Tuesday, March 17, 2009
A Passion for Art Museums
If given a day all my own, to spend as I choose, I would pick an art museum every time. Did you know that about me?
As I considered which of my passions to write about, I realized that I've never written here about how much I love art. Especially art museums. Quiet time in an art museum with my journal is as soul renewing for me as poetry, laughter, and the ocean. Something magical happens after I've been in an art museum for about 15 minutes. I can feel my shoulders relaxing; knots of tension I didn't know I had - dissolving. My breath slows, deepens; fills me. My mind stills. And spins. Seems to listen. With my eyes. Do you know what I mean?
This happens for some people at the ocean, at church, while watching a sleeping baby. Me, too. But, never so reliably as at an art museum. To me, art museums are a soul place. The sacred hush, the near-reverent whispers, the overwhelming beauty... all feed my soul. Many, many times I've stood in front of an old favorite, or a new discovery and thought this. This exactly:
Imagine, Relyn. Imagine! The world is full of such wonders. And you are alive to witness them.
That's it, I guess. An art museum holds the best of us. No, that's not quite right. It holds the best of us, made tangible. They are amazing treasure troves. Storehouses that connect us backward in time, the threads reaching back for centuries. Yes, even then, people worshiped beauty. People cared about their homes. Men were handsome and women loved clothing. Yes, even centuries ago, people felt lost and lonely. People were found, loved, cherished.
And always, always, people ached to express themselves. To create beauty that outlasts them and stands as testament. To create something that says, "I was here. I lived. I laughed. I made this. With my own two hands, and all of my heart. See? Look. Look. It's my gift. To you."
I remember exactly when I fell in love with art. I was 17 and headed to college. I needed a planner for the first time. I chose one called American Impressionists that had reproductions on every other page. It also had a little blurb about each artist and painting. That's it. A consuming love affair began with a calendar. One glimpse of a Pissaro landscape, and I was in love.
About a year later, my family was in New York City for one day. I absolutely insisted that I spend some of that time in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. How could I not after Claudia's adventures? My family loves me, so they spent hours in a museum they cared nothing about. Just to please me. I went in to see my beloved Impressionists. And. And...
I discovered an entire world. A world I never knew existed. Impressionists? YES! But. But there is so much more. Just within painted works, you could spend a day listing all the isms and movements. There is so much to see. So many worlds to encounter. So many dreams to enter.
Years later, I remember thinking that I did not care for modern art. And then I attended La Vista Modernista at the Philbrook. Oh, yes I do. I absolutely love modern art. Art has so much to share. If only you'll listen. Listen with your eyes. With your slowed breath. With an open heart.
There is no place like an art museum to fill you with beauty, to challenge your preconceptions. To make you think, to make you dream. To fill you with longing, to take your breath away. To remind you, above all, that it is a very wonder to be human, to be alive, to bear witness to such beauty as this.
The images in this post are just a few of the many paintings (plus one sketch) that I love. Title and artist are listed below in order of appearance. Chop Suey by Edward Hopper, Villas a Trouville by Gustave Caillebotte, Cakes by Wayne Theibaud, Hide and Seek by Tissot, Yeats by John Singer Sargent, Woman with Black Feather Boa by Toulouse Lautrec, Almond Blossom by Vincent Van Gogh, Allegory, Boy Lighting Candle in Company of Ape and Fool by El Greco, Around the Lamp by Carl Larsson, Golconda by Rene Magritte.
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