Christina’s World

Christina’s World, by Andrew Wyeth. 1948.

 The painting haunts. She has Polio, but she thrives. She loves the warmth, the comfort, the familial bliss of that house in Cushing, Maine, and nothing will prevent her presence there. Not the long trek. Not the pain. Not the time. The time is hers. The journey is hers. She is used to all things. Pain. Time. Effort. And the painter senses that. He inhabits her for a moment and gives all of us Christina, by way of Beth, his wife. The wife of Wyeth. Every blade of grass is there or hinted at. Every form of struggle, love of landscape, love of home. Christina lives and dies in that house. It is her life.

Why is this not bleak? Why is this not lonely like the sea after the worst storms? If a person walks swiftly past this painting, they will see bleakness. If they glance and go, they will see loneliness. But it won’t stay with them. It won’t penetrate.

Sit still. Sit like Christina. Wait. Think about the long journey and the pain and the effort. Think about you, the foreground, bigger than the house for a moment. Fooling yourself about its lack of importance. Fooling yourself about your centrality. The painter’s centrality. The home’s centrality. The focus is where? The girl, the grass, the odd shapes and sweep of the amber waves. Her inner world. The world inside inside inside Beth or Christina or Andrew or you, the person who does not have Polio. The one who could drive to Cushing, Maine and visit the scene as if you could talk to her for a moment or two.

You think she might turn around and look at you if you called? That is what haunts us. Because we know that when we stare, people do that, even when their backs are turned. But Christina is made of sterner stuff and she won’t turn around. She won’t turn around unless our words are unique, shattering, surreal. A test. A call from the void with a promise to change distance, time and kinetic control. Fate.


Christina’s World
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