The beauty of art is that it speaks to each person in different ways.
The sun shone bright and warm as I walked through Piazza San Stefano, headed towards the Academy Bridge. I strolled down a sweeping cobblestone street, lightly populated with lively people, enjoying an early breakfast, and peaceful artists, capturing the morning light in various mediums. I rounded a corner to find a breathtaking view of Venice’s Grand Canal, sparkling a greenish blue in the morning sunlight. I climbed the steps of the large, wooden bridge, stopping at the top to gaze down the wide, glittering canal, bustling with vaporettos (Venetian water buses) and delivery boats, a magnificent, white, domed church rising in the background. I took a deep breath of the cool fresh air and continued across the bridge, admiring the numerous engraved locks, latched by couples to the wooden railings, keys thrown to the bottom of the canal to seal their love forever. On the other side of the bridge, I made a sharp right and arrived at the Venice Academy of Art.
After paying the entrance fee (a slightly high price of 11 Euros) I walked up a white marble staircase and entered the first exhibit room. Wooden panels, carved with crackling gold leaf angels surrounded me. Intricately painted religious scenes, bursting with hues of rich blue and deep, solemn red, lined the walls. The ceiling was elaborately decorated with hundreds of cherub faces, starring down at the visitors below. The building itself had been a palace years ago and still exuded an air of wealth and elegance. I wandered the room, gazing at tapestries hundreds of years old and still perfectly intact. Centuries ago, an art student had labored over this piece of work, and here it lay, still beautiful and breathtaking. Although he was long dead, his own mark, the work of his hands and sign of his own individual creativity, genius and passion still existed to be admired and appreciated; it was inspiring.
I strolled out of the room, down a wide hallway with a high, arched ceiling, and entered a second, larger room. Marys 20 feet tall extended above me; Jesuses, some smiling mercifully, others performing various miracles and still more suffering humbly on the cross encircled the room. Canvases 20 feet tall displayed elaborate, richly colored religious scenes that seemed to burst from the wall; stepping closer, I could see the delicate strokes composing the images, graceful and elegant, revealing the labor and genius of people centuries dead. The vibrancy of the colors reflected the air of brilliance that filled the Academy. I felt surrounded by the knowledge of centuries; it seemed to permeate the air, enlightening my mind and soul with each breath. I wandered through many more rooms, thinking of the inspired minds that had produced these works and the wealth of intelligence, labor and passion they represented.
I stepped out of the Academy of Art into a pool of sunshine. As I headed back towards the academy bridge, I walked past a young man, gazing out at the canal, in the midst of creating a beautiful oil painting of the Academy bridge. Maybe one day his work would be admired by thousands as a brilliant masterpiece. I strolled along the canal, inspired and contemplative. How would I leave my mark? What aspect of my existence, my own unique brilliance, passion and love for life would I, could I, leave behind? I felt compelled to move forward, to do something fantastic and significant, but what? The masterpieces and work that had inspired me in the Art Academy were born from individual’s great love of art and enthusiasm for creation. They were the product of people’s intense passion for something. What was my passion?
The beauty of art is that it speaks to each person in different ways. At the Venice Academy of Art that glorious morning, I was not inspired by the physical characteristics of the art I observed, but by the residue of human contact, of life, I found in the works. In the lives I saw infused in each brush stroke, I found fuel for my mind and soul. I still may not know in which direction I am headed, but at the Art Academy I found the motivation and inspiration to move forward, to leave my mark, my passion, love and enthusiasm, to inspire future minds.