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Modern Art: How I learned to love what I could not identify as a realistic portrail of life

November 29, 2006

Art has always been an incredibly big part of my life and while I was myself surprised to marry a painter when I look back at my relationship with art and museums it is really not surprising. My dad and mom separated when I was 4 and divorced when I was six. Dad did not make a lot of money as a DJ and was always looking for cheap ways to spend the day. We went to a lot of museums. The city I live in has quite a few good ones and his favorite was a formerly private collection turned gallery and donated to the city. As it was a private collection it was comprised of many unusual objects including ancient sculpture from Asia, classical paintings from local famous artist like Mary Cassette, jewelry and furniture, a huge frog fountain I think made of jade and jasper and marble all filing marble halls with brass chandeliers. I think it cost 50 cents for my dad and I was free. We spent a lot of time there and I came to regard many of the paintings as my friends; familiar scenes I visited like a personal memory recalled. I remember standing in front of the Mary Cassette paintings and being amazed that a woman could do that and how lovely and familiar the pictures and people seemed. Her paintings seemed hopeful to me and during a time when I felt particularly lonely and unsure of my own life I could recognize that somewhere life was brilliant reds, blues and soft smiling contemplative faces and children were treasured and admired.

My paternal uncle and his wife also took me to museums whenever there was a special show in town like when Matisse came through town. I remember looking at his Blue Nude for the longest time and being totally mesmerized by how large, shockingly naked and surreal it seemed. So bold and it was just there. Daring you to look at it, really look at it and combine its brilliant color, the female form and its largeness and put it into your own head to keep and wonder what it all meant. Who posed for such a painting? Where they upset that he made them blue? Why blue? Is that how the model felt or Matisse? What was he trying to say? Why nude and blue? It swam around in my head and I bought a postcard at the gift shop and hung it up on my wall above my bed. I also became fascinated with Isak Dinesen. During the same visit I bought a postcard of her dressed like the lady with fruit on her head wearing the most garish black eyeliner and false eyelashes drenched in what looked like silk. She seemed to stare into the camera without a single regret or fear. I wanted to be like that when I grew up and was so amazed when Meryl Streep played her in Out of Africa with Robert Redford. Streep seemed to tame, too lady like and too prim to be the woman I had fantasized about all those years before.

During the same Matissed exhibit I saw the first Alberto Giacometti sculpture and was awe struck. I don’t know why but when I came upon in one of the many rooms full of art in the museum I stood dumbstruck in front of it. There was a bench and I sat down in front of it just staring and tearing up until my family grew impatient with waiting and staring at the gangly nubby human caught in midstride arms swinging out slightly frozen in bronze. Not male or female but distinctly human. It was as though I could see what someones soul looked like and it was beautiful. It seemed immodest almost and maybe I shouldn’t be looking directly at it like you are not supposed to look at the sun.

Art is like pieces of the puzzle of life and when you see into someone’s mind as they try to convey what is inside their head as a reflection of what we all see but may take for granted is as close to god as I think I will ever come.

dedicated to Joe

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 30, 2006 3:43 am

    I’ve noticed that you write about mind and head frequently. Random observation, I guess. But you write FROM your heart a lot, too. You are a jumble, and I really like that about you, and your blog.

    My favorite artist (and I know very little about art) is probably Marc Chagall. True story – I found an authentic Chagall once in a house that was going to be torn down.

  2. November 30, 2006 5:43 pm

    Thanks, Cole. Lovely post.

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