It is an introspective sort of day. I am wrapping up an art appreciation class tomorrow with a final exam and am busy trying to get a grasp on everything happening in IMA’s Nugget Factory. It is so easy to get all wrapped up in the day-to-day hustle and bustle that I forget why I began doing this in the first place.
I love art.
I am a person typically defined by what I hate….I hate reading, I hate obnoxious people, I hate Jessica Alba (not for the reason you would think), (most) chick flicks, social inequality, people who ignore problems instead of solve them, etc. I am all over the place. From the trivial to social issues, I ALWAYS have an opinion. For better or worse. So how could I love something as big and varied as art?
I am an art history graduate from the Herron School of Art here in Indy and went there because I desperately wanted to understand the motivations of artists. I studied art on my own before that, mostly the fan favorites, van Gogh, Monet, Cassatt and the like. As a 16 year old, hiding out in her room, reading van Gogh’s letters I thought I would never encounter another human being with such powerful insight and fell in love with that dreamy, brooding artist-type. So, not knowing where it would lead, I enrolled in an art history program and began taking classes under the assumption that art was defined by feeling. Soon I discovered the Renaissance, and was convinced that art was about thinking, learning and technical skill. Eventually I found myself in a much more balanced place. Now I find that I love art, its ability to provoke and inspire. Sounds cheesy, but it is true. I love it when art infuriates me, or challenges me, but I also love seeing something I love even when I can’t say why.
Sometimes the art world makes us feel like it is not okay to just look and think on our own terms. That we need something else that they gave us. Well, I would argue that your eyes are the perfect tool! That’s not to say, though, that you can’t benefit from a little curatorial TLC. Think about what they do all day long…do you know? They spend time doing research, writing labels, organizing exhibitions. Always thinking about the art they are most passionate about. So they know A LOT about it, right? But you have something they don’t. You will walk up to a work of art unfettered by all of this knowledge. Pros and cons. It is all about pros and cons.
Teaching a course at a local community college this semester has given me great insight into where the rest of the world is within the realm of art appreciation. (That’s another thing that happens over time, you forget what is what like not to be packed with facts, names, dates, how to correctly pronounce french titles, etc.) I am grateful to my students for challenging me to define art in my own words and help them find new definitions, too. I feel many of them did. And I hope the work that the Nugget Factory does also contributes to continually better definitions of art for you. It is so much harder to feel like I am making a difference as a nugget, being behind a computer instead in front of a student group or up in a gallery seeing people come to a new realization.
So I will offer you a couple of nuggets that I hope contribute to your artistic evolution:
- Look! Don’t just read. Looking, for longer than 10 seconds, is the most useful, yet overlooked thing an art viewer can do.
- Question authority. I live my life by this mantra (ask Daniel) and art appreciation is no different. Experts are useful but they can’t tell you why something is so beautiful it makes you want to cry and throw up. You have to look inside yourself for that answer.
- Suppress the shame of not already knowing stuff. We all feel it. How do you pronounce that name? What is encaustic? Will they think less of me for asking these questions? The answer is brutal. They might. But part of your personal growth has to be not caring. Loving art is more important than being judged by others.
- Watch IMA videos. It might feel like a shameless plug, and in part it is. But on the flip side, we work hard to make things that will give you a peek into what the experts know, give you access to artists and help you find a place to hook in to art you’ve never seen before.
So, there you have it. I love art because it is simultaneously easy and difficult. There is no one-size-fits-all definition of art which gives each of us great power, and with great power comes great responsibility. Use it wisely.