Feeling jumpy lately and you don’t know why? Consider all the slamming and scorning that comes from our president – his very boorishness spewed daily – scraping our sensibilities, our emotional skins raw. Such wounds call for a salve that goes deeper than the skin. Trump’s invective is like a virus infecting us all, even the usually prudent headline writers among us.

He talks and says nothing

When Trump retaliated against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) for calling him out about his womanizing, he said she ”would do anything” for campaign contributions, implying that she’s perform sexual favors for money.

Then, not far behind that vulgarity came a decidedly coarse front-page headline in USA Today: “A president who would all but call Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a whore is not fit to clean the toilets in the Barack Obama Presidential Library or to shine the shoes of George W. Bush.” Is Trump changing us, making us crass? Our wounds aren’t just from his ugly words, but also from their lack of substance. He talks on the tops of things, slapdash and shallow, which leaves our minds and hearts wanting. It’s like eating food that has no nutritional value.

Fine Art to the rescue

This is where a good painting comes in. What the world needs now is something both beautiful and meaningful. What does that look like?

Clearly it’s not some perky kittens chasing yarn balls. It’s been said that good art always keeps its deepest secrets. Yet not all answers are unknown to us. For example, asking if the work is original can get you closer to defining good art: is there evidence of an uncommon approach to depicting a common subject?

Can we tell what the artist is thinking? In the light of the holiday season, El Greco’s “Holy Family,” held in the Cleveland Museum of Art, fits the bill.

Making a Madonna and Child feel actual

El Greco had his own particular way of making a religious painting. Devotional in its way, yet it’s not only prayerful.

His image of holiness is heaped high with humanity. What you see is a mother trying to hold onto her wriggling child as her husband, apparently not knowing how else to help, offers a bowl of fruit. Also appearing in this happy family picture - posed as if for a photo in a personal greeting card – is the sad face of Mary Magdalene anticipating what the child’s future holds.

Getting away from it all

Another sign of El Greco’s inventiveness is the way he treated the background. Instead of setting his figures in a landscape the way other artists of his time did, he located them beyond the natural world, outside of time and space, transporting them into a stormy sky. And, adding to that visionary air, he pictured the scene with fiery, flashing colors that seem to reflect the impending storm.

Nobody was like him when it came to picturing spirituality, yet he managed to do with humanity. A ready relief from Trumpism.

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