Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Having made a commitment to "practice" going to a gallery once a week, or, in the least possible situations, at least look for an hour at one of my many art books, I have really enjoyed in the last month a re-invigorating feeling in all of my expression. Visual art is something I have strangely overlooked (pun intended) in the last few years, mostly due to writing and to any photography I have been doing directed toward Miksang. Side benefits come from both, yes, but the direct act of looking at any visual art unconnected with my teaching or learning fell by the wayside. And now the wayside is the highway. Yum.

This week has been a flurry of art. Last week in LaCrosse my students and I saw some especially funky pieces. One was a gum tree (featured at top with Marolyn). It's interactive art - you pick off one of the pieces and chew it, then add it to the stump to make a new sculptural element.

Then, I came home on Saturday and, not feeling I had had "enough" art, I leafed through a book I've been meaning to read since Dylan gave it to me last year - Shock of the New, based on the series from BBC about turn of the century and 20th century art. The series I had taken out from the library years ago and it really turned my understanding of Impressionism around - from being bored by the Lillies of Monet to literally seeing just how radical that time was, and still can be, for us, visually. I read all about how the Impressionists direct influenced the Surrealists in funny ways, then, in a very immediate overlap, the Surrealists came over to NYC to escape the bitter war(s) and hit head on with the Expressionists. What a lineage, as Nat would say. The early paintings of Pollock, for instance, are dream-like and contain many more figures and "ideas" of a direct conceptual way than his later work (which is what he is better known for) express. Of course he had a lot of "proper" art training, so that's where I figured (in the past) those faces and shapes had come from. But fitting them in with this transition makes far more sense - in the way that any Surrealism can make sense.

Then, just when I thought I might be full, I attended the opening for the Museum of Material Culture, in the Commonwealth Gallery, here in Madison, just down the street from me. The blend of archaeology, psychology and art is fantastic. It's a very subtle show, but engaging. I wrote a review of it for Dane 101 (which can be found here, with photos).

Watching as my impressions of particular kinds of art, my preferences and ideas, meld away into something that can come out expressed in my own writing or cartoons (the main kind of visual art I am doing nowadays) is fun. Enriching my own lineage. What a great practice to have!

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