This past week I was in Chicago, a giant cultural leap forward from the small town that I currently occupy. This trip not only afforded me the opportunity to spend time with my brother and sister in law, but also to wander through the brand new Modern building of the Chicago Institute of Art.
I could go on for pages about how wonderful this new space is and what a beautiful building Chicago now has, and how great it is to see that art is flourishing, which stands in direct opposition to my myopic views on art as directly influenced by living in a one-horse town. Perhaps sometimes I am a bit too negative. This is not the point that I want to be exploring right now. When I have the chance to look at great art it makes me think. I have a few thoughts that are constants, and usually a new idea or two will crop up.
It is taking me far too long to get to the point here, I apologize. The point is this: should I, or anyone for that matter, take pictures of what they see at art galleries, to take with them? Should the experience of seeing a great work of art be something that is brought with a person wherever they go (via storage on a laptop or online gallery)?
There are so many connotations here that I can hardly stop to gather my thoughts. Let’s begin with the idea that art is to be taken with you when you go.
One takes a picture of a painting, or a sculpture or anything. First of all what is one expecting from this work of art? Is this sort of like portable “inspiration”? Does art have the ability to stir up thoughts when it is taken out of its “natural habitat” (being an art gallery)? What is an artworks “natural habitat”? If the painting is currently on display in Chicago, in that new building in that city in the summer and then travels the next week or better yet the next season to a museum in Seattle in the winter in a building that is of a completely different style of architecture…..will they both garner similar thoughts in the same person if they travel with the painting? How much does the location (which takes into account everything inherent in that word i.e. geographical location, climate, even the history of that area with regards to their general feelings of how arts and artists should be treated) affect how the viewer sees that work of art?
My point being how permanent is the experience of viewing art? Or better yet, how permanent should it be? This is, of course, ultimately up to the individual. This puts the “plastic” arts in quite a contrasting light than music. Or does it?
Perhaps bringing up more questions than answers is a really annoying way of going about things. The reason I am doing so is because I don’t even really know how I feel. I do believe that the object of art is to express what can not be expressed in words. That is the goal of the artist, no matter what medium they are working in I believe that this is the goal. We as artists are attempting to get to the root of the human experience. We are trying to create a universal language that can be perceived through any of the senses. As a musician should I expect my audience to be swept up in the moment while listening to one of my works and suddenly be driven to do great things, or feel one way or another? I suppose this would be the ultimate compliment, but am I thinking about it as I write? Absolutely not.
How much, as artists, can we expect our audience to take our works with them wherever they go? I know that I will never forget how I feel looking at the works of Pollack or Picasso. I can constantly turn over in my mind what those works conjure inside of me, and perhaps time and again I need to be reminded by looking at the painting again. Looking at it on my computer would certainly be a good way to spark those thoughts once again, but I can easily admit that the experience of viewing that work in that way will not even come close to the experience of viewing it for the first time in that clean, bright white room. The silence, the austere atmosphere of the gallery; all of these things add to the experience of the art.