Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Van Gogh, Picasso, not eye candy

I am addicted to eye candy. I love the photography in fashion and shelter magazines, I even occasionally read the wedding announcement pages of the New York Times -- that's BAD. I'm addicted to a brain candy too, the NY Times Sunday puzzle, The Wall St. Journal Friday puzzle and the simple after dinner mints of New York Magazine's puzzle. Ear candy? Well, I do like Strauss's polkas and almost all of Gottschalk's music.
But the main course is always better than the quick bite of candy even though the sugar rushn is nice. The main course in eye food is a good art show. It can be a quilt show were I'm challenged to pick the exciting out of the competent; it can be a gallery show with just a few pieces by an artist I never heard of before. It can be a major show at major museum.
Yesterday was a feast. A pure feast of a fall day, blue sky, warm but not hot, a walk across Cental Park to the Met, stopping on a bench to eat a sandwich and watch the dog and baby walkers. I was bound for the show about the art dealer Vollard who knew and handled everybody from Van Gogh to Picasso. A big, important show, a crowd pleaser -- and there WAS a crowd but not as dense as dense as I feared.
Such shows usually have a few things that I've never seen, either in museums or books, or that I have seen in books but now see "for real." Here were some very familiar Van Goghs, but also three hanging together, as apparently they had once and only once before: two views of a bridge over a narrow river amid spring verdure of and between them a young woman in a field of luxurious grasses. Van Gogh's work when I first meet a painting [not once it's too familiar from reproducions) is pure emotion, pure presence of that moment. These three were A Spring Day to me. Fresh, lucious, abundant.
I won't mentional the astonishing list of painters represented. At the other end of the time period was a cubist painting Picasso did of the dealer, all in grays. A picture I'd never seen in any book, owned for years by a Russian collector. It was understandable, a complex picture of a complex man, an example of cubism I could really love looking at.
Many others are already puddling together in my mind; but those four -- and, oh yes, a Starry Night of Van Gogh's that I had never seen before. Not the manic one with the tortured cypresses we all know and are astonished by, but a slightly earlier one, below is
a bridge over a dark river, and above, the stars, points of pure color dabbed directly from the tube. This is the glory of a clear night sky in a place where pollution in the air and pollution by city lights have not intruded. A picture about being in love with the miracle of glimpsing a sparking universe.
Those I will remember; those have enriched today and made me happy I am in this great city and can decide, when I find I have a free afternoon, to go see something wonderful.
Last week I read in one of the Artful Quilters blogs that in order to become a quilt artist, one must look at great art. The idea is not to imitate suject or style but to know that art is as much about emoton as idea. Technique, of course, one must be competent and capable but art is not manipulation of material and color; art is to communicate through maniupulation of matureal and colors.

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