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Perspective: A dive into an artist's watery world

Montage of two works from the "Matisse and the Sea" exhibit at the St. Louis Art Musem
Photos in collage by Paula Garrett
Montage of two works from the "Matisse and the Sea" exhibit at the St. Louis Art Musem

When I met my neighbor who used to live across the street, it was one of those immediate recognitions you get when you encounter a kindred spirit. JM was an artist and a teacher, and when she came over to visit, she told me my house was like stepping into a painting by Matisse. I couldn’t imagine a nicer compliment, and her observation led me to explore his work further.


I knew I was drawn to Matisse’s colors and forms, as well as much of his subject matter. I sensed a fellow thalassophile, a lover of the ocean. So when I discovered the St. Louis Art Museum was featuring the exhibit, "Matisse and the Sea,"a road trip ensued.


Not only did he create seascape images, Matisse fully immersed; he was an avid swimmer. One of my favorite pieces - a whimsical self-portrait he drew of himself swimming in Polynesia. Also intriguing was a series of linocuts, fluidly carved, where a diver emerges among waves from a solid, black background. These smaller, lesser known works surprise and give context to the exhibition as a whole.


The selection of his paintings, sculptures, cut-outs and textiles was interwoven with pieces by African and Oceanic artists Matisse was inspired by. Seeing a body of work, so beautifully curated, is intoxicating. But instead of a nasty hangover, you feel invigorated with your inner and outer worlds expanded.


I’m Paula Garrett and that’s my perspective.

Paula Garrett is a transplanted Southerner and a former WNIJ Blues host. She's passionate about music, travel, research, open water swimming and film.