Saturday, June 12, 2010

Art, Pray, Love

By Claudia Ricci

For heaven's sake, I cannot understand how the author of Eat, Pray, Love could spend FOUR MONTHS in Italy and not go to a single museum. I know, I know, the whole point of her quest was to give herself the right to do exactly what she wanted to do.

And in Italy, that was, EAT. But the pleasures of that bounty of pasta, pizza and pastry has its limits, no?

Confession: I am one of those people who eats to live. If I am deeply immersed in writing or painting or whatever, I can forget lunch. In general, I could care less about food unless I'm presented with a plate of something particularly enticing. (My mother's lasagna, for example. Or my husband's cream cheese, raisin and spinach enchiladas. Now those make my mouth water.)

Second confession. I held off reading Eat, Pray, Love for as long as I could. I heard an early radio interview with the author and I found her to be...oh so annoying. (OK, OK, I can feel the rocks being hurled at me as I write this.) Apologies to all those who are offended.

I suppose part of the reason I was turned off is that I was just plain jealous. Anyone who can turn the abysmal misery of a divorce into a stunning bestselling book (and a Julia Roberts' movie to boot) has to be extraordinarily clever, and I will never be that clever.

But still, I cringed when I heard her describe the year long foray she made to Italy, India and Indonesia to find herself. It just sounded so incredibly privileged and indulgent. Numerous people kept telling me to read the book and I responded that I just couldn't read it because the author sounded way too obnoxious.

But then I went to Italy with my husband and daughter a couple of weeks ago. Lindsay brought the book along. I was knee deep in a novel about World War I (a great novel by the way, called The Ice Cream War by William Boyd). But the war stuff was wearing on me one day. My daughter said, "For heaven's sake Mom, you're in Italy, read Eat Pray Love.

So I did, and I will admit, it was indeed an incredible read, an extraordinary page turner, and a masterful, even brilliant, project. And an inspiration. After all, I'm the person who is talking about teaching a class in happiness. Here is a woman who found her way to ecstasy on so many levels, physical, personal, spiritual (and professional, if you count the book.)

I was just as jealous as I had thought I might be.

But then, a few days after I finished the book, it hit me. She never went to a single museum the whole time she was in Italy.

How could this be?

I mean, she was in Rome. Florence. Venice.

How could this be?

Well, so, I came home last week and told my friend Leslie, a wonderful painter, that I was going to start a new blog called Art Pray Love. For me, art is food. The food of the soul. One whole big reason to live.

When I was in DC in late March, I went to the most amazing Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit. It was so extraordinary, and contained such a stunning collection of her work, that I went back a second time in the same day. I sat and stood in front of paintings and my mouth watered. My limbs ached. My eyes felt delightment. My blood run faster.

Next month, I am making a trip out to Santa Fe in part just to see that same exhibit at the Santa Fe Museum.

OK, OK, I can hear people saying it now. Give Elizabeth Gilbert a break for heaven's sake. She had the right not to do what she didn't want to do. She didn't want to go to a damn museum and so she didn't go. Who am I to criticize her?

But oh, my God, how terribly sad. Had she popped into the Accademia dell’Arte in Firenze she would have met the man that I fell in love with in Italy.

Amazing, my husband didn't mind a bit. Because my husband fell in love with him too.

His name is


Maybe you have thoughts about art, and how it makes us happy, and makes life bearable even when the oil keeps pouring into the Gulf of Mexico and turning millions of birds slick and black. Maybe you have paintings or photographs that you would like to showcase in a little gallery. If so, please do send them to me at I would be delighted to post them in my Art, Pray, Love gallery.

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