By Susan Amis

Santa Fe, New Mexico. To the creative mind the name alone is sufficiently inspiring. It has to be one of the most stimulating places to visit, that is, if hand-made Native American jewelry, superior woven blankets, historical art museums and hundreds of art galleries are your thing.

Mr. Vanilla—you may remember my vanilla-ice cream-eating husband—had a meeting to attend and I was able to tag along. Over stimulation was definitely a problem, as the first night I could not sleep in our wonderful adobe abode (say that five times quickly!). I had been taken over. The city had captured me and I was enmeshed in my own sensorial war and in order to sleep I had to surrender, knowing that I had two more days to continue exploring.

Back home and well rested from the onslaught, I was still quite bothered by a feeling that consumed my daily thoughts. I could not stop thinking about one particular painting. Not being an art critic, I called the gallery (Canyon Road Contemporary) to learn what they could tell me about the artist and the painting.

It’s called “The Secret Life 24” (40”x30”, oil on canvas) by Mark Horst. According to the gallery owner, Mark likes to capture fleeting emotions of the human experience. And here I have been captured by him! Mark Horst has described his work; “I paint as a way to see and to know the world. Yet the world is never finished and the joy of seeing is never complete—so my painting points to the fleeting, the glimpsed, to the life that is always present and so difficult to touch. I paint the way I see—which is always incomplete and in process. The more I look the more there is to observe. The world opens up and flowers; the mud takes form. I paint the figure as an invitation to explore the world and ourselves—our light, our shadows, our incompleteness. I’m trying to create a space for us to inhabit and give us time with questions that are not meant to be answered.”

Despite this new understanding, the feeling would not stop. I purchased annuals for our outdoor pots to match the color combination of this painting. My hair—which, if you know me, changes faster than the four seasons—now resembles the painting. I have been dreaming in its deep, rich colors as I sleep. Maybe I should stick my head in a gallon of Mod Podge to get over it. Help, Mr. Horst, help! I see it, but the joy of seeing is hindering my ability to get the dishes washed!

I looked up how the brain is affected by art. An article, “What the brain draws from: Art and neuroscience” (CNN Health, Sept. 15, 2012) stated that through “course information,” the brain “can trigger emotional responses, even without you being aware of it.” There is a field of study called Neuroaesthetics that is “devoted to the neural basis of why and how people appreciate art and music and what is beauty.” This concept totally defeats my side of a long standing banter between me and my eldest son that emotion comes from the heart and not the brain. (I probably watched too many hallmark card commercials). But why does it still bother me? When will these feelings and thoughts subside? I have gone from absolute bliss to constant turmoil because I can’t stop thinking about 24. Who is she? What is she thinking? What is her story?

Mr. Mark Horst has succeeded leaving a small part of me incomplete. As he spread the paint with his knife over this canvas he was hoping someone would be captured. I drop my dish scrubber and voluntarily surrender my hands in the air: Mark Horst, with your painterly talent, I GIVE UP.

My only hope is that each of you can experience this captivating feeling, to be consumed by something so instinctively alive.

Bottom line: maybe Mr. Vanilla needs to purchase this painting for me in order to free my mind so I can continue WANDERING through the wonderful streets of Kentucky and Ohio


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