There it was, in the middle of the vast Picasso sculpture exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, a small display case that contained a dozen or so pebbles. I found myself attracted to them more than any of your typical Picassos--the large, the visually complex, the imposing, the ego-driven... these were just beach pebbles, incised with a line or two to suggest a human face, an animal. No bigger than your thumb.
And I realized, not for the first time as I looked at them, how greatly I value modesty in art--modesty of scale, modesty of means, modesty of authorial presence. Which does not necessarily imply modesty of intention or modesty of emotional impact. It's a quality that speaks to me at a personal, intimate level that means more than all the grandiosity of which we find so much in art. In writing, too. It seems no one can write a novel of less than five hundred pages...
I love works of art where I am confronted not with the creator's ego, but with a simple presence that opens a door through which my mind can enter into a contemplation of something far greater than itself. And am attracted to modesty not only in art, but in the people I meet. Ego, I can live without. I try, not always successfully, to remain alert to the subtle--and the not-so-subtle--demands of my own.
I could not but admire the brilliance of Picasso's sculptural adventures. But I loved his pebbles more.