Have you ever wondered what inspires an artist? What certain something does the chosen subject possess that captivates the artist into producing an oil painting, essay, or even becoming a fashion designer’s muse?
In the movie The Girl with a Pearl Earring (which is loosely based on the painting, with the same name by Dutch artist Vermeer), the artist Vermeer becomes entranced with a young girl whom is hired to do domestic work for he and his family. The movie suggests that the artist becomes so intensely mesmerized by the girl, to the point, that his all-consuming desire sparks jealousy in his wife. Even after being confronted by his spouse, Vermeer decides to paint the girl wearing his wife’s precious pearl earrings. Though the viewers do not really know what actually transpired between the artist and his subject; what we do know is that the young girl sparked something great within this man, which in turn, caused him to produce one of his most famous paintings of all time.
On a summer day in 2004, my family and I went to the Getty Center in Los Angeles. Perched high on top of the hills of the city, the Getty is, in my opinion, one of the most incredible places to visit. Yes, one could spend countless hours strolling through the many art galleries; however, the greatest joy I receive from my visits to the Getty is sitting with my notebook and camera and watching the real-life works of art … the people. On this particular day, my family and I signed up to participate in a children’s tour and were heading into the waiting area when I spotted my most endearing subject … he lady with a silk scarf. There she stood, an exquisitely dressed African American woman with her male companion. As I watched this woman, I wondered what she and her companion discussed. Did they talk about the weather or which gallery they would visit first, or perhaps, they were simply deciding on which wine they would select.
Regardless of what their conversation related to, I found myself drawn into this woman’s world. I was intrigued by my new subject. I admired the way in which she carried herself. In Southern California, where most women throw on a pair of jeans and flip-flops for their outings, this woman actually put some thought into what she was going to wear for her day at the museum. Her outfit was carefully planned and most appropriate. I wondered what her thought process was as she selected her natural-colored, linen, knee-length pencil skirt, a white, linen halter top, chocolate brown strappy sandals, a coordinated brown belt around her waist, a simple brown leather clutch purse, and then tied around the crown of her floppy hat … a lovely silk scarf that was perfectly selected to accentuate her entire ensemble. I wanted to jump to my feet and offer my applause and say to her, “Bravo!” Indeed, she won the prize for Best Dressed on this particular day.
I watched as she and her escort sipped their wine and then began to stroll to a different part of the Getty Center. No longer in my view, I thought about my new style muse and I began to jot down notes that would remind me of my day’s events. I scribbled in the top corner of my notebook, “The Lady with a Silk Scarf.” I contemplated if perhaps, like Vermeer, my fascination with this woman would somehow inspire me to produce my greatest work. If anything, she caused me to want to dress appropriately for every occasion.