back to list

Leading the New Generation

kawaiidaigakusei at 12:00AM, Sept. 11, 2023

Photo: “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?” Paul Gauguin. Oil on Canvas. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (1897-98)

A somber recollection carries me back twenty-two years ago on this day when I walked into a class where an inconsolable history teacher delivered a line I will always remember: “There will not be a lecture today. We will sit in silence because today will be a day that will go down in history.”

Five years before his death, post-impressionist painter, Paul Gauguin completed a novel masterpiece, “D'où venons-nous? Que sommes-nous? Où allons-nous?” (translated to “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?”) The lengthy canvas can be visually read from right to left, beginning with a baby on the farthest right and ending with an elderly woman with flowing white hair on the left. There is a Polynesian figure reminiscent of Eve central to the piece reaching upwards for a piece of fruit from a tree similar to the biblical Tree of Knowledge.

In some cosmic coincidence, I can trace reverse-parallelisms of traveling paths taken by Gauguin and myself—Gauguin, originally from Western Europe detached himself from the European lifestyle to live in French Polynesia; My biological ethnicity links me to the Pacific Islands and I spent ample time in my twenties traveling around Western Europe, including France, the country Gauguin abandoned for warmer pastures. The love of travel, in general, was how I was able to explore as far as French Polynesia, just as Gauguin had one hundred years prior (I have several metal containers of gouache paints that I found in a utility store on Riatea to prove the experience really happened).

Revisiting Gauguin’s work, “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?” allows me the time to explore the visual details, reflect on my own personal journey, and retrace my steps as if I were the main subject of the painting. No longer a newborn, and far from the elderly woman’s final resignation of a life well-lived; I have traveled extensively to continents I never dreamt of visiting and am slowly getting through the most challenging novels on my bookshelf—I can easily picture myself as one of the middle-ground characters, slowly reaching toward the Tree of Knowledge, but before the acquisition of the verboten fruit.

Stephen Eisenman wrote in the 1997 book, Gauguin’s Skirt, “Failures or imperfections in the execution of work are…welcomed…as traces of passion and genius.” (Eisenman 137) When I evaluate my life up to this point, there were certainly failures and the imperfections definitely outweighed the perfections. The failures were necessary in building the path that I still walk on today, and I love walking along this path built on imperfections.

Early last week, I received an out of the blue email from a history teacher—a former colleague of the history teacher, whose room I sat in silence for one entire class period on this day twenty-two years ago—asking if I could take the class reins for a week and lecture the next generation about the Great War. I happily obliged.

The time to step up is now.

What's Quacking?
Do you have any original art to contribute to our stock image database, announcements, community projects, ideas, news, or milestones to report? Please leave general comments below or send a PQ to kawaiidaigakusei.



Ironscarf at 12:43PM, Sept. 11, 2023

@PaulEberhardt so true, what he did with colour loses so much in print or on screen. I'm lucky enough to live close to a few of those Tahitian and Martinique paintings. When I visit it's a fight to tear myself away and usually end up coming right back again. These things are mostly painted on unprimed burlap, so all the oil is sucked right out of the paint, but somehow the colours sing like a choir of angels.

PaulEberhardt at 11:22AM, Sept. 11, 2023

On a side note, I recently had the opportunity to see an original painting by Gauguin in the Thielska galleriet in Stockholm. Like most of the other artists exhibited there (quite a lot of Edvard Munch and some really great Swedish painters of that time), it really blew me away in a way I'd never had thought it would. These things have a way of looking so much more alive and awesome than in print or on the screen, and I still can't put my finger on why. ... Weird how someone who made such beautiful paintings could at the same time be such a horrible m%$§f%#§er in most other respects that I'm almost ashamed to share a first name with him, but there you go.

PaulEberhardt at 11:19AM, Sept. 11, 2023

One of my university teachers used 9/11 this to illustrate how terrible events become an anchor for your memory. Like plymayer, and probably most of you, I know quite exactly what I did and where I was when hearing about it on the radio: at work in a hospital, cleaning up the usual variety of bodily fluids from the floor and equipment, and our team of four suddenly needing a break once we fully realized it wasn't a just really tasteless prank. Any event that really leaves an impact does that and it's interesting to note that apparently you don't even have to be anywhere near for it to work.

Ironscarf at 4:43AM, Sept. 11, 2023

Gauguin didn't find the primitive, untouched paradise he was seeking in Tahiti, it was already corrupted. He did manage to invent his own version on canvas, ditching his wife and children and shacking up with a 13yr old girl in order to do so. A terrible person by all accounts, but one of the greatest colourists in all of art.

plymayer at 12:23AM, Sept. 11, 2023

Twenty-two years ago on this day I was at approximately 37'27'12N 18'01'18E, but quickly moved to 32'50'20N 34'00'23E.

Forgot Password
©2011 WOWIO, Inc. All Rights Reserved Mastodon