Friday, October 12, 2007

The Spanish Conquistadors

Bad Day for Meth Lab #3 by Kelly McLane

My own personal history with art begins on a big plush red couch in a furniture store. I am "lalygagging" on the couch contemplating half rolling, half throwing myself from that couch onto a another couch and eyeing the space inbetween, trying to calculate if I might fall through the crack and if so, how hard will it be to extract myself, and if so, how mad will my mom be? While I am going through this internal dilemma, I watch my mother wander about the great big warehouse-like furniture store looking not at the furniture (because we already have recently purchased the requisite 70s couch in the style of the early spanish conquistadors, replete with appropriate wraught iron decor through-out the house) but at the artwork on the walls. My mom peruses print after print after print looking for just the right thing. I think "just the right thing" would match the conquistador decor, it should have a lot of red and black and maybe gold in it. Maybe flowers would be nice. She never finds what she is looking for. The walls in our house remain white and barren for years. But everytime we pass a furniture store I know my sisters and I will have time for a game of hide and seek beneath the glass tables stashed about between the gold and avocado furniture, because I know my mom will have to look for the perfect picture to hang above her couch. This is my introduction to the world of art. An auspicious start to be sure. Later, I will learn to love art. But it's a long drawn out process from the comfort of the plush 70s couches to a love for Edward Hopper.
Cape Code By Edward Hopper

Hopper is one of my favorite artists, but my first recognition of a desire to know more about an artist or art in general was being drawn to buying a calendar of Monet paintings when I was still in high school. I read a little about Monet and liked his work, although I don't think I entirely understood what I liked about it. But it sparked an interest. When I went to college I sincerely desired to know more about art and to ends I took a art history class.
Nympheas by Monet

I loved that class so much, that art history seemed like the best major ever, but it's really hard for a girl raised on thinking art comes from furniture stores to imagine what one would do with a major in art history, so I didn't entertain that thought for long. But the class exposed me to some really great paintings and a rudamentary knowledge of the subject. For the first time I realized artists weren't just trying to make something pretty, they were usually trying to say something - which is when I became fascinated with the language of art. This painting by Van Eyck probably started my fascination with the subject. Once I realized you can spend an entire hour of class talking about one painting and still not explore all it's subtle text, I was hooked.

The Wedding by Jan Van Eyck

And apparently on some subconcious level I was unaware of, I became interested in artists as well. I didn't even really know Kirk was an artist when I started dating him but I did start dating him at this same time. I also dated this guy below while Kirk was on his mission. The relationship didn't go very far but I did truly appreciate the fact that he was a talented artist (as an aside, I only recently discovered some of that "mormon art" you sometimes see in people's homes is produced by this guy I dated back in the 80s). His name was Derek Hegsted (or is, I suppose) and I was impressed by the fact that he called himself an artist. It seemed sort of audacious. But accurate. I don't know, I was drawn to that aspect of his personality I guess.

(Derek Hegsted in his studio)

This is when I became really fascinated with artists as people. I read everything Warhol for a while. Warhol seemed like the quientessial artist personality and I wanted to understand that. I still like Warhol. He's not the world's greatest artist but he was certainly talented, and interesting, and smart and prescient.
Self Portrait by Andy Warhol

And it was really cool when I was finally able to go the National Gallery and see some of his work. And the work of hundreds of other famous artists. I got to see some of those Monet's up close, which is way better than seeing them on a calendar. And for some reason this painting by Da Vinci really arrested me - it's so much better in person, and there's some quality in it that really drew me in and kept me interested in art on a whole other level.
Portrait of Genevra de'Benci by Leonardo Da Vinci
There are so many great artist in the world, it's overwhelming to start thinking about what you love about one artist over another, or even to justify why you like a particular artist. I have my favorites, and I have others I appreciate and I have others who I admire, but don't particularly respond to the work. It's always an adventure to discover new artists and new work and learn to appreciate artists who have been around for a long time. Below is a Hopper and if I really think about American artists, I think I'd have to put Hopper at the top of those I really respond to in just a pure visceral way that is difficult to describe. The other painting is a Hockney. A lot of Hockney's work sort of bores me and I have a difficult time "getting" but this one is really great and in spite of being such an iconic piece, really stands up over time as a sort of brilliant modern work.
Sunday Morning by Edward Hopper

Spash by David Hockney

These days I am more interested in local artists and new artists. These are some of the artists I really like lately. Really, there are too many to represent fully here, this is only a small sampling.

Ron Richmond

Brian Boner

Brian Kershisnik

Steve Yazzie

Lu Cong

Melani Coraddi

And of course, one of my favorite artists, the one I am married to, Kirk Hays. We went to the artwalk in Scottsdale last night and First Fridays last Friday - and I never cease to be amazed at the wealth of language just outside our doors waiting to speak to us.

It sure beats the heck out of laying around on red plush couches wondering when your mom will ever find that perfect "pretty" Spanish Conquistador that matches the furniture.


Cynthia said...

I have traumatic experiences of studying art history -- required courses for my major. Classes would be held in a big auditorium, comfortable seats, lights dimmed, long hard schedule working late nights, going to school full time. Somehow when those lights would dim and the slide show would start, my eyes would automatically close. I missed out on a great deal of studying the masters. So now as an adult, I can appreciate art on my own time and schedule (rare as those times are).
So does it just drive you crazy to be enjoying the artistic experience and hear someone say "I don't get it, why would anyone put that on their living room wall?" Don't they get not all art is meant for hanging above a sofa?
Your reference to gold and avacado furniture cracked me up. Our house was full of it - appliances and all!

Anonymous said...

This was beautiful. You make experiencing art like a sweet journey. People assume because I draw and paint that I studied. While I recognize about half of your selections (& 2 of them only because they're in your house), I could not tell you anything about the artist much less what their intentions were. Good for you!

Suzanne Barker said...

I didn't study art while in college but it has been something that I have enjoyed learning about post university. It was a great discovery to me that paintings are ever so much different in person than in a photograph. Another thing that was a revelation was how much more I get from a group of a single artists paintings than from a single painting. That hit me for the first time at the Monet exhibit here in Phoenix. Since then I have enjoyed "zipping" over to the LA art museum for some exhibits. I really enjoyed the Warhol exhibit at LACMA and the Van Gogh exhibit was amazing.
I'm very slowly transitioning from only an appreciator of art to a producer. I don't have ambitions to be a "real" artist, but I just have enjoyed the process of learning and seeing my growth in the process. It has also enhanced my appreciation of the art I see.
I was amazed recently to realize how much I like cars! I saw the recent exhibition at the Phoenix Art Museum and really enjoyed it. Since then I went to the Peterson Automotive Musuem in LA which is just across the street from LACMA. I had a great time! Who knew cars could be so fun and such great art!

Bandanamom said...

I totally agree Suzanne. I really don't have an artistic bone in my body (unlike you, Cynthia and Cindi) - I mean unless you can count picking out paint colors for the walls (which I do count sometimes when I am feeling sorry for myself that I have no talent in this area). But there is a language of art that is really beautiful and speaks to a persons soul on some level. I'm so THANKFUL for art.

I totally get what you are saying about the cars too. We saw that same display at the Phoenix Museum and they were amazing. I really appreciate good design. Lately, this has become an appreciation for fashion and for food as well.

I never really "got" the whole nouveau cousine thing. I just thought "what's this? really tiny food? I don't get it". But now I understand that the portions may be tiny, but it's also beautiful and it should taste reallly, really, good even if it's only a few bites and it should celebrate food in some way. So I can see that it is an art. Fashion - I always liked clothes and if I were a size 4 and younger I think I could be pretty trendy but alas, this is not my lot in life. But I am beginning to appreciate more the art of fashion. Which is another fun discovery.

Anonymous said...

You dress very fashionably - what are you talkin' about?!

Bandanamom said...

Honey I do the best I can with what is available, but a size 4 me with lots of money could really turn it out!


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