OP-ED: Enjoy art and rise above the mundane – Observer-Reporter

Posted: December 16, 2019 at 5:46 am


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To become a maker is to make the world for others, not only the material world but the world of ideas that rules over the material world, the dreams we inhabit and dream together.

Established art museums around the world continue to draw large crowds. There is competition with one another to stage monumental exhibitions of works by classical masters and newer modern artists. Last month, within days after the Louvre in Paris announced the largest exhibit of Leonardo Di Vinci paintings and sketches ever assembled, over 260,000 advanced tickets were sold.

Recently, the Arab world has challenged Europe by becoming a new cultural center with The United Arab Emirates capital of Abu Dhabi investing in art museums. The Louvre Abu Dhabi opened in 2017, the Zayed National Museum is well underway, and plans for a branch of the Guggenheim have been announced.

If one is searching for a diverse cross-section of humanity, all participating in the same activity, an art museum is the ideal place to go. Whatever the nationality or language, or background, art naturally causes something to stir in the mind. The emotion may be curiosity, awe, or frustration at not being able to grasp the artists intent, but it awakens something in all of us.

Art has the ability to change perspectives, to look at life in different ways. Consider the different emotions one feels when viewing the enormous scale of Michelangelos Sistine Chapel; the minute details of Starry Night as envisioned by Van Gogh from his asylum room just before sunrise; the curious splatters created by Jason Pollock; or the political message embodied in Picassos epic mural Guernica. Each work so different, inspired by pure ideas and histories, born from a few supplies and a vision singular to the artist.

An art museum is a visual library with each painting telling a story. It is an impossible task to take in the entire collection, or even one floor. The average person spends 17 seconds looking at a work of art in a museum, intent on quantity over quality. Understanding each work of art requires the dedication to slow down, observe and interpret.

Experience has taught my wife and me to find a short term special exhibit that draws our attention and to read about the curators intent before seeing the paintings. We will often purchase the gift shop exhibition guide to help us along. Many of the exhibits we have attended in recent years are designed to focus on a certain period of an artists career or to show collaboration and inspiration among artists of the same period. All have left us energized and eager for more.

Over the years we have adopted one late Renaissance artist, Caravaggio, as our special favorite. We have scheduled a unique tour in Rome to view his work in small churches and always seek out his paintings wherever we travel. We have read about his boisterous lifestyle and can feel his spirit in his work, which influenced so many later artists.

So how can a family situated in Southwestern Pennsylvania learn to appreciate art? Most accessible are the local schools, art galleries and libraries that feature resident artists from time to time. Washington County has developed a thriving art colony over the years that is well represented in nearby venues.

A short drive will open a completely new level of exposure to viewing art. The Pittsburgh Frick Museum, The Carnegie Art Museum and the Andy Warhol Museum all offer excellent viewing experiences without being overwhelming. It is a good idea to sign up for the museum newsletters online to find out about ever-changing exhibits. Westmoreland County features a hidden jewel of an art museum, in Greensburg. It is truly a regional collection with a national presence.

For the more adventurous with a weekend to spend, New York City (The Met, MOMA, The Frick, among others); Philadelphia (The Barnes, The Museum of Art); and Washington, D.C. (The National Gallery, National Museum of Art, National Portrait Gallery) all offer world-class experiences. While any destination will be rewarded, our recent favorite is The Barnes, a new modern museum with outstanding lighting, which features one of the best impressionist collections to be found anywhere.

Lastly, on a cold winters night, when television reruns and cable news do not excite, there are excellent presentations of art from the worlds great museums on the internet. Staging a Michelangelo, Di Vinci, Van Gogh, or Picasso evening can be great fun, especially when accompanied by a biographical movie or National Geographic special about the painter.

Art appreciation takes some work. One must break away from what is habitual and ordinary in order to take in that which may not at first be clear. But the reward is a deep, mysterious and beautiful experience that one shares with all of humanity. According to Frederick Nietzsche: We have art in order not to die of the truth. In todays political climate, he may have been on to something.

Gary Stout is a Washington attorney.

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OP-ED: Enjoy art and rise above the mundane - Observer-Reporter

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December 16th, 2019 at 5:46 am

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