I love art that inspires me to tell a story. And no piece of art urges me to tell one more than “Christina’s World”, by Andrew Wyeth. Although I am well-acquainted with the truth behind the image (Wyeth was inspired by his polio-stricken neighbor, Christina Olson, who refused the use of a wheelchair and instead crawled everywhere she went), seeing it never fails to send my mind wandering through the forest of my imagination. Unfortunately, many critics of the time were not as enchanted. Purchased in 1948 by the founding director of the Museum of Modern Art for $1,800, this example of magical realism is often considered kitsch by art elitists, some going so far as to label it “a mandatory dorm room poster” and “corny Americana”. And that’s fine (although perhaps not necessarily fair – personally, I’d rather be inspired every day by a kitschy, corny Americana dorm room poster than to spend a small fortune for something that takes up space on my wall and rarely ever merits a passing glance). Of course, as it so happens, you don’t have to be an art critic to appreciate art. In fact, an online article at arthistory.about.com has this to say about Wyeth’s piece and it’s influence on other creative types:
“Writers, filmmakers and other visual artists reference it, and the public has always loved it. 45 years ago, you’d have been hard-pressed to find a single Pollock reproduction within 20 square city blocks, but everyone knew at least one person who had a copy of Christina’s World hanging somewhere on a wall.”
And perhaps the most famous example of Wyeth’s influence in the world of pop culture can be found in the film “Forrest Gump”, during a scene in which Jenny and Forrest pay a visit to her abandoned childhood home. Spurred by memories of abuse at the hands of her father, she begins angrily hurling rocks at the dilapidated structure that was once her prison, until she collapses to the ground in a pose reminiscent of Christina’s. It is a powerful moment that is as poignant and haunting as the emotional image that inspired it.
As someone who considers themselves an amateur artist who occasionally dabbles in words rather than brushstrokes, I can think of no greater compliment or achievement than to have my work motivate someone to express themselves creatively regardless of a critic’s label. In the end, I suppose it all comes down to the eye of the beholder. And for me, Christina will always be drop dead gorgeous.