“We ought to walk through the rooms of our lives not looking for flaws, but looking for potential.” Ellen Goodman
I walked through many windowless rooms last night; some with one entrance and others with multiple. I found the bridge I was looking for and the blue boat which I didn’t know I needed to find. Thursday night the Art Institute opens its doors to Illinois residents. It’s a free pass to wander, linger, or race at your leisure. I have never been to the Art Institute by myself.
I studied art in high school and some in college. Of all the museums in Chicago, I feel the most at home at the Art Institute. My inspiration to go there last night came from a blog follower. Kathy’s comment below queued the outing to the top of my winter bucket list.
I don’t normally have Thursday nights free and I was excited to get out. I’m currently grounded from yoga and walking the dogs and was desperately in need of being around people. I loved listening in on their conversations, watching them react and interact with the art. As I intended to do, I spent some time with Monet and imagined the serenity that would be found by standing on that bridge surrounded by such glorious flora. I moved from the lily pads and the bridge to the haystacks, a series painted in different seasons and different light, though still, it seemed so alive to me.
My phone ready in my right hand, I took pictures of my favorite paintings. I found myself honing in one part of the painting that I thought could stand alone. When I came home last night and watched The Crown, the episode when the House of Commons and House of Lords commissions a portrait of Churchill, I picked up my phone and examined my pictures. I found I spent the night pulling parts of paintings and even of sculptures, carvings, and furniture, and focusing on the humanness of each piece. I even inadvertently took a picture of myself.
I spent the first part of my evening looking through the eyes of John Singer Sargent, one of my favorite portrait artists, Mary Cassatt and Georgia O’Keefe, Renoir, Rossetti, Degas, Rosenthal, Charles Courtney Curran, Winslow Homer, Walter Shirlaw, William Bradford, Thomas Eakins, Thomas Wilmer Dewing, Frank Weston Benson, and more. Every artist interprets the person, or scene, as he or she sees it. It’s an entirely different experience than looking in the mirror where we see ourselves as we want to be seen. In my case, coming across the selfie, inadvertent or not, my reaction was I don’t look like that! Of course, I don’t, because the selfie is in conflict with my own perception of self. Now I am not going to burn my phone. Though that is precisely what was done with Churchill’s portrait when faced with an illustration that he was not the strong man he or his wife believed himself to be.
What the evening so pleasantly reminded me of, is my own talent. While I didn’t pursue a fine arts degree, I did love to draw and paint. Last week, my mom and I came across this sketch that I did when I was in high school.
As I doubled back through the Impressionist Gallery, I happened upon this painting last night. I recalled the field trip to the Art Institute senior year when we needed to spend part of our time there drawing. I probably spent an hour sketching this painting.
Twenty-eight years later, I still love the blue, specifically Cerulean blue (Cobalt stannate). Because of Monet’s use of the color and placement, an overcast day is warmed by the presence of that boat.
From bridges to boats and paintings and portraits, art is all around us. We don’t have to go to a museum to appreciate it. My writing is the current form of artistic expression that brings me joy, but a doodle here and there, an occasional sketch, and photographs, still do, too. Last night was so gratifying because I opened myself to the experience of going alone. I found so much company, real, artificial, photographed, painted, sketched, and sculpted. With all that busyness, I just fell in. I didn’t need to worry about how I was perceived. Nor did I have time. I was busy making my own interpretation, evidenced by portraits excerpted from an array of paintings.