Commonalities, Sisterhood, and Xena

Marc sent me an interesting pairing of a painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and one by Romare Bearden. Renoir was a Frenchman and an impressionist, born in the mid 19th century and a contemporary of Claude Monet. I’m a big fan of Impressionism; I love the use of color and light to create paintings of great beauty. Bearden was an African-American, born in my home state of North Carolina in the early 20th century. He worked in multiple styles in medium and is perhaps most renown for his collages, combinations of torn paper, paint washes, and charcoal lines. I’m also a long time fan of Bearden’s work.

Both artists address the same subject matter, two young girls taking piano lessons, the same and yet entirely different. In the Renoir, the girls appear to be close in age and in my imagination, they are sisters, the older teaching the younger. In the Bearden composition, the teacher appears older, perhaps an aunt passing along her talent to a young niece. What I find most intriguing are the commonalities of the paintings. Both young students are shown in profile, touching the keyboard, and both teachers, with heads tilted, leaning in and providing guidance to their pupils. Each painting is awash in color, Renoir’s rich, but subdued, and Bearden’s intense and primary.

On a broad scale, the paintings make me think of our uniqueness as human beings and the differences that we adopt for ourselves such as race, ethnicity, and skin color. Differences that we assign meaning to, most of it negative and which we use to divide ourselves. Yet, these differences are really of no more significance than those of Bearden’s and Renoir’s interpretation of a piano lesson. Visually, they are different, but essentially, they are the same, just different perspectives of the same connection between teacher and student.

On a purely personal level, the paintings make me think of my sister. I am the oldest but through the years we have constantly interchanged the role of teacher. She has taught me a great deal. We have always loved each other as sisters do; we have an unbreakable bond. However, as adults, we have chosen to be friends and I treasure that most of all.

A few posts back, I included a video from YouTube of Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin singing “Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves.” For whatever reason, the poster on You Tube has disabled the embed code and the video is no longer available. In my search for another video of the song, I found the video below. I was a major fan of the television show, Xena: Warrior Princess, starring Lucy Lawless. I never missed an episode. I loved Xena, she was strong, fearless, and yet not afraid to have a heart. She and her equally fearless sidekick, Gabrielle, traveled, had adventures, fought for good, and really kicked ass.

This video is a clip from the show in which the actress who played Xena was pregnant, and her pregnancy was written into the show to explain her suddenly wearing a lot more clothes than usual. Another concession in the scripts was no acrobatic fight scenes, a trademark of the series. It happens that the actresses playing Xena and Gabrielle were both good vocalists and the creative writers added some musical numbers to the show as a distraction. This is one of them, where Xena tells her mother that she is going to have her child without benefit of a husband. Xena doesn’t mention that she has no idea who the father is because she doesn’t recall having recently engaged in the type of behavior that results in pregnancy. (Btw, alas, Gabrielle is not in this scene; I think that she may have been in the spirit world or a prisoner somewhere.)


One response to “Commonalities, Sisterhood, and Xena

  1. in the spirit world or a prisoner somewhere…..

    god, that describes so many folks i know. love your xena fetish, girl. it seems healthy to me. and i think the two paintings are fascinating.
    very nice post.

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