Speaking of Original, Heart-Breakingly Perfect Art I Bought at a Thrift Store …

click on the picture to enlarge it; click again to enlarge again

Oh, sorry: we were (here) talking about the Muhammad Ali painting I bought at an auction, not art I bought at a thrift store.

Well, the above is an original painting that I bought at a thrift store some two years ago for ten or fifteen bucks. I like it so much—I find it so deeply moving and exquisitely composed—that I’m almost embarrassed to show or talk about it here.

You know how you take to heart the art you love so much—and then feel kind of vulnerable around it. This, for me, is one of those pieces.

All my life, I’ve been congenitally Deeply Focused upon—not to say obsessively engaged with—the whole Outsider/Insider universe of human interpersonal dynamics. Who’s “in”? Who’s “out”? Why? What’s it like to be either? Why’s either good? Why’s either bad? Who’s getting hurt by either, and why, and what can they do about it?

Anyway, this, to me, would be all that, in fifty by sixty inches of perfectly calibrated color.

The painting is by one Alejandro Lucas Debonis. I have no idea who he is. I would like to, of course, if only to write and thank him. But Google offered up little to nothing about ol’ Alejandro, and so he remains, to me, a mystery.

But what he had to say with this painting—or what it says to me, anyway—is as known to me as the very beat of my heart.

(Related/follow-up post: Another Exceptional Painting Bought at a Thrift Store)

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • http://www.sisterfriends-together.org anita

    I love it.

    But you knew I would.

  • http://skerrib.blogspot.com Skerrib

    Hmmm…I don't think the photo does it justice. I found your explanation of it very moving, however.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Skerrib: when you click on the painting, doesn't it get larger? and larger still, if you click one more time?

    anita: I THOUGHT you might. But it's art. One never knows. Well. In this case, perhaps it's safe to say I was … reasonably sure.

  • http://skerrib.blogspot.com Skerrib

    Oh I forgot about that. Much better, thanks!

  • Candace

    That's an awesome painting, John. I love the way it's laid out and the colors.

    Without ever having articulated it for myself quite that way, the insider/outsider thing resonates with me too, very much.

  • arlywn

    does it get that snowy where ever those people are?

  • http://froginnorthgeorgia.com/ Christine

    I'm glad you described it. When I first looked at it I didn't get it. It is difficult to feel moved by it in this format. I can see why you like it though.

  • http://www.sheppardministries.com Greta

    …..it looks like the barren arctic, but then women don't dress that way up there ….I found it heartwrenching for some reason….and what is that thing up on the pink hill? Wowie, John……..you have a treasure there……the whole concept is certainly conversational…..

  • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike (FVThinker) Bur

    …I’ve been congenitally Deeply Focused upon—not to say obsessively engaged with—the whole Outsider/Insider universe of human interpersonal dynamics. Who’s “in”? Who’s “out”? Why? What’s it like to be either? Why’s either good? Why’s either bad? Who’s getting hurt by either, and why, and what can they do about it?

    Ooooooh! Oooooooh! Me Too! Me Too!

    It is instinctive and ancient that all animals are suspicious of those not like themselves. It is an evolutionary trait and does well to aid in survival. It could be argued that racism is an innate trait of humankind. IMHO; It is the enlightened mind that can ponder this innate in-group/out-group characteristic that is part of humanity…and endeavor to overcome it. It is the less-enlightened that cannot recognize it, or embrace it, or create new constructs that create unnecessary in-group thinking.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Christine: Did you click on it twice, to enlarge it twice?

    Greta: The little building in the background is a church.

    Mike: I think racism is the result of fear: We fear the unknown, and, as you say, on an instinctive level it's hard not to feel that people who look different than you ARE different than you, in a way you can't grasp. What's core to them must, in other words, remain unknown to you. And we fear the unknown. We want it to go away.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Oh, and I always think of this picture being set in Botswana, because it so looks like what you read about so often in the wonderful "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" books.

  • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike (FVThinker) Bur

    A couple of social anthropologists, we are John. :-)

  • Live & Learn

    The open spaces partnered with rich colors make it feel free and yet intensely focused at the same time.

    Could the lady by herself be imploring the others to join her in a new mission outside the walls of the church? Maybe she's really the one on the inside of a new adventure, and the others are outside — they're trapped away from the hope that comes with fresh purpose?

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Yes, Candace, I think you're right: I know the painter is Mexican. (At least I think he is; I know he shows in Tijuana.)

    Mike: I believe you ARE something of a social anthropologist. Me … not so much, I think. But maybe!

    Live: Yeah, it's that tension, isn't it? Her body language is definitely marking her as someone who knows who she is. Yet she's stopped. And clearly, she's drawn the attention of the others. It's all very … interesting, no?

  • Candace

    Total geek that I am, I just checked out Mexico's geography and found that there are high desert plateaus there. This may be a minimalist treatment of that sort of environment. Could explain the white peak (snow-covered?) in the far background.

    Love that the moonrise is in there as well. (At least that's what it looks like to me)

    I'm no artist, so I don't have the proper vocab, but I love the guy's eye for the essential details, yet he doesn't clutter things up with too many of them. Elegant and straightforward.

  • Candace

    I was thinking Chile or Peru or Ecuador. One of those desert-ish South American places. ‘Cept there’s no llama. Maybe that’s what the thing on the pink hill is.

    Either that or it’s Botswana :-)

  • FreetoBe

    Here is what I found out about the artist:

    Interesting history, definitely South American influence, and seems to be well-known in the Spanish-speaking world. Nice artwork on the website also.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Free: HOW GREAT! THANK YOU SO MUCH! I'M SO GONNA WRITE THE ARTIST! It's so exciting for me, to SEE the guy who did this. I had no idea he had such a CAREER–though of course I'm hardly surprised. Anyway, this is terrific. Thank you so much for doing this.

  • FreetoBe

    Only it didn’t copy over. Dang, I’ll have to type it all:

    http://espaciomazal.com.ar/artistas/Debonis-e.htm

    Well, here’s the website anyway. You can translate it to English.

    Very cool.

  • Pam Light

    That painting looks very much like the desert along the coast of Peru. I grew up there — my parents were missionaries. The clothing looks more like the traditional clothing from the mountain region, but many people do come down from the mountains and settle in the desert outside of major cities to try to make a living. This reminds me of that scene — I saw it so many times as a child just outside of Lima or Trujillo.

  • Pam Light

    Oh – and it is beautiful. I DEFINITELY would have bought this painting if I had seen it.


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