On Sanctification: A Tribute to Picasso

Meditations — By on January 6, 2013 at 3:00 am

Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, c.1910

Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, c.1910

Somewhere buried in the mind of an artistic genius lies the image of a man. Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler by name. But in Picasso’s mind, he looks like a highly abstracted series of geometric shapes—triangles, rectangles and squares. According to Picasso, he is a dissolved entity best seen through composite parts. Kahnweiler’s  support for Picasso and the Cubist school as an art historian and dealer amounted to this remarkable tribute that is hardly grasped with the naked eye. What seemed a bizarre gesture has been considered a masterpiece of early modern art.

Recently, I have been severely depressed. I struggle to piece the fragments of my psyche together. Although the outside world might see me as an average-looking man, perhaps put together, possibly composed, my cognitive state is far closer to Daniel-Henry in Picasso’s abstracted product. Cognitive dissolution is how I see it. My cohesive mental life is slowly turning, reworking, and reappearing.


Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler

I can only hope that one day this will be a masterpiece of some proportion. I know not what, but I hope nonetheless. I see Picasso. I see Daniel-Henry. I believe there is a masterwork. But right now it appears to be a whole lot of mental squares, parallelograms and rectangles.

So I have done what most would naturally do. When coping mechanisms fail, when hope is a dim, flickering light in a dark cavern, when religion fails, when God is silent, when there are no answers to the most simple questions . . . I entered therapy. I found a counselor and decided to bear my soul to a total stranger. I trusted another to take these broken pieces and find some greater whole.

And the sessions revealed a rather startling truth. I am in mourning. I grieve my abstraction. I am grieving now.

During this process, it has also dawned on me that Picasso’s reality might actually be more true than our photographic selves. The pretty faces and personas we cling to are less authentic. We have been constructed and re-manipulated and further tweaked through life’s events. The grief I bear is related to a personal trauma experienced ten years ago that I had “dealt with” and “gotten over” a long time ago. But that was my projected self. The tears I have shed and the haunting memories I recall today are those fragments that make up my whole being. I could not edit them out. I could not hide them in the corner of the canvas of my life. The abstractions resurfaced and streamed down my cheeks in little parallelogram-shaped tears in my Picasso-shaped core.

So the beauty I see is not the monochromatic portrait of a propped up, self-made Michael in the manner of Daniel-Henry. The layers peel back to reveal something more difficult to understand. Something cube shaped at times. Something unique and personal that few others can share. Life is like an art studio. The first sketch is the skeleton of so much more to come. The certainties of young adulthood get reworked. The family building of middle age get tempered and rotated again. The empty nesting and mid-life crises turn it again. Loss of career life and entry into retirement, one more turn.

Maybe this is what we Christians call sanctification. Maybe this is the masterpiece we cannot recognize at first glance. Generations later might see us as works from the Master. Perhaps we can cling to these fragments and believe that others will know and will appreciate the painful twists and turns we live right now.



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