Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Secret of Bagger Vance

Watched The Legend of Bagger Vance last night. I needed a break from my frenetic preparations for next month's studio artists' show, and this movie about a golfing has-been's comeback just fit the bill. I'm not a golfer but my husband The Wizard is, so we settled in to enjoy the flick with two entirely different agendas: his to immerse himself in all things golf, and mine to take a brief respite from all things art.

The story line and the striking cinematography grabbed me right away. It was set in Savannah, one of my favorite places. Though I don't know a birdie from a plover, I was immediately entranced as I watched the war damaged young golfer (Matt Damon) coached back into both the game and life under the tutelage of a mysterious, sage-like caddy, played by Will Smith.

One of the secrets the caddy teaches his charge is to focus solely on the flag marking the location of the hole as he prepares to swing. To exclude from consciousness all other distractions -- to focus exclusively on the flag and the envisioned trajectory of the ball. To engage both body and mind so completely on the joyful act of delivering the ball to the flag that all other distractions simply fade away. The goal, the caddy reveals, is to meld oneself so totally into the moment and the purpose at hand that you achieve -- however briefly -- unity with the ineffable.

Wow. This exactly describes what happens on those very memorable magical days when the art seems to make itself and every color, texture and gestural stroke on the canvas seems to come from a place so much grander and greater than ourselves. When five or six hours fly by but you could swear it was merely an hour ago that you took up a brush. When you step back from the painting and wonder from where and how such delightful nuances of color came to be when you have no recollection whatsoever of having painted them. Oh yes, I think artists can soooo relate to that sublime sense of timelessness and oneness as described by caddy Bagger Vance.

Watching the credits roll at the end (we have a niece in the film business so we always watch the credits) I learned The Legend of Bagger Vance was authored by Steven Pressfield. Who happens to also be the author of The War of Art, a wonderful book about the creative process and its challenges. Thank you so much, Mr. Pressfield, for giving us both. My intent in watching The Legend of Bagger Vance was to take a break from art. Instead it reminded me in a profoundly moving way just why I love it so much. This movie both relaxed me and renewed me. Today as I painted in my studio I could swear I heard Bagger Vance whispering softly in my ear.