With the passing years, my tastes, interests and preferences about almost everything have changed.
Take food, for example – years ago, I was fascinated by gourmet food.
The intricacy of the flavors, the exotic ingredients combined to create unique artistic dishes, inspired me and delighted my heart.
I have to admit that this is no longer the case.
Now I prefer the sizzling freshness of ingredients in deliciously prepared street food to overpriced gourmet restaurants, whose food, according to my new taste buds, seems like over engineered tiny morsels that are largely unhealthy for me.
When I think of superb food, my mind goes back to the steaming fresh Ramen eateries in Hokkaido Japan, to the taste of fresh hand pulled noodles in Xian China, to the streets of Malaysia where you can eat the tastiest grilled Roti from a street cart, to the street foods of Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, to eating thick delicious Hummus with torn Zaatar flat bread in a worker’s eatery, to a rich Tajin on the roadside of Morocco, to a grilled Paella outdoors in Spain, or to the baskets of steamed dumplings in Hong Kong.
So it is with art.
In the past, I loved the white boxes of modern art galleries with their conceptual art.
It made me think, and I felt sophisticated and worldly.
It is no longer my preference.
I now delight in tucked-away small forgotten museums, or temporary exhibitions displaying ethnic hand-carved puppets from around the world, or art that tells an interesting human story.
Take for example a small exhibition that we saw in Córdoba, Spain.
We entered a beautiful home that used to be owned by a prominent Jewish family.
The house was converted into a museum, displaying its glorious decor and giving visitors a glimpse at how people used to live in that era.
In one of the rooms, we saw life size portraits of a few Jewish women who were exceptional or influential in their times.
Below each portrait was a small description, with the name of each woman, and what made her a notable figure in her society.
The women looked alive with their garments, their facial features and the expression of power and determination on their faces.
I felt power radiating from them.
The woman who stayed in my memory long after we had walked away from this tiny museum, used to be a poet.
She lived in harsh times.
The Spanish Inquisition tortured and executed intuitive, poetic women as witches, and the mainstream Islamic-based culture did not favor women as visionaries or leaders.
Spain has been in the clutches of tradition for many, many years.
Each tradition has left permanent marks on the landscape and the people.
The southern region of Andalusia fluctuated between the influence of Christian and Islamic rulers.
A Christian ruler would demolish or convert the old and beautifully designed mosques into Christian churches, while the next Islamic ruler did much the same.
They took beautifully carved and ornate churches and converted them into mosques.
Only rarely did the rulers spare a beautiful church or a mosque, instead adding their symbols and icons to it.
Most rulers destroyed the old houses of worship all together, regardless of how artistic and glorious they were, and built their own houses of worship, as an act of dominance and a display of their power.
In those times, there were no publications for poetry especially by women with alternative thinking.
But this wonderful woman felt the creative juices bubbling up from inside of her.
She did not wait for the world to approve of her or of her thoughts.
Instead, much like the puppet masters of old who took to the streets to criticize the rulers and bring new ideas into the world through telling stories via their puppets, she took her poetry to the streets.
She embroidered her poetry into the long flowing cover dresses that women wore (and still wear) in the Islamic world.
With those flowing robes she walked the streets of the city, with the hope that those who had keen eyes and seeking hearts would read her words and be inspired.
I could imagine people stopping her to converse, after they read a few lines of her poetry which she had sewed into the hem of her dresses
I could almost see her, with her long dark hair and strong dark eyes, conveying her wisdom passionately to those who asked.
The portraits were simple and realistic.
I felt I could have done a better treatment of the details of their dresses.
But I stood spellbound in front of the portraits.
It never occurred to me to embroider poetry onto my dresses and walk the streets like an open poetry book…. I felt a little sad to leave the presence of those women.
It stirred me, and carried my imagination hundreds of years into the past, to walk those dusty roads.
I could see the cobbled streets, the merchants with their donkeys, the caravansaries with their camels, I could smell the spices in the markets, I could feel the heat….
I felt empowered by the company of those strong women brought to life here for me….
What more can we ask good art to do?…..