Pain on Paper

delaney risse
2 min readMar 15, 2021
Photo [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0] 2017 by ExeSandbox

In the podcast The Anthropocene Reviewed Episode 24, John Green reviews visual art pieces by Agnes Martin, specifically a series of six paintings she completed called “With My Back to the World.” The podcast emphasizes Martin’s belief that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We know objects and things are beautiful because we hold them as so in our minds.

I thought it was particularly interesting when John Green talked about how it is often difficult to express pain in art. Picasso was celebrated for his proficiency at it, yet many of us struggle. I thought that perhaps human beings’ general inability to open up or divulge when we are hurting might play an important factor in that. But it also may be difficult because pain is different for every individual. Just as beauty is in our minds, so is pain. Everyone has their own struggles and conflicts in life, and that may physically and figuratively look completely different for each person. One individual’s pain may starkly contrast with another’s.

This section of the podcast also caused some memories to resurface. In eight grade, I was tasked with writing an essay on what I could personally improve on in my writing. I chose to white about how I found it difficult to get what I envisioned in my head onto paper. Similar to what John Green spoke about, I had the pain and beauty vibrantly dancing around in my mind, images that I wanted to bring to life, yet I could not seem to describe them accurately or vividly enough on paper. It was hard for me to render and write what was exactly in my head, and I wrote a lengthy paper on the subject.