Embracing the Fear that Everything is Terrible

Everything is terrible.

My friend used to laugh at me when I would get into this funk, listing all of the things I felt were going wrong, and roundly rejecting any helpful suggestion she put forth. Here’s my current list of how my life is terrible: “I started making good money, got married and had a baby.” (See why my friend would laugh and roll her eyes?) But the thing is, I need days where I can fully wallow. Where I don’t reject these totally normal feelings. Yes, I “have it all.” And sometimes the responsibility of maintaining it and feeling grateful for it is an exhausting load to carry.

Today has been one of those days. My friend isn’t available, and my husband doesn’t do it right, so tonight the Japanese Expressionists Sadamasa Montonaga and Kazuo Shiraga will be my wallowing companions.

For a little background, by definition Abstract Expressionism is always emotive, but I was particularly compelled by the exhibition Resounding Spirit: Japanese Contemporary Art of the 1960s which ran at the Spencer Museum of Art in Spring 2008. These artists were exploring the expressionist methods in the context of a country coming to terms with the aftermath of WWII and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The lines were so violent and the colors so raw that somehow they had a calming effect on me. This is one of the first times I remember having a physical reaction to an abstract painting. The curator told me some of the artists mixed sand and gravel into the paint as a reference to the destruction caused by the bomb. Some canvases were slashed. The savage paint and grit were an antidote to my own inner turmoil. Seeing the brutality on the canvas allowed it to reside outside of myself instead of inside.

I wish I could stand in the stillness of the gallery, looking at an image in person. But tonight, the internet will have to do. Here are a few of my favorite examples to help calm you.

Kazuo Shiraga’s “Chijikusei Gotenrai” (1961) From New York Times
Toshimitsu Imai’s “Untitled” (1971) From Bonham’s
Sadamasa Montonaga’s “Red and Yellow” (1963) From Art & Antiques

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