Any artist knows that once s/he shapes the ink, the paint, the words, the clay, the movement, the meaning is made by each new observer and the life that observer has known. I’ve always read that Christina’s World, Andrew Wyeth’s most popular painting, was inspired by a neighbor who was paralyzed, probably with polio. I could identify on that basis, because my biological father had polio and later post-polio syndrome. I could extrapolate something of what the world was like for him, with his weakened legs, based on the powerful image. But the bare, vaguely rolling hills have always reminded me of my family’s farm in Kentucky. And the image of the crawling woman, eying a homestead that appears telescopic on the horizon has always spoken to my gut–I’m outside of my family, my history, my home; So far to return and a body that’s broken…

The amazing thing about learning of Andrew Wyeth’s death yesterday is that I was just holding a postcard of this painting on Sunday, dancing and shouting around my partner Iuval’s parents’ house in Queens, New York. I had discovered the card on a night stand and the painting is one of my favorites. Iuval had just finished reading my screenplay Bacca Blooms the day before. And because of my strong connection to the image and Wyeth’s emotional treatment of it, I had written the painting into my story of a mother and daughter who are returning to the family farm from which they’ve been separated a generation. Like other observers, when I look at Christina’s World, I’m seeing a little bit of me, a bit of others I know, and an experience of the human condition. Andrew Wyeth, kind soul, thank you for the gift of your art and the way you speak the language of forms!

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