West Fraser

Training more than the Eye by Jeannine Cook

I was thinking further about examples in the art world of kindness and courtesy, after blogging about West Fraser's Painting in a Tree programme. There is a further dimension, I decided, to being being an artist, and Vassily Kandinsky said it beautifully.

Kandinsky remarked that "the artist must train not only his eye, but also his soul". It is a succinct statement about the whole frame of mind in which an artist must live and work, one which again can contribute, or not, to the general well being of the community.

Kandinsky's wonderful paintings in the Composition series he did periodically;  Composition VII  of 1913, (image courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art.)

Kandinsky's wonderful paintings in the Composition series he did periodically; Composition VII of 1913, (image courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art.)

It is not just visual artists like Kandinsky with belief systems about how art can convey spiritual values but creative people in general who can make a huge, positive difference. Think of poetry, music, theatre, literature in general. Granted, many claim that the public and the marketplace demand works that are sometimes less than uplifting. There are indeed all tastes, but I do believe that each of us can contribute something that gladdens, interests, amuses, sustains.

Kindness is contagious, pass it on. by Jeannine Cook

Watching the national news this past week, ever since death and desolation came to a "Safeway" in Tuscon (how unfortunately ironic a location!), I have found the public discourse to be interesting. After the President's speech, I found myself hoping fervently that for once, the rancour dies down for a considerable time. Everyone is diminished if there is ugly dissent in the public square. No country can thrive under such circumstances.

I remembered what a wonderful, enlightened Charleston artist did not so long ago. West Fraser, a consummate landscape artist who celebrates the Low Country as no other artist does, started a project called, "A Painting in a Tree". He has been hiding small oil paintings in trees, on Cumberland Island, in Charleston and elsewhere - places he loves dearly and where he paints on location. When someone finds the painting, he or she also finds a message from West Fraser. He says to the finder of a painting hanging in a tree, "I ask you, the recipient, to make a donation to a favorite charity, perhaps your High school art program, art organisation, art museum or a talented artist in need. I hope that with my gift found, the discoverer will give as well, and perhaps encourage others to make random acts of giving and kindness. As a catalyst to perpetuate gift-giving in the community, I hope that my Painting in the Tree project can make a difference."

Such acts of kindness are indeed contagious. Everyone who has found these hidden pictures has donated to worthy projects. In Charleston, for instance, twelve-year-old Kenner Carmody learned there was a painting hidden somewhere in the city centre from her father, Michael.


This is the photograph on West's website (thanks to him for the image) of Ms. Carmody holding her trophy, next to her father on the left and West Fraser, the artist, on the right. And what was the result of West's kindness? The Carmodys made a generous donation to the Gibbes Museum in Charleston.

Perhaps if politicians and citizens in general took a leaf out of West Fraser's book, and started spreading acts of kindness and generosity around - kindness of thought, word and action - we would all be richer in spirit and much more constructively at peace.