Thursday, November 15, 2007

An Exploration of Art...Including a Picasso...But Not a Garfunkel

Sorry, Barenaked Ladies fans. I couldn't resist adapting some lyrics for the title.

I cannot believe that I have lived in this area for so many years and claim to support the arts but have never visited the Cincinnati Art Museum. Well, there was that one time "Wanda" and I visited her mother when she worked in the museum restaurant, but seeing as how I didn't check out a single painting, and instead made a beeline for the kitchen to eat a ham sandwich, I'm pretty sure it doesn't count.

I had my chance yesterday and pounced on it. The advanced art students were going there on a field trip, and per museum rules, there had to be one chaerone per 10 students, so I was asked to tag along. I don't know what took me so long; it's well-organized, not overwhelming, and the best's free! How did hubby and I not go there for a date when we were poor high-school kids?

Even more so than the original works of art gracing the walls and display cases, I was most impressed by how intelligently and knowledgeably our upper-level art students could talk about what they were seeing. I had humanities classes in college, and know a little about the major movements and most famous artists, but when it comes to discussing line, medium, and brush clue. These students could and did. And they were talking about how they were going to try this technique and that technique and this palette and that palette and pointed out the paint thickness to each other and compared their own styles to what they saw. Meanwhile, I stood in front of the paintings my un-artistic brain told me were"pretty".

I did find myself very moved by some of the works. Cassatt is one of my favorites, and I stood in front of a beautiful painting she did of a mother holding her infant with its head peeking over her shoulder and almost cried at the rawness of the love she somehow expressed with a brush and some oils. Meanwhile, the talented kids, who the docent said had "good taste", were gathered in silent awe around a painting that did little for me emotionally, but that had drawn the art kids in from all the way across the room before they ever even saw who painted it: Van Gogh. The last painting he completed, in fact. While I can appreciate that, I would much rather stand in silent awe around the Cassatt. And another mother/child painting done by a "minor" painter I had never heard of in that same room. I guess for most of us art is very subjective and personal.

The one room I didn't enjoy was the modern art room. It featured a Picasso, and again, while I can appreciate it for what it is, I didn't think it was much to look at. The kids, of course, ate it up. In fact, many said that that room, with its examples of Cubism, Surrealism, and a few other "isms" I completely don't get, was most like their work and most like what they saw themselves doing this year. Personally, I find my daughter's doodles and drawings of people with huge heads and bug-like bodies to be more impressive and inspiring, but I guess that's to be expected from someone who can't even draw a convincing lollipop tree.

I've told Jason I want to go there on a family date soon and spend a little more time browsing the rooms we didn't hit and revisit some of my favorites. We need something a little more cultural on a Saturday than trying to beat Guitar Hero III and falling asleep during Academy-Award-nominated-but-boring-as-hell Netflix rentals.

And maybe, just maybe, I'll see in a second visit what those talented eyes saw in the Van Gogh and the Picasso.

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