Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Kiss and The Storm

After her bath, Liv is shivering in my bedroom while I dress her. She turns up her big-sky, blue eyes toward the reproduction painting hanging over my dresser.

"Is that another Klimt?" she says with the same voice she uses to say "you're a poopy face".

I look at this creature, 3 1/2 years old and wonder whether a spirit of some dead college student has suddenly inhabited her body.

"No, that's a Cot. It's a reproduction of a painting called The Storm. Do you like it?"

She nods her head affirmatively. I ask,"Which one do you like more The Kiss or The Storm?"

"Ummmm...I think I like this one." Liv points her finger at the female figure running in her diaphanous garb from the fast approaching titular storm.

"I want to be that girl. She looks like a princess. I want to be a princess."

And just like that my little girl is back. I realize that I hadn't even been breathing normally, because I feel the need to inhale and exhale deeply. Sometimes this child takes my breath away. She's my first. I never know what's normal. I only know that I never expected to be discussing art with a toddler. I suppose that comes of constantly under-estimating the capacity of children to retain and process information, of dismissing their opinions as immaterial or irrelevant.

But what could be more honest than that? Liv is shiny and new, untainted by shame or embarrassment, unworried about saying the wrong thing. This is a person who dances naked in front of strangers, giggles with abandon when she farts, and yells "Family Kiss!" whenever she needs some undivided attention. Her viewpoint is so valid because it's authentic.

I wish I could capture this freshness in a bottle and dispense it like medicine to her as she embarks on that rocky journey through adolescence and womanhood. I look at her little self freshly bathed in naivete and innocence. She has no idea that the storm is coming. That so much harsh wind and pelting rain is on it's way, rumbling in the distance. Maybe it's telling that she prefers The Storm to the placid tranquility of The Kiss.

Both of these paintings are ideals of love for me. That's why I have large reproductions of them displayed in my home. The Kiss, which contains the resplendent extremes of masculine and feminine energies working together to make something beautiful and The Storm, also extremes of masculine and feminine energies working together to escape something terrible. That is the epitome of love, if you ask me. Beauty and fear; Freedom to, and freedom from.

As I kiss Liv and Todd goodbye as they leave on their father-daughter Chuck E Cheese extravaganza, I see, also a rainstorm brewing outside my window. I smile to myself to see art and life converge so perfectly in this moment.


  1. When I was seven I saw the Kiss in an art book at a friend of my parents house, I've been in love iwth it ever since and have come to appreciate the rest of Klimt's works, so much female imagery. I know what you mean about your daughter and the lack of self-consciousness. My own daughters, 1 1/2 and five are so perfect, so comfortable in their skin and it makes me cry to know that no matter how I protect them or shelter them from the cultural machine that keeps women running in circles rather than ruling the world, they will learn to feel shame in their bodies, they will punish themselves for not being perfect. My husband and I are so careful to praise them for qualities they have some control over(things besides you're so pretty) though we tell them that too. We eschew the Hannah Montana's and Bratz dolls and other things that sexualize children and objectify women. Still, I feel like a hypocrite because I do and will continue to tell them to basically do as I say not as I do. My struggle as I age, probably all of us moms, is to become more at home in my own body so that I can gove them this from a place of knowledge.

  2. I'd have to say, that when it comes to art, my favorites are all about temptation and being alone. At least, they are in my head.

    Like these.

  3. I love Klimt's The Kiss. I have no idea why. It's just beautiful to me.

  4. Apropos of nothing related to this post, do you know that your AOL account is kaput? Or full, and therefore acting kaput? I keep emailing you, they keep coming back.

  5. Magpie - My facebook account notifies me by email for every comment, message, etc. It fills my mailbox up so fast! I took care of it now. Sorry about that! Email away! I look forward to reading it.

  6. I hadn't seen "The Storm" before, but it reminds me of some of the work one of my favorite artists, Louis Icart. I have his "Don Juan" etching hanging in my house, and would like to find some more of his stuff.

  7. Dispense it to her? What about me?

  8. What do you mean Nutmeg? I'm reading all the comments and I am a clueless girl :(

  9. My favorite painting, as a child, was The Birth of Venus. What does that say about me?


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