Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Workin' It: The Floor Scrapers

(The Floor Scrapers, Gustave Caillebotte, 1875, Musee D'Orsay, Paris)

I stand before Gustave Caillebotte's "The Floor Scrapers" and I am mesmerized.

It takes but a quick, six second study and I'm seriously hooked.

Admittedly, there is little about this painting that would normally intrigue me.

The Renaissance madonnas are obviously missing.

Monet's riverscapes of the Seine in Paris are nowhere to be found.

And my beloved gemstone hues?

The crimson rubies, the verdant emeralds and the moonlit sapphires must surely be hiding inside their jewel box.

Here's the clincher:

It's subject matter - work - is my least favorite activity on the planet.

And yet.......

I am transfixed every time I am privileged to gaze upon this painting.

To me, these men possess a type of holiness within their mightily stretched torsos.

Caught in the act of accomplishing a demanding task, they push forward with a diligence that many others will never know.

I'm one of those people who lives in my head.

I can spend more time reading, studying, writing, analyzing and daydreaming than nearly anyone I know.

For the past two weeks, I have spent time painting the walls in a home that will soon be inhabited by my son-in-law's parents.

Please forgive my immodesty, but no one can roll paint on walls like I can.

After all, I learned from the best........

Lisa La Porta on HGTV'S "Designed to Sell."

Lisa instructs: "Always form the letter "W" when you begin to roll the paint on the wall. That technique will help you eliminate vertical lines. Then blend things from that point."

I bow to my master.

I also bend, crouch, and flex my arm muscles in a whirlwind of physical activity each time I paint.

When at last I am through for the day, my roller hand is throbbing and my roller thumb is cramping.

It's so worth it.

I have earned a "high" that no mind bending drug could hope to match.

Need I mention that the freshly painted walls look sparkling clean and colorfully alive?

There is an immediate satisfaction in all of this for me.

Hence, my wall work causes me to relate well to these floor scraping men.

When I see their taut muscles at work I get it.

I almost feel the rhythm of their movements as their toned arms push the scrapers across the floor.

There is a special sort of beauty at work here.

Oh, and perhaps I am wrong about the "missing" gemstone colors.

To be sure, there is a quiet economy of color in this masterpiece.

But I clearly see splashes of smoky topaz (or Hershey dark chocolate!) complemented by ethereal shades of aquamarine on this canvas.

Two welcome escapees from the jewel box no doubt.

We know nothing about the religious codes of the laborers.

But may I please submit this thought to you?

For these floor scraping moments, the workers are certainly creators of the first degree.

And in that sense they are, indeed, godly gentlemen.


Please know that you have the rare opportunity to view "The Floor Scrapers" up close and personal at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts right now!

You won't regret making the effort to see this wonderful work of art.

And as a special bonus, the Musee d'Orsay in Paris has kindly thrown in 99 additional masterpieces for your viewing pleasure.

This particular collection of paintings will likely never be seen in this assemblage again.

It all travels home to Paris on January 23rd.

So lace up your Nike's and get down there A.S.A.P.

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