What is art?
The first definition I found online says: "The human effort to imitate, supplement, alter, or counteract the work of nature."
Thousands of definitions follow but this one works for me and it certainly begins to describe the work of Josep Cisquella.
I was drawn to this Spanish artist's urban paintings at the Campton Gallery in Soho this summer. The work stood out in its simplicity and use of light. My amateur appreciation was later validated by my sister-in-law, an art consultant and collector from Philadelphia. Further research would quote well-known art critics like Katherine Sartorius who wrote of Cisquella's shadows that "elegantly illustrate the dichotomy of presence and absence."
The negotiation was more difficult with my husband than with the gallery director. We can't be the only couple that has a hard time agreeing on something as subjective as art. Add a hefty price tag to that argument and you might've had a stalemate. But as it happens, we're going to Cisquella's hometown of Barcelona in a few weeks and a proposed meeting with Josep and Fina at the artist's studio tipped the scales in my favor! The Tree Shadow is now hung in our entryway... and is screaming for better light (I'm on it.)
The gallery director made good on her promise... Ronda emailed Josep who just wrote back: "Will be a pleasure to know them in person in our city. I'm happy that they like the painting." So many of my blogs for HuffPost have been about travel, my next would be about the man behind the 'masterpiece' in his native city.
I imagined his airy studio in some part of Barcelona away from the hotels and tourists. His wife Fina is a registered nurse, so I figured she could talk international healthcare with my doctor husband while I talked art with Josep.
What would we eat? What should I wear? What could I bring them from the states that would show style and gratitude?
This morning all those questions became irrelevant and unbearably trite. Ronda called with horrible news. Josep Cisquella had died. The 55- year old had a massive heart attack. She knew few details and said her gallery was stunned. His remaining pieces have been taken off display and will be featured in a special tribute later this year.
Another online search revealed one obituary published in Spanish today. The translated headline: Josep Cisquella Passed... Artist and Engineer... The Magical Illusion of Reality. In addition to his wife, he is survived by his mother, a brother, 5- sisters and countless patrons of the arts across the globe.
I will attempt to pay a condolence call to Fina next month in Spain and if I do, you'll read about it.
Back home our treasured Cisquella has taken on added significance, as has the critique citing the dichotomy of presence and absence.
What is art?