Charing Cross Bridge: Making Sense of Brexit

It’s been said that once you’ve lived in a place it never leaves you. It seeps into your blood and stays just beneath your skin in an accumulation of memories that never truly fade.

I suppose this is the argument for travel because with each new place we live, we expand. But this is where it is important to make the distinction between visiting and living. When I was a junior in college, I attended the University of Lancaster for a semester. I lived on campus from January to May and because I was twenty one years old at the time, those five months might as well have been five years in terms of the impact the experience on had on me.

Today, Britain is back on my mind, and yes, it’s specifically Britain because while I visited (there’s that word again) Scotland, Ireland and Wales during my stay in the UK, I didn’t live in any of those places.

While wandering around the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) today, an ocean away from Brexit, I came across the painting Charing Cross Bridge by Claude Monet.

Charing Cross Bridge
Charing Cross Bridge, oil on canvas, 1900

It’s a gorgeous, fluid painting, as is the case with much of Monet’s work. All pastels and swift strokes, it looks as if the the paint is literally moving across the canvas. It’s an impression of something concrete.

It strikes me that Monet’s painting is not unlike a country’s identity also fluid, constantly shifting. Often those shifts are chaotic and messy, but the results of that chaos can be really beautiful.

I know from taking groups of students to the IMA that Monet’s paintings don’t make sense to everyone, and I imagine that at least 46.8% of Brits are thinking the same thing about Brexit.

I’m not an economist or a politician. I’m not even British, but I do deeply admire the country and the people what I can say is this: I don’t completely understand Charing Cross Bridge either, but that doesn’t stop me from looking and it doesn’t stop me from loving.


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