“What Matters Most in Life”

If one does not quite get it then I suppose the answer is nothing. The one way that life does make sense is through art. Art itself as a metaphor is something that makes meaning in our lives. Attending the Paseo Art Festival essentially made me realize that. Not very impressed by the rides and the other things about Six Flags Over Texas, I was expecting Paseo to give me a rush that is similar to Hauz Khas Village. I was not wrong at all.

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I was surprised, in fact, to find great similarities between the two places. Tucked inside a city like Delhi, Hauz Khas Village is the alternative. Home to most of the private galleries and some quirky shops, it is the place for people who are genuinely interested in art and culture. Paseo Art District is OKC’s Hauz Khas. You’ll find artists who exhibit their photographs inside their apartments (even inside their bathrooms) but are very camera shy. I met Chace, an architect, who now lives with his parents. He backpacks around the world (his artwork included Rome and other European cities) every year for two months. I asked him how he managed his time. He didn’t know. That art doesn’t pay but it is something he must do. He allowed one photo. ‘Of the space,’ he told me, ‘but not anything else’.

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Then there was another lady who would not allow me to even bring out the camera. “Oh I get tongue-tied, honey”, she told me. So we just talked. The work that we were discussing was called Forgotten Daughter where she brings together old photos, letters and traces a narrative throughout the canvas with the help of painting. She told me that most of the letters were the ones she got from her mother after she’d died. “They were with her for fifty years”, she confided. She teaches art appreciation and said most of what I do (literature) is about appreciating and understanding art as well. “You should come back. We can talk some more”, she told me as I was leaving. I wondered how.

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And then there was Jason who told me about the time he chased a storm in Texas. And how he waited for the mist to subside at 4 am in the morning. And how he goes around abandoned homes around Oklahoma. “Technically”, he giggled,”it is trespassing. But hey. I am not hurting anyone. I’m just trying to put together their lives, you know? Tell their stories… sometimes that is the essence of the photograph. I am trying to think of their lives. But they are gone.”

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Paseo was about these stories. It was about capturing these stories that mattered more than just talking to them because I was looking for something to put into a project. The last time I had spoken to an artist in the same manner was back in Hauz Khas, chatting with a painter who told me “Don’t think. Just let it go. Art takes care of it”.

When I reached this little board that asks you about the most important thing in life, the answers varied. Someone wrote bacon, someone else wrote ice-cream. A gentleman wrote horse racing. None of it is really wrong. The plurality of life accommodates all these answers I suppose. Art reflects that plurality. Paseo was a part of that thing for me.

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