Last March, I had the opportunity to visit the Philadelphia Art Museum. I love going to museums and the opportunity to look at art without being hurried was a rare treat. Someone on the Studio Art Quilt list suggested I should ‘skip’ the art museum unless I was going to the Frida Kahlo exhibit as the fiber section was not worth seeing.
The Frida Kahlo exhibit was indeed dazzling. But there were other pieces there that I remember from my Art History classes. As I looked work by Branzini and Calder and Van Gogh, and Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase plus an exciting exhibit by William Ketttridge, I began to think about how these artists express their feelings and thoughts.
It seems that the artists we remember are those who focus and refine their view through looking and seeing and thinking.
For instance, Michaelangelo and Durer both created pieces many people recognize. Michaelangelo carved three pietas—the first amazingly realistic, the last one roughly shaped but full of pathos. The first is ‘pretty’ while the last one carved in his old age is not, but to me it is the most effective. Durer painstakingly created some wonderful etchings of the Crucifixion. The first printing contained a lot of detail and except for the subject matter could be considered ‘pretty’. He continued to rework this piece until the final truly stark piece.
Although Van Gogh might be best known for his vibrant sunflowers, he also painted the courtyard outside his mental hospital/jail cell window in the rain—how depressing and cold. Then there are the Burghers of Calais by Rodin. I did not know he had such poor vision but what wonderful sculptures.
And then, there is music. Music can set a mood so effectively people wonder why a certain movie’s soundtrack gets recognition as they simply do not remember the music.
Perhaps the best way to portray a certain idea or thought or feeling is to investigate all the other ways other artists have used to portray that emotion and feeling and tell that story, consider it, and then create my own piece enriched by their experiences.