Friday, January 31, 2014

art washes away

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

- Pablo Picasso

You might remember me mentioning this article I wrote for the National Gallery Magazine a little while ago. 

Yesterday, Chloe, our daughter, and I went back to the show at the Art Gallery of Alberta to look at some of our favourites again. She has been between terms at high school, so it was nice to spend time with her. She's back at school today, first day of the new term. 

I love photographs taken in museum and art galleries. Obviously, the art never really looks as beautiful as it does in person, but there's something of the experience of looking at art in this setting that's possible to capture. I'm sure some think it's silly to take photos of themselves or loved ones in front of paintings - but it's a way of remembering where we were in time, what we were like, when we were looking. 

How the work was placed, how it's framed, the shadows the frame casts on the wall and sometimes on the painting itself. These are interesting to me. 

The people in the gallery, the noises they make, their gestures. How this affects our own experience of viewing the art. 

I'm no expert. I live in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and not New York City. Our access to historical art is limited and shows like this one are few and far between. 

In the painting below, furthest left, you can see the reflection from the screen which is outside the frame. Blue letters from a video describing a restoration process on yet another painting outside the frame.

The Bellini painting in the middle draws me right to it. In the photograph below, the shadows of the paintings on the wall, their reflection in the shiny floor, the blue wall, the bench (that I wished was placed in front of the Bellini and Botticelli) - are all part of the art viewing experience.

We enter another room of the gallery, but can't help glancing back to previous rooms. What we've seen previously, affects what we see next.

The museum guard respectfully attempts to stay out of my shot, but she, too, is part of the experience of viewing art. As we look, we're often watched, or feel as though we're being watched.

The experience of looking at art with another person, discussing what we've seen, questioning, admiring, and taking time - how pleasurable this is.

We come to certain details of paintings and are arrested. The gesture of the child's hand in this Madonna and Child, holding the bird casually, but also as a caress, held our attention. The bird could escape, it's not tightly held. A symbol of the soul, among other things.

Afterwards, lunch, at Zinc, the art gallery restaurant.

The dipping oils for the bread a colourful palette. (The curry flavoured one on the end is our favourite).

We ordered the fancy mac and cheese with sweet onions, black forest ham, and asparagus. Perfect.

And there's my beautiful girl. We spent a few hours together - so uplifting. Our souls had indeed been washed of the dust of everyday life.


  1. I saw this exact exhibit in Oklahoma City in November "Of Heaven and Earth: 500 years of Italian Paintings
    from Glasgow Museums." I was so excited that a Sandro Botticelli even found its way to OKC! My favorite painting in the entire show though was by Luigi da Rosi 'Overlooking a Canal' (the fishermen wives your daughter is musing on toward the end of your post.) It was a wonderful show, but how on earth did you manage to photograph it?

    1. Sandra - glad you like the post. Photographing is allowed at the AGA - just no flash. Very cool that you saw this show too!

    2. I love your captures of the artwork and your beautiful daughter side by side them. :) I had a chance to read your article and the exhibit description was lovely and thorough. My soul feels washed all over again. Thank you. :)

  2. oh my.
    do you realize how enchanting chloe is? LOLOL. well. of course you do. you're her mum.
    but she is. that delightful face. and her hair that at first one takes as a little hat of pink feathers!
    how wonderful when I realized it's 'chloe hair' !!! she is one unique and wonderful young lady.
    and secondly...
    i stood once in front of a masterpiece from the renaissance.
    i couldn't move. it was so exquisite. the skin tones. the pearls. the folds of velvet.
    it's like she could speak to me any moment.
    and to think the painter had to MAKE HIS OWN PAINT! before he could even begin creating that work of art.
    oh my.
    and i'm back to where i came in! LOL. xo♥

    1. aww, thanks, Tammy! I'll tell her you said so :)

  3. Your daughter is beautiful, so filled with youth and light!

  4. Beautiful. You have taken me on a calm journey... thank you. Your daughter's smile is so lovely. m.

    1. It was calm for us, too. Thanks, Mari! Will tell her you said so :)

  5. A beautiful exhibit with your beautiful girl! This post reminded me of "Museum Hours"... I finally got a chance to watch it last night!

    1. Glad you watched it! Slow but lovely, I thought.....

  6. Oh that Chloe - fresh and fun like a pink frosted cupcake. She looks so cute! I can hardly stand it! We have yet to get to this show, but can't wait, now that you have tempted me (again . . . read the article previously). Thanks for the reminder. Great post.

    1. I told her what you said - she thought it was so sweet! :) Would love to hear your thoughts on the show.


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