Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Art Of Obsession

I've been silent for a long time now. Not because I have nothing to say. Well, maybe because I have nothing to say. I don't know. I just know that my stressful life continues to be stressful, but probably no worse than the next guy's. And stress generally makes me quiet.

When I get too stressed I retreat. I retreat into my books, my music, myself. During these times I tend to become intensely interested in something that has never really interested me before. Intensity bordering on obsession. I can't count all of the subjects that have caught my attention, occupied my every waking thought, every moment of my day not absolutely required to sustain my family and me. And I approach each obsession identically. I read. I read everything I can get my hands on about the subject. Most people who develop an interest in gardening tend to go to the local nursery, pick out a few plants, buy a trowel, a box of fertilizer and go dig a hole. They may watch a few episodes of Victory Garden or pick up a gardening magazine. I did all that. But not before I bought out my local Barnes & Noble bookstore gardening section. Last count, I had 40+ gardening books.

These go with my 60+ cookbooks, my 20+ books on sewing and tailoring, etc., a bigger selection of poetry books than my Barnes & Noble, and god knows how many books about specific periods of time in British or American history.

I have a new obsession. Something I never really thought much about before. Art History. I don't know what triggered this fascination. All I know is thanks to my "square-headed boyfriend" (my spouse's pet name for my MacBook) the history of art is at my feet, or at least my fingertips. I've found some of the most amazing resources, galleries, museums, etc. on line. So much information in fact, that I've only bought a handful of books. (Well only a handful if we don't count the ebooks and audiobooks. But those don't count. At least to me.)

This is still a fairly new obsession. I am a novice. But I am fascinated and it seems like I fall in love with a new artist daily. I would like to share some of my findings and tie them to my other obsessions in the Liar. But I promise nothing.

I will at least share a couple of observations I have made so far - predominately about my own personal taste.

1. I thought I liked Impressionist art. I don't think I do though. Too blurry. (I have learned quite a bit of real art-related terminology - contrapposto, staffage, tenebrism - but I still find that words like "blurry", "bright" or "fuzzy" work for me.)

2. Like a magpie, I am drawn to bright colors and shiny things. So specific artistic periods or movements - Rococo, Orientalism, Pre-Raphaelite - have caught my attention and my imagination so far.

3. Throughout history it was OK to paint naked women and children (and naked men to a lessor degree) and not be accused of pornography, as long as you gave the naked people common mythological names. An artist fond of painting nudes could paint to their heart's content as long as the pictures bore the name of Leda, Callisto or Diana. Name them Nessie, Mabel or Betty and the same painting was deemed unsuitable for polite society.

4. Religious-themed art seems to be the most violent. And often the darkest. Especially Christian art. Like actual religion, I've yet to see much in this artistic genre that appeals to me.

5. To appreciate art, just like appreciating life, go with what catches your attention. What makes you stop, pause and rethink everything you've thought up to that point. Then take the time to take a closer look. Try and determine exactly what it is about a particular piece that appeals to you. What speaks to you. Read what the experts say about the particular artist or the particular piece of work. But don't let their words color your opinion. Art truly is in the eye of the beholder. It speaks to you or it doesn't. An "expert's" opinion can't change that.

Here is a small sampling of what speaks to me. I will try and explain why next time.

A Woman in a Turban - Anne-Louis Girodet Trioson

Self Portrait (1835) - Emile-Jean-Horace Vernet

Temptation (1880), William Adolphe Bouguereau

The Painter's Honeymoon (1864) - Frederic Leighton

The Rape of Europa (1734) - Fran├žois Boucher

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