Friday, July 8, 2011

What Does Albert Schweitzer Have To Do With ART?

"Dogwood" is a 12" x 24" acrylic on canvas, copyright by Joan Cole

          Today I've had Albert Schweitzer in my thoughts, a man whom I've admired greatly ever since my childhood.  Though I never met him, I did arrange for his only child, his daughter Rhena Schweitzer Miller,  to speak at East Lyme Middle School when I was teaching there.  My students and I founded a service club in his honor and, among other efforts, raised funds to help support the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Deschappelles, Haiti. 

          Who was Schweitzer?

·          The 1952 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for Humanitarianism.  

·         Son of a Lutheran pastor from a family of ministers. 

·         A theologian who at age 30 left the cathedrals of his native Alsace-Lorraine to become a physician.  

·         A medical missionary to the French colony of Gabon in Africa.  

·         A doctor who, with his own hands and tools, built a hospital in Lamborene, Gabon, and then spent the rest of his life working in it. 

·         A gifted musician who gave organ concerts all over Europe to raise funds to finance and maintain his hospital.  

·         An author of many works, including books on such diverse topics as religion, philosophy, and musical composition. 

·         A philosopher  who wrote A REVERENCE FOR LIFE, describing his belief that ALL living things are precious.

·         Friend of Albert Einstein with whom he worked to oppose nuclear tests and weapons.

·         A man whose passion and dream was to help others less fortunate than he.

What does Albert Schweitzer (14 January 1875 – 4 September 1965) have to do with me and my art?  He had a vision, a dream, a  passion, which he pursued for most of his 90 years of life. When he set his mind to something, he didn't stop till he'd done what he set out to do.

          During World War I, Schweitzer and his wife, Helene, were confined for more than a year in an internment camp in France because of his German lineage.  Every day of their imprisonment he practiced on an organ keyboard he had drawn on a table in their room.  Daily in silence he played, listening to the music in his head.  Why?  He wanted to be ready to play more concerts when he was released, so he could go back to his hospital and continue serving the people of Gabon.  Eventually, they were released, and he spent the rest of his life working in Hospital Albert Schweitzer in Africa, preaching each Sunday, and playing his specially made organ which he’d had shipped from Europe in its own zinc lined case.  He never lost his dream.

When I was a child, I saw a photograph of him in Life Magazine, after he had received the Nobel Peace Prize.  He looked to me like a strong, smiling, kind man.   Not till many years later did after I'd read some of the books he had written did I know just how strong and kind he was.   

          My parents taught me many of the same beliefs:  respect for others; a strong religious faith; a love of the Earth and all its creatures; a reverence for all living things, including plants and animals.

It is this reverence that draws me to paint scenes of the natural world, such as "Dogwood."  This tree captivated me when I saw it out a friend's window.  I have been working on it on and off since springtime and finally finished it.  "Dogwood" was purchased right out of my studio this week, before I even had a chance to show it at Maple & Main Gallery in Chester.  I'm delighted to know that, as soon as it is framed, it will be going to the home of a woman whose spirit of caring for others and giving mirrors that of Albert Schweitzer.

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