When beauty heals

Rating: NNNNNBUFFALO -- Canada Day 2000 is a turn of the page for me. For the past decade, without exception,.

Rating: NNNNN

BUFFALO — Canada Day 2000 is a turn of the page for me. For the past decade, without exception, I have soaked in the splendour of the holiday by attending concerts at Molson Park, first as a music fan, then as an employee and finally as the wife of the promoter.

But everything has changed. Creed, this year’s headlining band, make me want to yank my own heart out of my chest so it doesn’t bear witness to the horror. I no longer interview bands on radio for a living. And somehow, when I wasn’t paying attention, my marriage caved in. There’s no reason to go to Barrie. An alternate plan is in order.

Pollock splurge

Mulling over my options, it occurs to me that private passions are bestowed on us for a reason — crucial distraction. Everyone knows I’m a gig pig, but my closest friends also know I’m an inveterate art junkie. To many of them, the manifestation of my addiction is highly amusing.

Flying to New York during the prohibitively expensive weekend preceding Christmas 98 to absorb the Jackson Pollock exhibit at the MOMA drew howls. A hot-on-the-heels quickie to Montreal in February 99 for a Monet extravaganza at the Museum of Fine Art was met with similar derision.

For years, I’ve kept my Mondrian and Constable viewings at the Tate in London quiet. I mean, really, you can make a case for Mondrian, but how the fuck do you rationally explain Constable?

Stupidly decadent, admittedly, but nothing affirms me quite like standing in the climate-controlled confines of an art gallery looking at how people pushed paint around a canvas. And speculating on what kind of pain they felt as they sketched the beginnings of a masterpiece, since we all know that great art often springs from greater sorrow.

With limited financial resources available (see collapsed marriage, above), the most doable solution to my Canada Day dilemma is the compact Albright-Knox Gallery in nearby Buffalo. Yeah, I know, land of chicken wings, fires and bad local newscasts.

Rather than focus on any one period, the Albright-Knox curators decided to nail one of everything they could get their paws on. Barely six feet from the front door waits a Picasso. Next to it hangs a Matisse.

Around the bend sit Sargent, Van Gogh, Mondrian, Pollock, Léger, Seurat, Renoir, Warhol, Johns, Chagall, Degas, Lichtenstein, Toulouse-Lautrec, Cézanne, Whistler, Gauguin. And two — count ’em — two Rodin sculptures. Admission is four dollars.

That it’s a perfectly lovely summer day outside scarcely matters in the cool, blue presence of a Toulouse-Lautrec portrait of an anonymous, long-dead woman — back turned to the viewer but skin so pale she’s practically transparent — modestly lifting the silky folds of her skirt.

Problem solver

Staring for 15 minutes straight at the guerrilla orange-and-black splashes of a massive Pollock savagely stomps out mundane and monumental concerns alike.

And Seurat, who made millions and millions of tiny test paintings before tackling major works that eventually took shape from millions and millions of tiny, precise blobs of paint — how can I not be healed by such magnificence? Restored by such absolute faith in something as simple as an outcome?

Standing at the Albright-Knox, I take hope in the thought that even sadness can bear fruit when it’s used to create something beautiful. You just have to keep your eye on the prize.

Today, for once, my obsession makes perfect sense. Not a bad day after all.

kimhu@nowtoronto.comWhen beauty heals

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