Sunday, June 19, 2011

Random day at the Museum...

So here's the first post of my non-art blog. What's it about?


I am going to choose to ignore the irony of that and push onward.

I am only going to be in Chicago for a limited period of time, and one of my goals this time around is to not repeat my own history of living here for years and not partaking of the city itself. I adamantly do ~not~ have a 'bucket list', because although I love lists, I really don't use them properly. That being said, one thing I ~did~ want to do was take the Metra from the burbs where I live to the City (that's City with a capital 'C' mind you) and go dink around the Chicago Institute of Art.

Going to the museum by myself was awesome, and also interesting. I will ask you this - do you know how you would experience a museum if you were in complete control of the pacing and route? If you do then share it with us in the comments section. If you don't know, I urge you to go by yourself someday and let loose, then observe what you do and report back here!

My pace and pattern can best be described as... erratic.

I had looked at the website in advance and I knew I wanted to see the Arms and Armour exhibit. What? I love fantasy, so sue me. So that's where my feet took me first, straight there without so much as a slow-down for what lay between me and my goal. I was a woman on a mission. It turned out that the Arms and Armour was a bit disappointing - a bunch of polearms and a few suits of armour.

The armour was interesting enough, I found myself wondering how much of the pieces they had were ceremonial or if they truly put that much craftsmanship on every footsoldier destined to have his spleen poked out with a sword.

The polearms were actually fascinating... I recall diagrams from my old D&D books of the different types of polearms, which various male friends actually paid attention to while I was (and am) content to lump them all together as 'sharp bits on long stems for enemy-poking'. I'm sure my husband will not be surprised to read that, but possibly just a tad disappointed (sorry hon!). What I can say, after today, is that a halberd looks like this:

I still don't know if it's just the pretty shape that makes it a halberd, but I guess I am of a peculiar generation that I have to remind myself that these items were used for slaying enemy humans long before they were used to slay orcs.

So the arms and armour section didn't take much time (actually I have no idea how long I stook there sketching.. it could have been hours for all I know). Then I really didn't have a plan.. so I wandered. And when I started wandering with my no-plan I began to just follow my eyes. I stumbled into rooms with italian paintings from the sixteenth century. Well, I love me some Caravaggio.. my eyeballs dragged me from room to room - and that's how I discovered my pace.

After blowing through two or three rooms (man, people walk slow in museums!) I would come across something that piqued my interest and spend 15 minutes studying it. Like "Still-Life with Dead Game Fruits and Vegetables in a Market by Frans Snyders, 1614".

It is huge! I was first was invited into the painting by the very amiable merchant and proceeded to look over his wares, marveling over the textures in the fur and feathers and the handling of light and shadow around the collander on the right. I couldn't help but note that the game was all so clean and pristine and the blood, where present, was very fluid and light red (none of this dark, congealed clotty stuff or other 'liquids' that would in reality have been present). Then I see the cocks fighting. Then oh! There's a sneaky cat looking at me. Clearly he's seen that I spotted him and is watching to see if my eyes move on. Then I spot the pickpocket on the left. Oh cheerful merchant, you will be cursing whatever epithets were appropriate in 1614 when you realize your day's profits have disappeared into thin air!

Though pure morbid fascination caused me to pause my steps to look at several medieval pieces, and appreciation of beauty paused them in some other areas, I wasn't really brought to a halt again until I stumbled upon Jules Adolph Breton's 'The Song of the Lark'. I promptly sat down and sketched:

Now clearly my quick sketch doesn't do justice to the original piece by any means. Sketching the painting was almost a way to commune with it, to really 'see' it. Looking over it inch by inch, paying attention to the proportions even as the repeated viewing helped me to figure out what it was that captivated me.

(Thanks to Art History Daily)

The obvious things - I love the color palette, her pose is lovely and has a spiritual feel to it, and she is beautiful in an unpretentious way.

Then I realized that she is doing something. Later I noted that I was attracted to paintings where the subject is doing something mundane. The heroic poses of the biblical paintings of the renaissance are very intriguing, but this girl walking and singing I liked even more. I was also drawn to Camille Dissaro's 'Woman bathing her feet in a brook' (even if it is impressionist).

Then it occurred to me that the girl is entirely in shadow. The colour palette is muted. The whole thing creates an effect of serenity and quiet. You can almost hear her voice cutting through the soft quiet of predawn with the first birdsong of the day. I more often encounter this time of day when I stay up way too late than actually getting up early, but that does not make me appreciate it any less.

And finally I realized that the rising sun, painted in almost fluorescent colours, draws your attention to the upper left of the painting which causes you to see her face in your peripheral vision. I wonder if that was intentional? Using averted vision to see the low contrast of the subject differently?

I'm probably reading more into it than necessary. But suffice it to say, I enjoyed sitting with one painting for the better part of an hour much more than I would have dividing that time among many other works that didn't intrigue me as much. I also have a new artist to add to my favorite list and will have to look over the rest of his stuff.

I was getting a bit tired by that point though. After some aimless wandering through the impressionists (beautiful, yes, but just not my cup of tea). I was kind of lost and stumbled into the Alsdorf Galleries containing a collection of Indian, Southeast Asian and Himalayan art. I didn't really have any intention of doing more sketching at all, except that Ganesha called to me.

This was an Indonesian sculpture of the God, and the serenity of his face is what made me pause. Then after looking at it a few minutes I had to sketch it. And as I started sketching I read the plaque that identified Ganesha as the 'Remover of Obstacles'. Well hot damn! I do have a few obstacles that need removing. He is also the Lord of Beginnings. This just gets better and better.

Here is my meagre homage to Ganesha:

So overall this was a very pleasing day. I figure it's a good thing this isn't an art blog anymore. It's nice to explore 'other things' :)

~ Pam

1 comment:

Van Hels said...

The shots in this post are all from the NC mountains where fall is in full swing and in some parts even past peak.