Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Hotpads on the Train

For my birthday, my husband and I took a little trip.  I wanted to see the Food exhibit at the American History Museum, primarily, and then we took in some other sights.  At the Food exhibit, I was entranced by Julia Child's kitchen, her range of equipment and workstations and random little bits. 

My first plan for any trip is my handwork.  This time, I took along a set of hotpads for the train ride.  I handstitched the binding on the back, and then I quilted their squares with red perle cotton.  At first I felt a little shy being without a screen of some sort. 

But one of the things I was pondering as I stitched was the value of looking at art in a museum.  My husband and I had spent a fair amount of time at the National Gallery.  I love art on my walls at home, where I can get cozy with it and it becomes part of my mental landscape and definition, but what is the value of looking at a painting for 5 seconds in a museum, and repeating this for hours? 

Stereotypically, I think of viewing art as improving my mind, but now I am examing that assumption.  I'd love for you to chime in and tell me what you think!

I think in order for me to extract meaning from viewing art, I need some history and artist biography to place the art in context before I can start gleaning inspiration for my life from its artistry. I mean, there are some pieces of art where I am so in awe that I make a resolution to try harder at my interests to see if there is some excellence in me, too. Then, more commonly for me, there are some pieces of art that give me new color palettes or clothing ideas.  I am, at heart, a pragmatic person.

I think I need a capelet.

And those hotpads? - they're in the shop.


Sew Blessed Maw [Judy] said...

What a fun birthday.. and I love art too..
Your hot pads are cute too..[would be a pretty quilt with all that yellow]

Lisa said...

You have a point, Margo. Right now I'm very excited that Caravaggio is visiting in Hartford and we plan to go this month. In fact, a man came in the library today and said he'd just been to it - loved it! But, yes - you just spend a few minutes in front of a painting.

My brother, who would paint if he had more time, has an analytical way of looking at art, and he notices a lot of particulars. I'm more the emotional sort. I just stand in front of it and feel amazed or whatever.

Years ago, I enjoyed the Sister Wendy art series on tv; she advocated spending a long time in front of a painting - not to study it, but to let it speak to you, more or less. It isn't always possible if you're there with other people.

You Can Call Me Jane said...

I agree with you, Margo. I love having pieces in my home that mark milestones, were created by friends or were handed down to me from relatives. Just going to a gallery and choosing something because I like it seems frivolous to me. And, as much as I loved going to art museums in my younger days, now I prefer taking in a view on a hike, sitting by a lake or snapping a photograph of an everyday moment. I suppose I see art differently now.

jenny_o said...

I hardly know whether to offer my opinion since the last time I saw a piece of art outside our home was at the local hospital, where they hang the work of local artists along one corridor ... I lack culture :)

But I know what I like, and those are the ones we have on our walls.

Such cheery hotpads! Love the colours together.

Unknown said...

Before the internet where you could view so much art anytime, I think galleries and museums were a way to see art - new and old, types, styles, techniques, etc. I always thought viewing art was an inspiration: places, people, colors - all seen though the eyes of someone else. Do you see what they see? Something new? Is a thought expressed/created there...I'm not as intrigued by abstract art because it is all about basic emotions to colors and shapes. I like the more complex ideas - political statements, love, battles, etc.

But, the artist I want in my home - the one I have prints of on my walls - is Claude Monet. Peaceful and pretty is something I can look at all day long : )

A said...

One way to think of their value is to think of what our options would be without them.

Prior to museums (and copiers, for that matter) the only art available was original art, and the only people whou could view it were the wealthy people had the ability to buy it.

Museums front the money and the space so that the pieces can be kept and saved to be viewed by all.

Also, while one can technically now scroll down through pictures of paintings on the internet, or more pleasantly, flip the pages of a book, a museum provides the experience of something grand. Almost a shrine to creative endeavor. It provides the experience of an afternoon in a cool, grand building devoted solely to soaking in inspiration. (Remember the Hermitage on cloudy days?)

The best is when one lives in the same city as a museum--when it is not a few minutes once a year, but a place one can regularly go to weave it into one's life.

For me the larger question is, what creativity is missed because it does not fit the parameters for the shrine---is not a rectangle, or in the right frame, or by the right person? I love musuems but want to make sure I remember ways to experience art spread much larger and to seek out who forms those may be.

Rebecca said...

A capelet, huh? We had one of those in the dress-up box when I was a girl. I always thought it was a child's cloak but now I see the picture...dang. Maybe you do need a capelet.

I guess I'm a Romantic. I think it's enough to stand in front of all that Beauty and simply Absorb it. Surely it changes us for the better.

Polly said...

My museum approach is to NOT try to visit every gallery, every painting, etc. but to decide where to spend some time (otherwise I get exhausted and feel kind of assembly-line-ish). And I just sort of stand agog in front of genius. I have to have an emotional connection with a painting in order to really absorb it & make it 'my own.' (The paintings you chose for this post are beautiful....)

Llllllll.l said...

I can spend forever in an art gallery, just sort of visually grappling my way through each painting. I think I'm trying to figure out the technique and determine the context. Kind of like a riddle, I guess.

I feel about classical music concerts the way you feel about art museums. So weird to sit down and listen to music in isolation from life. It seems like it should be used for work, driving in the car, walking, jogging, or background noise.

Anyway, good post. - pgm