Monday, May 08, 2006

Before We Get Started . . .



I went to see the Munch exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art last week--my third visit to a show I have mixed feelings about. While I was waiting for a friend, I sat down on a bench outside the entrance to the exhibit rooms and pulled out my drawing pad. Crazy Edvard (as they used to call him at the beach) was looking out at all of us from the echo of his photo and he don't care anymore, because he's dead now and he had his career; he did his paintings and he made his prints and he enjoyed the fruits of his number-one hit single and now, all the moments he lived are gone. But there's a bunch of art that stuck around.

And we pause here to reflect before entering.

This area is for the ones who need context. The ones who want to know what they're in for; what the art's about. What the journey will be and what it all means.

I have a love/hate relationship with this part of an exhibit, as I do with the individual placards explaining and contextualizing each work in the show. On the one hand, yeah, I want to know the title and I want to know when it was created and I want to know the significant details. Because an informed viewer is a . . . well . . . Informed Viewer.

But, I also really don't trust it.

Because the art's the art and the moment in which it was born is gone, gone, gone, missy. Each painting, sculpture and drawing is a bookmark floating free of the pages and you can try to tell me where it was placed in the novel, but sometimes I'd just rather look at the pretty bookmark and put it in the pages of my own story.

But still . . .

Isn't it interesting to know that Munch first felt the impulse that he turned into The Scream standing on a boardwalk, looking out at a crepuscular sky, stained red by the dust of Krakatoa? If you look at the painting that Munch identified as the first manifestation of an icon, you'd be hard-pressed to see the similarity to The Scream. But when you read about it and look closer at that painting . . . well, that's really pretty amazing.

So, yeah. I've got mixed feelings about explanations and explications when it comes to art. Sometimes I want to know and sometimes I want to look and feel and not be bothered with studying for the quiz.

But I was sitting, waiting on a friend and I was looking at Munch not looking at me and I drew in my book, because I really, really like to draw and I have to believe it leads somewhere, even if I have no idea where . . .

11 Comments:

Blogger michybrit said...

It certainly leads to the happiness of others... that's for sure.

1:27 AM  
Blogger Jonny said...

I love this story! And I love this blog, and I promise to check it numerous times a day, borderlining on becoming obsessed with it.

8:27 AM  
Blogger Christastrophe said...

Also, this could win a Pulitzer Prize for Best Name of a Blog.

Spring and I go back and forth on this (as we do on anything hung in a museum). For my taste it is because I am a novice in the world of the visual arts. I have my visceral reaction, always my visceral reaction. But then I need more, while Spring is contemplating the textures and types of paint and surface and whatever else.

Perhaps it is an insecurity. I need at least a few pages surrounding the bookmark, so I don't feel lost. So I don't feel stupid. It helps to congratulate me on a job well done.

5:58 PM  
Anonymous Special K said...

I went to see the Munch exhibit a couple of months ago. I'm not an expert on his career, but I do enjoy the emotions his paintings depict. I don't know the history of them. I don't know the pages around the bookmark. I just know that when I look at his work, it takes me back to a summer in Scandanavia and evokes an awful lot of things since.

The day we went to see Munch we were in somewhat of a hurry - we weren't there for art education, we were there to see the greatest hits, feel the impact, and move on in time to get Belgian beer and make it to a 7 p.m. theater performance. Admittedly.

As we studied one of the "Scream" prints, a sorrowful black-and-white one that had a handful of watercolor lines painted into it, I made a comment to one of my companions: "Oh, look! It's the Paint-By-Numbers 'Scream'."

The look of death that I received from the man across from me could have killed if we'd stood there any longer. So my friend and I ducked and, basically, ran.

As I said, I'm not a Munch expert, but I hope the man himself would have at least tried to suppress a smile. Because art that doesn't leave room for humor? What good is that?

(I don't know where I was going with that story or even if it relates to your thoughts, but I've bookmarked you, too.)

7:31 PM  
Blogger Jonny said...

I feel my blog name is boring.

9:24 PM  
Blogger Michael Arthur said...

Never. However, if you're looking to change, you could go with . . . uhm . . . Janelleinabucket? no. uhm . . . Big Momma? No, you're too demure for that. And Sonnet's working that one nowadays anyway. Let's see . . . "Uptown-J?" Hmmph. I kind of like that one . . .

11:20 PM  
Blogger Michael Arthur said...

Also, Special-k--if they can't handle the truth about art, they shouldn't be in a museum. The prints, by the way, are my favorites. Not too keen on the paintings.

He'd have had a good time with Photoshop.

11:22 PM  
Anonymous Laura said...

Hooray for the new blog!

4:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Get to work on Oliver's tree.
Great Blog.
Natalee

7:43 PM  
Blogger Michael Arthur said...

Jeez. The paying customers can be testy.

I'm working on it.

10:52 PM  
Blogger Dru Morgan said...

Nice drawings. They remind me a lot of Jerry Garcia's stuff.

12:02 AM  

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