–Cardinal de Retz (1613-1679)
This is a new painting, an 18″ square canvas that carries the title The Decisive Moment. Photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson , a favorite of mine, took that phrase from the quote above and used it to describe that moment in searching for a image when the photographer makes the creative decision to snap the photo. But I see the term at play in everything we do, everything we are. We are all the result of moments of decision. Every day offers us new choices for moving ahead and very seldom do we ponder where these often simple and mundane decisions might ultimately lead our lives.
I think about this all the time when I consider the course my life and career has taken. Several of the galleries in which I show came about as the result of a series of random decisions and if any of those choices leading up to the final result had differed in any way, my entire life might be completely different. Even the beginning of my painting career might not have occurred if I had decided that working off a ladder on that September day twenty years ago was not a great idea. I would not have fallen and would not have found the time or inspiration to begin painting. Maybe it would have come anyway at some other point but who knows? And would that decision to follow painting at that later date yield the same results?
I see it in genealogy as well. When I look at the charts that show one’s whole ancestry laid out in an ever widening mesh of connections all I can think is how we are all built on a huge set of random choices and pure chance. If any single one of those thousands of connections had not been made the whole mesh that brought us here would fall away and our very existence would not have occurred. If one ancestor had not returned from the many wars, if one ancestor had not been the lucky child that survived the many diseases that took so many children in the earlier days of our country, if one ancestor had turned left instead of right and not met that person who became their other half— it’s a delicate dance of moments that leads us all to the here and now.
That’s kind of what I see in this painting. I wanted it to be a simple composition that had a sense of the drama of the moment and the realization of all of the decisions that led to that moment. This piece was done for a couple, Claire and Richard, that Cheri and I met while we at Yosemite, one rainy afternoon when we happened to sit with them over tea at the Ahwahnee Lodge. We spent a pleasant hour in conversation and learned a lot about their lives and how they came together. I won’t share that info here out of respect for their privacy outside of saying that Richard is a Brit and Claire a California girl who chanced across each other a number of years back and maintained a long distance romance. They were married and celebrating their anniversary at the lodge. Their story made me think about how many random decisions had to be made for them to come together at all. When you think about where we are and how things could easily be different it makes every moment, every decision, take on greater weight.
So, savor and enjoy the moment. It may seem innocuous now but it may change your life in ways you could never see coming.