Islamic and Friendship Studies at Oberlin College

Catherine Lytle: Chagall — my one and only



What is friendship? Friendship is two people sitting on a bench looking at the same sunset and one friend points out something to the other friend saying “look at that. Isn’t that marvelous?” When I first moved to Oberlin I stumbled upon this painting and I immediately felt safe and warm. I imagined myself with my best friend riding on that cow to an unknown destination. It didn’t matter that we were on a cow because in the end we never did care of what other people thought of us and our friendship.

While we can see friendship within the figures in the painting there is an almost bewitching friendship between us and Chagall. Between us and his painting. The warmth of the colors and the blurry strokes of the brush create and ephemeral quality that entices us to reimagine the space that the figures are in. We no longer see the Earth-like phenomenal world but rather one that we are always look to for hope and inspiration. The warm embrace that the two figures in the painting partake in invites us to reimagine ourselves in them. The locality expressed in the painting points to everywhere and nowhere. But simply being together in a space is what matters.

Just as I am sitting here on this bench with Lujza looking at the same painting, we become the embodied experience of the painting in the present. The friendship between us becomes the product of the affection that I feel for the painting.



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