Gauguin, Art & Your Life

Paul Gauguin: self-portrait at Lezaven, 1888

Paul Gauguin: self-portrait at Lezaven, 1888

As the Gauguin exhibit winds up a successful run at The Art Institute of Chicago, what can we learn from Gauguin's life and work that could inspire our own lives?

Paul Gauguin, Post-Impressionist artist, came to art late in life after traveling the world as a merchant marine and being a stock broker’s assistant. As an artist, he moved a number of times: Tahiti, Brittany, Paris and more. His intent was to move himself out of his comfort zone and to use that disequilibrium to channel into his art. 

Gauguin also tried a number of mediums for his art. He was a true multimedia artist; his creations were in wax, wood carving, painting, pottery, and even marble sculpture. He wasn’t trained formally to be an artist. He was self-taught -- a man not afraid to be uncomfortable.

I love the marble sculpture of his son as a toddler. It is exquisite with such delicate, smooth lines. Heavenly yet realistic.  His pottery? Not so much. 'Looks like his toddler son made it. 

Paul Gauguin: Emil Gauguin (1874-1955) The Artist's Son (marble)

Paul Gauguin: Emil Gauguin (1874-1955)
The Artist's Son (marble)

Gauguin took risks. Some things turned out, and some didn’t. In 1891, he left Paris as a leader in the art world, then spent two years in Tahiti where he gained inspiration. He returned to Paris with his new work and invested lots of time and almost all of his money to stage a huge exhibit. He was so excited, but when the show opened, it fell flat. Parisians didn’t embrace his new work. He hung out in the gallery and interviewed people about their reactions. They truly didn’t understand what he was doing or why.

After Gauguin's disappointing return exhibit, he developed a strategy that turned things around in the eyes of his audience. He cultivated a great appreciation of his new work. I may tell you more about that another time. For now, here are some questions: 

  • How many times do we squeal and clutch like our whole being depends on keeping everything the same, familiar or in our comfort zone?

  • When’s the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone in life? At work? In a relationship? Or creatively?

  • When have you tried something totally new, to just try it?

Examples: Say "yes" the next time you want to say "no." Try a new route to work. Smile kindly at the next person you see, for no good reason, and mean it. Walk where you usually ride. Wear that red shirt you love but feel you shouldn't. Eat chocolate cake for breakfast which may actually be good for your brain. :) 

Tuesday challenge: Make yourself uncomfortable.

This trip I had the pleasure of enjoying  The Art Institute of Chicago  with a friend who is an artist,  Sean Culver .

This trip I had the pleasure of enjoying The Art Institute of Chicago with a friend who is an artist, Sean Culver.

Thanks to Lisa Biehle Files and Gary Wilson who contributed to this blog and all those here on The Good Brain Blog.