Tuesday, May 22, 2012

looking at art

Maybe the most interesting part of a trip is when you get home, and you have to fit yourself back into the place you're from, (a place where they install public art awkwardly by Freeways, fair game for vandals, and then surround it with ugly orange mesh plastic fences to keep the vandals out) with all these new things that you've experienced when away.  They're invisible, right, no one knows what you saw, or how things changed you.  And they slip from you pretty quickly - these small revelations, those moments of awe, and then even the bits of inspiration and dissatisfaction that you feel at precisely and exactly and delightfully painfully the same time. In the back of my mind the whole time we're cruising around the museums, I'm thinking that I must do more, create more.  Stop wasting time, you know. (I'm talking to you Facebook).  And to hell if anyone else likes it, or that I've only managed to sell 33 copies of Hive.  Such a puny number for all the work, all the years that went into it.  

I should probably mention that one of the books I read while away was Salinger's Franny and Zooey.  I read this book in my early twenties and it blew my mind then, and I think I'll always have a huge soft spot for it. I think it completely changed my life, that book.  And you don't necessarily know that sort of thing until 20 some years later.

But okay, more about that later. The photos above are at the NGA again.  A nice little shady sitting area to the left of the front of the building.

Two of the paintings I most wanted to see are above.  Vermeer's Girl with the Red Hat.  And Judith Leyster's self-portrait.

I think one of the most satisfying parts of the trip was to watch my 13 year old daughter look at art.  The painting by Murillo of Two Women at a Window, was her favourite painting, and we visited on two of our three visits to the NGA.  (The Vermeers were beautifully located near the front door, so they were looked in on, on all three occasions).

 She also enjoyed the Van Goghs, and numerous other paintings.  I was surprised by how long she could look at a painting.  We've been dragging her around to museums and galleries for years by now - she's been to NYC, to Amsterdam and The Hague, and even when she was little and we took her to Disneyland, we also dragged her to see the Getty Museum in L.A. Recently we were at the Art Gallery of Alberta where there was a so-so example of a Cezanne, and Rob asked her what she thought of it.  Her response was, ehh, I've seen better.  And you know, she has.

The other beautiful thing about visiting an actual gallery instead of looking at art in reproduction, in books and on the web, is, well, obviously, you get to see the colours - which can vary pretty wildly in reproductions, and depending, of course on your computer screen. And the scale.  You know how small the Vermeer picture of the girl in the red hat is.  You've read the dimensions - 9.1 x 7.1 inches.  But it never really sinks in until you're in the same room with it.  

Here's a painting, below, that I never had in my head properly.  Partly because in art history classes, you're concentrating on the girl on the swing

And then there's a painting like Thiebaud's cakes, which I've looked at a million times in reproduction, but imagined it to be much smaller.  So when you see the texture of the cake, and they're about the size of real cakes, maybe a bit bigger? - it's just such a delight.   

This is the underground walkway between the East building and the main gallery.  It could have been an ordinary, dull space, but instead it was pure magic.  Which I'm not sure if the photo really conveys, but it really was a lovely sparkly experience.

Another nice touch is this fountain with hibiscus flourishing in front.

 The photo below is on the front steps of the NGA.  One of my favourite photos of the entire trip.


  1. How very fortunate your daughter is to be "dragged around" to see such magnificent art all over the world!! AND thank you for sharing with us at home so we enjoy vicariously. It is motivating me to want to go to an art museum again very soon.

  2. Glad you've enjoyed the posts, Edna. I was a very inspiring trip for us all : )


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