Seeing The Art in Person

I have often been amazed at how different things look when I see art work in person. The digital era has been an absolute miracle and has transformed the way we interpret our shared reality. But, there are still aspects of the art world that are more enjoyable and expressive when experienced in real time in front of the real thing. The art of Dance comes to mind. I love ballet and have seen some of the best in the world. I don’t think I would stand around moved to tears in front of a TV watching the Joffrey or the Russian or any performance of dance for that matter on an electronically generated screen. It just doesn’t have the same emotional impact as seeing the live dancers and hearing what goes on in the theater.

I think the same can be said about the world of fine art; especially paintings. When I was in my late teens I got to go to New York City for about six weeks and got to visit some of the best art galleries in the world. I remember going to the Metropolitan and seeing a whole room full of Van Gogh. That was an experience I will never forget. I remember seeing famous works by Monet, Degas, Cezanne and many of the Impressionists and having my way of thinking about everything I had learned up to that point challenged, changed and to some degree thrown right out the window. I also saw works at the Modern which took longer to sink in but had the same effect. Jackson Pollock was kind of hard to take at first glance but I sure got a lot better idea of what was going on then when I had only seen pictures in a book. Those paintings are more than a couple of inches think in many places and there is a guard standing around near by to make sure you don’t reach out and put your hands on them which for me was a very realistic temptation.

One of the things which can not be replicated in digital media is the size of some of these paintings. Those “Lilly Pads” by Monet are big. We’re talking eight by twenty feet and that’s just one of them. To see a whole room full of those masterpieces is like having the chance to go back in time and listen to Chopin or Liszt play their own pianos. It is astounding.

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