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Blog

The Birth of Innocence

Aubrey Allison

birth of innocence

This painting is titled The birth of innocence.

It is rich with color. Placed alongside artist Julien Spianti's other paintings, this scene appears expansive and bright. It is part of a series called Memento Vivi, which includes paintings with titles such as sin of repetition and sin of trust. These scenes are close to grayscale, and they don’t reach the edges of the canvas, as if part of each moment has been lost to memory.

But Birth of innocence is a departure in content as well as style: Spianti is showing us two moments in time.

The couple is also the subject of another painting, a dark moment in an unfinished room:

Untitled

But when the boy comes in, the scene opens up.

Why is he here? And that title: birth of innocence? Innocence is what we lose. We fall. Even the explanation of redemption and rebirth somehow doesn’t explain to me the boy’s posture of tenderness. The gentle dip of his shoulder. If this is some kind of redemption, why has he entered into a past moment?

In an essay titled “The Limit,” Christian Wiman writes, "There are wounds we won’t get over. There are things that happen to us that, no matter how hard we try to forget, no matter with what fortitude we face them, what mix of religion and therapy we swallow, what finished and durable forms of art we turn them into, are going to go on happening inside of us for as long as our brains are alive."

Twelve years later, he wrote in My Bright Abyss, "every intellectual growth [must] remain rooted in that early experience of ultimate insight, ultimate unknowingness.... What sort of understanding could be emptier than one that diminishes or erases the moments that made understanding essential in the first place?"

It is both paintings together that make Birth of innocence so strikingly rich. The couple exists in a moment that remains unchanged except to layer it in time, to be entered into and opened up.

It is not an act of hopelessness to say that we carry our experiences with us always. There are hurts that will go on happening inside of us even while there is healing, too. Redemption is not the same as restoration. Redemption undoes no pain, reduces nothing. It expands us. It is a deepening, opening always more and more.