“You can’t begin too soon to encourage an appreciation of art! And each artwork has a story.”
During this end-of-year holiday season, while it is a season of joy for many people, for others, it is a very difficult time for one reason or another (i.e. loneliness, grief from losing a loved one, heartbreak in a relationship, painful memories, etc.). It is often the most difficult time of the year for them. This is why many traditions celebrate what is called a “Blue Christmas” gathering on or around the longest day of the year, the Winter solstice (December 21/22), acknowledging the sense of “darkness” that many experience during this season.
I recall the verse in the song “Blue Christmas,” made famous by Elvis Presley, that captures the emotional juxtaposition experienced during this season:
“You’ll be doing alright
Within your Christmas of white
But I’ll have a blue, blue, blue, blue Christmas”
So, for this week’s Baba’s Art School, I decided to draw my grandkids' attention to a painting I acquired in Istanbul titled “The Blue Man.” This semi-abstract work, painted in 2004, is by the Turkish artist Oktay Bozkurt. Oktay Bozkurt was born in 1944 in the eastern part of Turkey. He studied art history at the University of Istanbul, and then joined the army, rising to the rank of lieutenant, and leaving military service in 1986. This is when he began his artistic career, which included teaching in the visual arts in the region of Anatolia, Turkey. He has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions, and his work is held in private collections around the world.
If you look closely at the figure’s face, while it is blue, there is the hint of the beginning of a smile, speaking to the paradox of life’s “blueness.” It is in times like these that we realize that the mystery of life is intertwined with both deep joy and sorrow. It is a mystery we do not understand. Often the only thing we really do understand is the pain or loss experienced. The best description to me of this paradox is by the late 18th/early 19th century English poet-artist William Blake, who writes in one of his poems these moving words:
“Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro’ the World we safely go.
Joy & Woe are woven fine,
A Clothing for the soul divine
Under every grief & pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.”
The poet Blake indirectly infers that hope is found in the “divine,” who is present to lead one through. “The Blue Man” painting reminds us of the importance of being a comforting presence to each other during this holiday season.
PS: The grandkids loved identifying the subtle smile on the blue man’s face!
Oktay Bozkurt, “The Blue Man,” 2004
Oil on wood, 10.5” x 14.5”