Part-One of an interview with John J. Williams (Jay), New York City Public School Teacher, reflecting on original painting entitled “The Sands of Amelia Island”
Jay: The main attraction I discovered about the painting was no one was in the picture, not a dog, not even a bird, so in a sense I was not really sharing the beach with anyone. In other words, I was being asked if I would like to explore it on my own, not share my exploration, just go out, look at that beach, walk on it, go to the water, touch the sand. But I didn’t have to share it with anybody, not like I’m joining them on the beach, no. And I felt that this was an invitation of some kind by maybe the painter, the concept person there, to go out and explore the beach on my own, cause there would be nobody there. I said to myself, “I’m happy to do that”.
But I thought the signal there with those clouds in the sky was that the painter was not giving me a ‘perfect day’. You know when people have their weddings or outdoor parties, they want the ‘perfect day’. But actually life doesn’t do that. In a sense there’s always something. We have to overcome the clouds. We have to meet things head on. In other words, we can’t just have the million dollar invitation. We have to take a little chance…the clouds. So I thought that’s very realistic…why do I need a blue sky to go explore the beach? That’s fair enough, we can’t have all the chips on our side, we can’t have a royal flush when we bet.
I was challenged by that and thought the painter, or narrator as you would say in books, had that intention to show the reality of life. I was attracted by the fact that there was nobody on the beach. I could have the whole thing, so I would run out and explore it. It was an opportunity. It wasn’t that I was looking at a picture; it was an opportunity to go explore that beach.
And of course the craftsmanship is all there, but I’m not a judge on that. And I figured that sand is probably more compact. That’s probably what Florida really is, or Amelia Island in Florida. The waves look interesting; they are mute in the sense that they are in the distance. It’s not just to go look at the waves, it’s to go explore the beach, and that was my response from looking at the painting.
I could live with the newness of the beach in terms of the sand quality, the shrubbery, and I did like the fact that the shrubbery being so close to me, the viewer, it was like a basis, a foundation point to make a decision. I was in a secure area behind the shrubbery, the beach was over there; I wasn’t on the beach yet, in a sense. I was in the protected area of the shrubbery, vegetation, so I did like that. It stabilized the point I was standing in looking at the beach and the water and sky, because there was already growth there, there was stability there. It was the onset of the beach.
This is an invitation to explore the beach under the reality of life: it’s not a perfect day! We can’t make perfect decisions, but we have to sometimes do things with some clouds in the sky. We have to learn to love imperfection a little bit. Somebody’s imperfections…we have to not reject them because of the imperfections, but love them despite the imperfections. You know, I could have said ‘it’s a darn cloud, I’m not interested!’, but I didn’t. And there were many clouds, not one cloud, not a beautiful cloud, no. It was a little ‘cloudy’, not a stray cloud. But no indication of rain, or threats…the invitation was there. So I would have gone out.
In other words, the painting allowed me to respond fully. Observing somebody there, whether they’re sitting down or looking at the color of their bathing suit, that wouldn’t have brought out the response that I got from looking at the beach empty, no birds, nothing.
(Please join us next week for Part-Two of our interview with Jay Williams entitled “An invitation to feel free and explore”)
“The Sands of Amelia Island” (pictured above) available at www.BegleyArt.com