This month's "inspired by" post is about how museums enrich our experience of art. By putting art on display and offering a context for understanding it, we are encouraged to look beyond color and form.
Ken Price, Cubist cups; Katherine Westphal, crocheted vessels; necklace based on a color palette of Gustav Klimt painting; Boston Museum of Fine Arts
Museums are repositories of cultural greatness and their contents are chosen to reflect the highest forms of their class. When we go to museums we hope to be amazed, entertained, educated, enchanted, and/or amused. We may also find ourselves provoked, repulsed, offended, or disapproving of the artworks but if we investigate deeply, we will never be bored.
There are as many reasons to visit art museums as there are interests. Color, pattern, florals, form and materials all attract my attention, regardless of age or function. While it may not be the way a museum curator looks at art, I like going in search of all things French, cataloging color combinations from different eras or noticing how flower motifs differ across cultures. To each his own way of exploring!
Artists that challenge traditional thinking really engage my interest. For example, ceramic artist Arlene Shechet, has made a great variety of clay pieces by looking at not only the form she's creating but the left over parts, the molds and messes, the glazes and colors. She is fearless in trying out new ideas. As she says in a video interview accompanying her show at the ICA, "I must have a large tolerance for ugly... I want to create something that the viewer doesn't understand immediately, that makes them think "How and why?"."
Folk art toys at the International Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe
Art that delights and makes me feel a child-like awe are my favorite reasons for visiting museums. To lose myself in a world created from another's imagination is pure joy. Some people might find this feeling at an amusement park or designer shoe salon, but for me it is art that transports me from mundane to sublime.
I love being thoughtfully amused by art like these chairs (above) at the ICA in Boston. McMakin bought two chairs from an estate sale and reproduced them exactly out of wood and paint, copying every ding, dent and scuff mark. The used chairs were hung on the wall to be admired and the reproduction chairs were placed nearby for people to sit on. McMakin sought to "investigate our relationship with objects of daily use that engender memory and even affection".
The point was about how we differentiate art from ordinary items and our interaction with them, blurring the lines and allowing us to touch art in a way we don't usually experience.
Experiencing art that has been showcased by experts is why I find art museums inspiring. But you don't always have to understand the context to enjoy art - its OK to like something simply because its pretty!