much about Picasso, and like a kid that is sure she doesn't like broccoli without tasting it, I was pretty sure Picasso wasn't my cup of tea. However, once in, very early in the show there was a piece entitled, "Woman with One Eye." It's an arresting painting but when seeing the title I was annoyed - the woman clearly has two eyes, one typical, one atypical. I am assuming, by the title, that she saw out of only one of the two eyes. So, I'm also assuming that if Picasso had painted a similar portrait with a woman in a wheelchair it would have been called, "Woman With No Legs." But ... enough of that.
We were all quite taken by the portrait. As we stood and looked at it, we all heard people referring to this painting as 'creepy' or 'disturbing.' We chatted briefly about the effect that this painting was having on many, though not all of course, of those viewing it. From that we ended up discussing what she may have been feeling, or what emotion Picasso was intending to show on her face, a face much, much, more enigmatic, in my opinion, than the Mona Lisa. Shannon thought that her mouth was set with bitterness. I was quite surprised by that because I thought that she was looking out from the portrait with defiance. Her eyes look straight out at the viewer, challenging them to look at her, really look at her.
So we ended up with a lively discussion, looking at her, trying to see her ... really trying to see her. Trying to see how Picasso saw her ... how he tried to paint her. Our discussion caused people to be a little uncomfortable. The placing of humanity into her, a woman with two eyes - one different from the other - and trying to value what she was saying to us seemed important part of interacting with the picture. She sat for the portrait. She clearly knew that she would be seen forever more. She had a shawl. A shawl not pulled over one eye. She had hair. Hair pulled back, exposing her face, her eyes.
Shannon, who stood looking at the picture for a very long time, stopped because she noticed that people were beginning to stare at her and her deep consideration of the portrait. Our interest in her, the woman, as a person rather than the portrait as a picture ran counter to most who whipped by the picture, some not able to engage with her, others creeped out by her.
In the end we had a terrific time at the exhibit. Shannon and Joe, sharing DNA, are both hearty laughers and we had great chats and lots of giggles. After we left, the "Woman With Two Differing Eyes" was a subject for conversation every now and then. I'm glad we went because art did what art is supposed to do - provoke thought, provoke conversation and, maybe even, provoke revelation.
Note: I have steadfastly resisted looking up the painting on the Internet. We did not buy the audio tour of the show. I have no idea what others think I should think about the picture. I am, however, interested in what YOU think.