When Piet Mondrian was 74 years old, he painted Broadway Boogie-Woogie, a work radically different from anything else he had ever made in his career. It is among my favorite works of art, and arguably one of the greatest paintings of the 20th Century.
It is never too late.
As we turn the page on 2013, it is timely to reflect on time.
We age almost unperceptively, but it happens. I look around at a fast-paced, plugged-in world dominated by the social innovation and start-up passions of so-called Millennials, with even Gen-Xers seeming aged and out of it by comparison. 50 years old like me or older? Forget about it.
Just when did my generation become old news?
Tick-tock, tick-tock… it just happens.
Often in my life, I turn to art and artists who came before me for solace, and on this particular topic I look to another favorite of mine, the brilliant (albeit sexist and Euro-centric) painter Willem de Kooning:
“There is a train track in the history of art that goes way back to Mesopotamia… Duchamp is on it. Cezanne is on it. Picasso and the Cubists are on it; Giacometti, Piet Mondrian, and so many… I have some feeling about all these people—millions of them—on this enormous track, a way into history.”
We too are on this train… and we need not be an artist or white or male; just a human being is all it takes to be on this train… a train you might even call “time”… and we each belong on this train… this long, long train which binds us all, the living and the dead… a train enriched with and by each succeeding and preceding passenger… we have our place and our moment and in all humility we understand we are but one among a parade of ants.
So where to find meaning and purpose in our moment? I turn again to De Kooning:
“Nature then, is just nature. I admit I am very impressed with it. The attitude that nature is chaotic and that the artist puts order into it is a very absurd point of view, I think. All that we can do is to put some order in ourselves. When a man ploughs his field at the right time, it means just that.”
Just that: the right time. No more, no less.
Autumn is a beautiful and melancholic time of the year, when days become shorter and colors fade in brilliance but grow in nuance… when the summer’s crop is at its waning peak.
I can only hope the ever-young Piet Mondrian remains spiritually a guiding-elder for me at this… this particular moment still mine… as long as I walk, breath, and am.
And of this, by the way, is what Autumn Leaves is about.