Sunday, January 5, 2014

What I learned from Matisse

Henri Matisse was, as far as I know, not a runner.

Yet, he has something to teach us.

As a younger man in the late 1800's and early 1900's, he hung out with Picasso and Duchamp and became one of the most influential artists of his age.

He was a painter and sculptor, often using sculpture to help him coalesce his thoughts for a painting.

He became well known, maybe even famous, during his life.

More importantly, he never stopped exploring color and space and using them to express emotion.

Matisse sculpted Jaguar Devouring a Hare blindfolded.

Time, though, as it always does, took it's toll on Henri.

The vibrant young man aged. He got, well, fat, and fragile. Sorry Henri, but, it's true.

Eventually, he couldn't stand at an easel. Or even 6 feet from an easel with a long-ass stick. (How cool is that, buy the way?)

Successful, renowned, admired, revered, Henri could have taken a bow and drawn the curtain on a magnificent career, closed the cover on an unbelievable portfolio.

"Fuck that!", said Henri, strangely choosing the American expression rather than one his native french.

Instead, starting in the 1940's, while in his 70s (!), he found a new way, a new mode of expression.

Henri drew with scissors.

Matisse used watercolors to create brilliant colors on paper, and then scissors to create the shapes/emotions.

He could do this without standing.

And what he created was simply marvelous. Here is a very small sample (and some of my favorites):

He didn't struggle to maintain a status quo that was unattainable. He didn't cling to his past accomplishments, nor let them define him. Rather than bitch and moan, or worse give in and give up, Henri found an outlet, a way to create and to continue to discover that fit his present.

Runners, despite our wishes and delusions, also age. Eventually PRs stop coming, our pace slackens, our aches and pains linger longer.

Like Matisse, we have a choice: we can compare every run to what we did 10, 20, even 30 years earlier, bemoaning our lack of pace and sluggish turnover.

Or, we can embrace our present, be proud that we are alive and still running, and find challenges that are age-appropriate.

Age group PRs, easy-on-the-body trails, slow-and-steady ultras can by just as satisfying and rewarding as any 10K was back in the day. And more, they present new challenges, and can show you a new side of running, even a new side of yourself.

Change, is inevitable my dear readers. Embrace it. Adapt and never stop exploring your running, pushing your limits, expanding your horizons.

And when you get home, after you stretch and shower, get out some construction paper, scissors, and glue, and see what happens.

Good running,

PS - I saw all of the works above at the Matisse: Life in Color exhibition at Indianapolis Museum of Art. If you want to see it in Indy, hurry, it leaves next weekend. Otherwise, keep an eye out for it.