I was reminded of Edvard Munch today, and something seemed to click into place. Munch’s most famous painting, The Scream, is one of those art history icons that has become so familiar that its original intensity has faded.
I don’t think I fully appreciated The Scream until last Friday’s Inauguration. I am feeling a serious angst, like so many people. I feel anxiety and dread on a visceral level that I have never known before. I find myself stewing. Shaking. My whole being is screaming.
Munch famously said of this painting that he “sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.” And what he painted is a personification of that scream. I feel like our world is screaming right now, just like Munch’s screamer. The expressive swirls of black and blood red seem simultaneously to descend upon and emanate from Munch’s screamer. They are a foreboding threat, but also a powerful expression of emotion.
I think the trick is to own those foreboding/expressive swirls in the sky. To choose to think that they are an expression of the screamer–rather than a threat upon the screamer. To decide that the truth of our pain is more potent than any threats from the chaotic world around us. Extreme emotions can be harnessed for good.