It was Autumn. As I came up to the Bridge of Angels, under the shelter of my bright red umbrella, it was drizzling, a fine wet, soaking rain. The cobblestones were shining under the dull, overcast skies, worn away to a slippery smoothness by the centuries of humanities touch. Coming from the ends of the world, a sheltered backwater, I was unprepared for the sight that met my eyes in the middle of the bridge. An old woman kneeling, head on the ground, and a black scarf on her head laced with a spiderweb of tiny, jewelled, water droplets. Her wrinkled arms rested on the merciless cobblestones, outstretched in silent supplication, a paper cup held in the liver-spotted hands, begging for the day's meal. Passers-by ignored her completely. She was a boulder, the waves of humanity eddied around, yet never quite touched, while the angels on the bridge looked down in stony silence as they had done for centuries.
I then felt that terrible dilemma that we have when faced with the dichotomy of our own abundance and yet the unwillingness to give any of it up in that moment. Of course, one cannot feed every beggar in Rome, so to my regret, I did what everyone else was doing. I walked past ignoring her, looking anywhere but at this poor soul and yet so acutely aware of her presence, and my guilt grew with every step I took away from her hard life. She moved me yes, but to tears, no. She was the very real face of human tragedy, struggling in the gutter, a living, breathing being.
So where was I going? I was heading to that bastion of wealth and grandeur, duplicity and dogma otherwise known as the Roman Catholic Church and its attendant buildings filled with riches beyond imagining.
Finally, I was going to be able to see the amazing Sistine Chapel and all the other incredible artworks and sculptures in the flesh so to speak. First stop was St. Peter's Basilica. I wandered around oohing and ahhing at everything as you might imagine until I was on the way out and came upon the Pieta. All of a sudden the sounds within the church fell away and as I looked upon this incredible sculpture of Michelangelo's, tears began rolling down my cheeks, my heart thudded violently within my chest and I was unable to look away. To say I was mesmerized is an understatement. Until that moment, I never realised what a huge impact a work of art could have on someone. It was like an emotional sledgehammer and literally took my breath away.
Of course, I had seen pictures many times, none of which compared to the poignant feelings of love and sorrow emanating from this sculpture. The sheer artistry and skill in carving such a thing, let alone imbuing it with something that reached down through the centuries to touch my heart. Words just cannot begin to describe it.
For me, the measure of success for my own artwork, is the degree of connection I make to someone else, through that work. Has it touched your soul in some way? Of course, mostly I will never know that, but occasionally I am priveledged to be made aware of it.