Friday, May 1, 2009


While Husband slaves away in the office, I get to slave away going to museums until my work picks up here in a few weeks. Wednesday I spent the majority of my afternoon at the Hirshorn Musuem (which is the Smithsonian's contemporary art museum).

I decided that I love contemporary art for the way it makes me think. I felt like my brain was zooming for four straight hours while I was soaking in the art.

The first piece I absorbed was a video piece by Guido van der Werve. It is called Nummer Acht (#8) everything is going to be alright and at first I didn't connect at all with the piece, but I stayed, looking for something, even if nothing more than a little direction on what I want to do with my video piece this summer. But then it clicked. van der Werve, the man in the film, plods on ahead of a gigantic ice-breaking ship as it crashes through ice burgs and plows through the ocean. He seems oblivious to the craft at his heels. The whole thing took on a romantic notion of isolation. His stride seems ambitious, dangerous, and lonely, yet he seems almost like a stand-in for everyman who presses on despite peril. In this way, the film conveyed a great deal of hope and optimism amidst a backdrop that seems anything but bright.

Next I spent a great deal of time in the Hirshorn's figurative collection which had one work, Ron Mueck's "Untitled (Big Man)," that I studied last Winter in my contemporary art class. It's so gratifying to see things in real life after you study them. What I didn't realize was how absolutely enormous it is.

There was an amazing security guard down there. Some people just relish in their jobs, I wish everyone could. What I loved about him is that he had a passion for art. Most security guards I've come across in Museums know the layout of the show, but nothing much beyond that. Ask them questions about who painted what and when the artist was born and they give you a blank stare. Julian Schnabel? Haven't heard of him . . . But this guard was different.

I heard him first. He was talking to a bunch of inner city high school girls who were dismissing a work by Edward Kienholz and Nancy Redding Keinholz entitled, "In the Infield Was Patty Peccavi." There is deep symbolism in the installation if you take the time to figure it all out, which is exactly what the security guard was helping them to do. After they sussed the meaning out of the work he said, "Art is in your body. It's what you see, it is what is inside of you." A few minutes later I found the same few girls and this security guard looking at another work and I heard him talking about Freud. It was such a "Pass it on" moment I had to stop a moment and jot it down in my sketchbook before heading upstairs to look at the Louise Bourgeois exhibition.

She is another artist we studied in class last Winter, but I never got such a deep feel for her work and her mind than I did while taking in so much of her work all at once. There were a lot of sketches with these women/houses hybrid figures. After seeing so many of them I began to muse on the ways that women are very much like houses. In the act of being homemakers they in effect become the home. The house emotions for the entire family, they house the necessities and needs, the leisure and luxuries. They house everyone's schedules and everyone's hearts. In a very physical way they house their children and become the literal dwelling for these growing souls. It's an incredible; one I fell in love with.

Another of her works also impacted me. It is called, "Cell (Twelve Oval Mirrors" and I was absolutely fascinated by it. Of her own work Bourgeois said, "My sculpture is about the difficulty of communicating. It is about two people encountering each other, with this encounter watched by others. The mirrors do not give an exact reflection but a distorted one reflecting different perspectives of this scenario. It is about confronting yourself, knowing yourself, and liking yourself. We are all dealing with the individual verses society . . ." I thought it was so cool to see how she was seeming to exorcise insecurities, anxiety, fear etc, all of which were a large part of her personal history.

It gives me a thrill to feel like I stepped into the artist's head in someway, figured out their motivation, understood their mindset. This happened again when I saw her piece, "The Blind Leading the Blind." She was dubbed as one of the leading artists early on, and the work seems to be to be about her insecurity in feeling like she is a leader. Her work was so experimental even to her, it seemed strange that she was being any such sort of path breaker. I absolutely fell in love with Louise Bourgeous' work and felt myself infused with a new sense of art making.

1 comment:

mp said...

Mr Ostenson would be proud: sussing rocks

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