The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Friday, October 18, 2013

Art? What is it good for? Absolutely somethin'!

       What is art? Is a canvas that is simply painted black, but with some texture that art? Is a large, mounded-up circle of rocks--is that art? Is a chair art?

       According to the St. Louis Art Museum, all of the above is considered art worthy of a display. And if you were to engage in a hands-on activity to create a bit of modern art, perhaps your definition of what is "art" might be transformed...

      Last Saturday I spent four hours at the museum with my granddaughter. A huge addition to the museum is no longer particularly new for our city but it was new to me. One of my favorite pieces--"Keith"--is too large to have always been displayed in the past, but now has a permanent place to hang his head on. I was eager to see him again.

     Oh, you've never met Keith? Here he is.

"Keith" by Chuck Close

      This snapshot that I stole off the internet because I cannot find the USB cord for my phone and I've tried a multitude of cords, trying to jam them into the phone's orifice, to no avail does not do the piece justice. It's a self-portrait by Chuck Close (yeah, I know, I'm not sure why it has that title) , is huge-huge-huge and looks like a photograph. You can see the pores of his skin, individual whiskers--it's amazing. (Chuck Close is now paralyzed--a quadriplegic, I believe--but still creates art. It's different, but cool nonetheless.)

       Before dragging Riley to the new wing so we both could spray spittle all over the place in excitement, she did some sketches of pieces that caught her eye. Anselm Kiefer's enormous sculpture titled "Breaking of the Vessels," inspired by Kristallnacht (the "Night of Broken Glass" in Germany) was the first. She spent almost half an hour painstakingly recreating Kiefer's work with pencil and paper.

      Oh, you haven't seen this piece, either?  Take a gander...and then keep on reading.

Anselm Kiefer's "Breaking of the Vessels"

       What you cannot see (very clearly) is that this sculpture is surrounded by broken glass all over the floor. Kiefer came and installed it, after questioning their choice of placement (museum muckety-mucks had chosen a spot on an upper floor, and this piece is massively heavy). "Are you sure this is where you want it?" he asked. Once in place, the officials (probably all men ;) determined the piece needed more support and needed to be moved to the main floor. Kiefer refused to fly back, (I imagine he at least was thinking, 'I told you so.') so the staff had to meticulously diagram where every shard of glass was on the floor and then rearrange it in the same way in its (now permanent--whew) new home. 

     I used to think that ultra-modern pieces like paintings made simply with squares of blue and red and yellow arranged on a white canvas--I used to think they weren't really "art." I mean, how hard could that be? If I had a ruler or some masking tape, I could do it. But when I took a "Teaching Art" class to become a teacher, the instructor took our scoffing selves and gave us each an envelope full of construction paper rectangles and squares--red, blue and yellow ones--and told us to create a piece of art. My snarky self thought it would take seven seconds...and yet twenty minutes later, I was still arranging and rearranging the pieces. It certainly wasn't as easy as I had thought.

      It was a wonderful way to spend our day, and perhaps some day, when I find the cord that can be properly jammed into my phone, allowing me to retrieve the pictures I took, I will share my own photos.

     How do you define art?