A special thank you to Michael Verdi for reminding me of Bill Viola.
Long ago, Mike and I went to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. There was a video installation there and one of the videos was called The Greeting by Bill Viola. In super slow motion, it recreated the Visitation, which is a series of famous paintings depicting the Virgin Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth. Each woman has wonderful news. Mary is pregnant with the son of God and Elizabeth is pregnant with John the Baptist.
Here is one of my favorites representations of The Visitation by Jacopo da Pontormo:
Here is Bill Viola’s video representation (it’s best if you watch it full screen):
I stood in front of that video screen for so long that my party (Mike, Cory and Kathleen) left me to look at other things. When they came back and I was still watching this same video over and over, they were amazed that I was still standing there.
The focus of the video is Mary and Elizabeth, of course, but I felt such a connection to the woman in the background. She is not pregnant. She is left behind while the cousins share their news. She struck such a chord with me. That brief look of pain that flashed across her face was stretched out in the slow motion and really showed how it felt to be a woman who is childless in a world full of pregnant friends. Even right to the end, you can see the frown of the woman who has been left behind between the cousins.
If I were to point to any one thing that portrays how it feels to be childless when all the world around me has pumped out enough puppies to replenish the Earth, it would be Bill Viola’s The Greeting.