Monday, October 11, 2010

A sense of Self Through Art - Part 2

My first official blog-post that I sent out to all my friends and acquaintances, back in June 10th 2010, began with the story of how I have been trying to' find a sense of self through art'...  I think I will follow this concept and report my findings here from now on...

I have spent the last thirty years of my life engaged in many different aspects of art, from studying painting, drawing and Turkish decorative arts to exploring the art world through art history classes, museum and gallery visits, following the print-media, websites and literature, even taking part in group illumination exhibits.  It wouldn't be a gross exaggeration to say that Art has been my salvation, anchor, safe haven throughout life's challenges and quandaries.  

All the while, I have been immersing myself in the art world, I also have been searching for a deeper understanding of what was, is and why.  To garner a greater knowledge and mastery over the arts, I enrolled in an art history class this semester - 15th century Italian Renaissance.  The biggest surprise turned out to be the realization of how there are so many unknowns.  That particular time period, I will have to get to at a later post, I think. 

I used to think that there was a wealth of information, facts that historians and artists knew about the who, what, where, when, how and WHY...of most works of art.  It seemed like some people were 'in the know' about these things and the rest of us were either trying to understand or pretend. The biggest news flash for me turned out to be that we are all in the same boat of trying to analyze and understand what came before us and those 'people in the know' just have been studying for longer, have more insight and indepth information than the rest of us, but still are not in possession of all the facts.  This bit of wisdom actually has given me renewed resolve to become a true connoisseur of the arts and interpret it as best I can.    

At this point I must admit a major deficiency in my font of knowledge - my comprehension of modern art seems to be deficient.  As much as I love to learn and talk about art, I can't seem to make any kind of sense when it comes to communicating about anything past the post-impressionists.  This is partly the reason why I went back to see the 'Matisse:  Radical Invention, 1913-1917' exhibit at Moma, one more time, before it closes tomorrow. 

My son and I had already visited the Matisse exhibit in August and I was disappointed in myself for not being able to arouse any kind of interest in him for the works on display, which are some of Matisse's most powerful and enigmatic.  Even though I enjoyed the guided tour, I was not satisfied with the information the docent provided since it mostly felt like a visual analysis.  I left the museum, feeling I had seen some of the greatest works of art but not having added any new facts to what I already knew and even worse - not being able to answer my son's questions about what was so fascinating.  So, I rushed back, literally, yesterday morning, with hopes of finding the answers I was looking for.  Unfortunately the audio-guide the museum provided  wasn't any more enlightening than the docent was.  A very detailed and interesting visual analysis but nothing ground breaking.  But I was thrilled with being able to savor the wonderful paintings that Matisse himself considered so significant in his career.  What was actually most fascinating was the process each painting went through and the amount of work it entailed before it was actually considered 'finished'.  

What most people don't realize is the significance of hard work that goes into producing art, more than the talent.  This exhibit actually concentrated on the details of the manufacturing and the different stages of each painting and sculpture from this period.  Seeing the X-ray images of the sketches and the paintings underneath the final product was akin to visiting Matisse's studio as the works progressed.  Observing each work closely left me with awe of how his mind worked and still wondering how he thought to do what he did.  

I finally came to the conclusion that these works were not ideas that were thought up and just put on canvas but were evolved entities that came into being as the artist dug them out of his subconscious.  These were built up and changed over time and maybe didn't need to have specific discernible explanations.  They should be experienced and appreciated without asking the typical questions of what or why.  The exhibit will be on view at the Art Institute of Chicago from March 20 through June 20 2010.  I know that I would definitely go back to see it again, if I ever got to Chicago during those dates.  

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