There is usually a difference in how I want to witness art and how it actually occurs. First off, I try and be as open as possible and take my “art educated” hat off for a few minutes and look at the work as though I have never seen a work of art before. That is an almost impossibility as I have been studying art and art movements for about 13 years solid. But, everyone needs goals, and that is one of mine. So, on to how I truly see art.
I have had several different experiences with art in the past. Some art I see and my body stops in mid-step and it is as though I have been glued to the ground and can’t move. And all I want to do is stand there and look at the piece forever. Two artworks that did that to me are the David (right) and the Sistine Chapel ceiling (below) and Judgment Day both by Michelangelo.
I also had that same experience the first time I saw Woman with a Hat, by Henri Matisse at the SFMoMa, but when I went back a second and third time I did not react the same way. This is when I realized that some art can be mood dependent.I still don’t know why I was so attracted to this piece the first time I saw it. Maybe it was the color. Maybe it was because I was on a trip with 4 guys nearing the end of college and related to the look of a little bit of fear mixed with a little bit of loneliness in this woman’s eyes. That is one of my favorite gifts that art provides. You will never have the same experience with a piece twice, because you will always be a different person each time you look at it.
As stated earlier in this post I always attempt to view art with fresh eyes. There is a work I saw in the SFMoMa and was surprised at how much I was attracted to it. It takes a great deal for me to be interested in abstract painting, but No. 14 (1960) by Mark Rothko relaxed me and allowed me to pause and breath for a few moments. The reason I bring up trying to experience work with fresh eyes is that I ruined my relaxed viewing by reading the title and information that always accompanies work in museums. The statement was so arrogant and pompous and left a bitter taste in my mouth. Unfortunately I don’t enjoy the work as much as I used to.
I do, however, believe there are times when reading a bit more information about a work is beneficial. For instance, although I find Nigel Poor’s work aesthetically pleasing, I was much more attracted to the work after I read her concept behind each project. Here is an image from a project entitled, Found which she completed in 1998.
After I read her concept here, and look at the art again it’s much more powerful.
I will continue to try and reach my goal of viewing art with fresh and open-minded eyes. I believe I will always have the argument with myself of whether to read or not to read the information about the artist. It is always a gamble because it can either make a work so much stronger or bury it in nonsense to be lost forever.
The most beautiful thing about art is that it can always surprise you. I always learn something about myself when I am attracted to or turned off by a work of art. It makes me think and feel life in a whole new way. And that is one of the many reasons I will look at as much art as I can for as long as I am able.