Monday, April 7, 2014

looking, staring, gazing, sitting, standing transfixed

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

- Pablo Picasso

Well, you've heard that before, and probably here, as well. But, oh, it does, it does!

When we walked into our house upon returning, Chloe turned to me and said, I miss the art already! And then we laughed, because we looked around the house and there's quite a bit of art here.

Here, above, is Chloe, a street before the Met, where we spent our first day. (We also spent our last day there - and still didn't see everything, which is the beauty of the place). We'd taken Chloe there when she was 10 years old, and now she is nearly 16, so it was quite wonderful to see it all again with her.

Next: some random samplings of some of the many treasures:

When we went with Chloe the first time, we looked at the Egyptian area first, which leads to the Temple of Dendur.

You have to love the graffiti from 1820:

Here is Rob looking mellow:

And Chloe looking sphinx-like:

One of the highlights of the last trip was seeing this Vermeer. (You can read my previous Vermeer related posts here).

Still an emotional experience.

This time, Chloe sat down in the room for quite a while and sketched the Vermeers. At one moment, she's quite alone, and the next a group swarms her.

And here I am, bad hair and all:

Rob taking a moment to look at the floor plan of the Met:

Chloe, sketching again.

I think this is my favourite photo of Rob. The way he's dressed in black, his hand echoing the hand in the painting. 

Paint records the most delicate gesture and the most tense. It tells whether the painter sat or stood or crouched in front of the canvas. Paint is a cast made of the painter's movements, a portrait of the painter's body and thoughts. 

- James Elkins

This is something Chloe and I talked about while looking at various paintings. Pollocks, Twomblys, Monets, Mitchells. But also as it pertains to Vermeer, Rembrandt, Hals.

Rob once got a letter from someone who'd looked at his paintings online asking why there were no brushstrokes, but of course there are if you look closely, and in person. His technique in no way resembles an airbrushed effect.

So, the first day at the Met, even though we'd been there before, and knew how vast it was and that we'd come back another day, still, there is this feeling of anxiety - one begins to hyperventilate, wanting to get around to see more, more......impossible to see it one day. We made a point of spending time, looking at particular paintings we love. (Who knows why you love one painting more than another, and why this changes over time, or doesn't change).

I envy people who can just walk into the museum, once a week, say, and head to their favourites. There's an article by James Elkins where he asks, how long does it take to look at a painting?

From the article:

"Looking for a long time is not the usual way people see artworks. The usual interaction with an artwork is a glance or a glimpse or a cursory look. What I have in mind is a different kind of experience: not just glancing, but looking, staring, gazing, sitting or standing transfixed: forgetting, temporarily, the errands you have to run, or the meeting you're late for, and thinking, living, only inside the work. Falling in love with an artwork, finding that you somehow need it, wanting to return to it, wanting to keep it in your life."

"There have been a number of surveys of how visitors interact with paintings in museums. One found that an average viewer goes up to a painting, looks at it for less than two seconds, reads the wall text for another 10 seconds, glances at the painting to verify something in the text, and moves on. Another survey concluded people looked for a median time of 17 seconds. The Louvre found that people looked at the Mona Lisa an average of 15 seconds, which makes you wonder how long they spend on the other 35,000 works in the collection. A survey at the Metropolitan Museum of Art supposedly found that people look at artworks for an average of 32.5 seconds each, but they must not have counted the ones people glance at."

And then, here we are, from latitude 53, Canada, trying to drink in as much as we can, in a limited time. At times sipping, at other times gulping, gasping for air in between.

The light in the sculpture hall was so beautiful.

I might have 800 more photos in the coming week to show you....but for this morning, this piece, one of Chloe's favourites from the trip by Ellsworth Kelly. 

(And here she is on the walk back to our apartment-hotel).


  1. Oh lucky, lucky you. Thanks for the sneaks peeks into your trip :). Standing in front of a painting you love does fill you up so full that it leaves very little room, even for breath. How wonderful.

  2. You are so Lucky Shawna; You, chloe, and Rob to have fully enjoyed those rare
    moments with fine arts, beauty and harmony. I liked the pictures, the quotes and
    your spontaneous comments so much... I dare say, innocently, you are a family
    of real artists... with good tastes, love of beauty and Calm Things as well, in an
    artistic, inspiring atmosphere. Thank you so much again for sharing your
    wonderful journey with us... Keep up the creative job!

  3. Indeed - very lucky. Thanks to you both!

  4. Shawna, have you seen the little movie Tim's Vermeer? It is so worth it for a photographer and a Vermeer fan.

    1. I was just reading about this before we left....thanks for mentioning. I'll for sure look for it!

  5. Love the pix, especially the Chloes in front of the coloured panels. What a wonderful trip.


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