October 18, 2004
Azusa Pacific University
www.apu.edu/greatworks/reflections
by k.wing
High Sierra Programm
Because I decided to seek and understand Helnwein’s art, I was able to see the empathy God has blessed him with...
"The Child" - Works by Gottfried Helnwein, Legion of Honor, San Francisco Fine Arts Museums
How easy it is to pass by the things we do not understand and hand out a label that might comfort our ignorance. I could have v-lined for the exit, ignored my curiosity and not given the exhibit another thought. But how could have that helped me? How could I take and grow from that experience? Proverbs says to seek after understanding like silver, to turn my heart to understanding. Because I decided to seek and understand Helnwein’s art, I was able to see the empathy God has blessed him with – the explicit visions he is able to create to awaken our naive hearts to the sound of our children’s pain.

Excerpt from
the essay "San Fran"
October 18, 2004
by k.wing
Photos by k.wing
www.apu.edu/greatworks/reflections
Azusa Pacific University
The Legion of Honor,
... one of the art museums, provided a challenge that I wasn’t expecting on this trip. After walking through an entire building full of pictures some students recognized as pieces hanging above their fireplaces, we walked into a certain exhibit called ‘The Child: pieces by Gottfried Helnwein’. Not fireplace material. Unlike the rest of the museum, this exhibit was contemporary art and quite contrasting to the rest of the museum.
Helnwein painted extremely realistic images of children’s emotional pain as if it were visible on a physical level. He drew beautiful young girls with subtle physical deformities that made the onlooker look twice. In another piece, Helnwein turns the table. He paints nine men standing around a table, looking out as if the painting were a photograph. On the table before them, there is a child; only the child has absolutely no physical imperfections. The men have deformities. However, Helnwein primarily focuses on the anguish of young girls.
At first sight of Helnwein’s work, part of me was appalled. The other half of me was curious. In most situations, I side with my curious half and this time was no different. I knew there was profound meaning behind every painting and drawing. I slowly walked through the exhibit alone, studying each piece very carefully. People quickly walked past, making bitter comments at each piece. With hope for deeper meaning to the disturbing pieces, I walked on - mouth closed.
To the side of the exhibit was a book explaining Helnwein’s pieces. I dove in. Gottfried Helnwein wanted to give a voice to the children who were silenced by sexual abuse, physical abuse and emotional pain. He envisioned pieces that could explain, in physical form, the deep ache and destruction that plagued each child on the inside.
How easy it is to pass by the things we do not understand and hand out a label that might comfort our ignorance. I could have v-lined for the exit, ignored my curiosity and not given the exhibit another thought. But how could have that helped me? How could I take and grow from that experience? Proverbs says to seek after understanding like silver, to turn my heart to understanding. Because I decided to seek and understand Helnwein’s art, I was able to see the empathy God has blessed him with – the explicit visions he is able to create to awaken our naive hearts to the sound of our children’s pain. I realized that I do not have to like the art enough to put it above my fireplace, but its honesty is worth my appreciation.
Our minds and hearts were stretched and educated in San Francisco. Between the visits to beautiful edifices and prison (don’t worry all you moms out there, I mean Alcatraz), we found time to sleep. Well, some of us.
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