Friday, September 29, 2006

But is it art?

When I posted on The Ginger Man the other day (revisiting books read as a youth), Elsie commented that while getting older has helped her understand some of her favorite books, she hasn't gotten to the place of understanding art. And I'm guessing you mean "modern" art, as opposed to classic representational stuff, right Elsie?

pollockat_work_in_studio1950 I am no art expert and would never presume to explain it to anyone. But I fell in love with art history (classic, impressionist, modern - you name it) in college and took so many elective art history classes that I ended up with a Minor in Fine Arts.

I'm sure real art connoisseurs will just cringe, but here's what I do to keep art - even the stuff I can't make heads nor tails of - fun and interesting:

  • I like to know about the artist. If I'm going to an exhibition of a particular artist, I try to find out as much about her/him as I can. It lets me know what to expect and gives me a little insight into the whys and wherefores of their art. If I run across an artist I don't know much about at the museum, I find a crumpled piece of paper at the bottom of my purse and scribble out the name and work. I can look it up later, right?
  • matt
  • I always look at the work of art first and make up my own title before checking the identifier card. It's amazing how often I "get it" after really looking at the scribbles or splotches or weird stuff glued to a bedframe. Sometimes I'm absolutely right - my title of "Crazy Night at the Circus" might actually turn out to be something called "The Circus of Your Nightmares," or some such thing. But just as often, I come up with a much better title than the usual one for works of modern art, which is "Untitled." At least I give it a go, even if it turns out to be something like, "Toddler Makes Big Mess with Jam Sandwich." 'Way better than "Untitled #69," don't you agree?
  • I really study the medium of the work. I want to see the relief of the paint glops and the canvas showing through charcoal or pencil up close and personal. So I get close. Front. Left. Right. Does anything show through?
  • What caught my eye first about the work? How did I look at the elements of it - in which order? Why? The colors? The pattern? I dissect the parts of the art, even if it's the ugliest, stupidest thing I've ever seen. Something hit me about it right off. What and why?
  • Lastly, I back off and give it the "forest" look, as opposed to the "trees." Take in the whole thing. Hm. Then I move on.

Don't know if that helps, Elsie, but give it a try sometime. Have fun with it. And yes, there is a lot of stuff out there - even famous stuff - that is just crap to me. Stuff that lacks passion or light/dark or fun or meaning. Stuff that just doesn't speak to me. But I'm always pleasantly surprised when a work that at first glance looks like something the dog did on the sidewalk this morning turns out to be quite interesting if I take the time to look closer.

Anybody else have "Fun with Modern Art" viewing suggestions?

It's Friday, by the way. In case you hadn't noticed.


Peter (the other) said...

Oh, I have to borrow that cartoon, to use old net language, lmao!

MaryB said...

Peter (the other), darlin', it's all yours. After all, I just ripped it off from Google. Be my guest!

(Wish I could laugh my ass off - I've tried sooooo many times, but, nope, it's still here.)

Elsie said...

"Modern" art is it. I just don't get it. I will try your way of making up my own title, but it'll probably be something like "Red Blob of Paint with Yellow Streaks." You know, I think it might be a thing from my past -- I'm the least artistic person I know. My parents still proudly display artwork (beautifully framed and everything) done by both my siblings. Alas, I had nothing to contribute to their decor. I've got a feeling it'll always be paint blobs for me. But I will truly try.

MaryB said...

Just have more fun with the "naming game," Elsie. Instead of Red Blob with Yellow Streaks, call it - say - Death of Canary by Tomato Lobbing Cat, or something. Then laugh and move on. ;-)

Christa said...

No suggestions really...I'm hopeless when I go to an exhibition or similar since I tend to look at it from a technical perspective rather than trying to understand the purpose with the art presented.
Sometimes you need to see beyond what's on the surface to understand what you're looking at, but I need to have a piece of art around me for some time to put away the artist in me and view it like a normal person ;)

Although, there are things out there that I cannot help wondering if it's really art. I'm hopelessly in love with the old masters and anything near abstract art will just make me feel silly. Guess my mind isn't abstract in that way at all :)