If you’ve ever been to the Art Institute, MoMA, Chicago’s MCA or any art museum, you no doubt have ambled by a group of adults or kids who are in front of a particular work of art and there’s a docent explaining some particular aspect of a painting, sculpture, or artifact. If you listen closely you can get in on the guide’s expertise.
I meander up to as many groups as I desire just to hear what the man or woman is pointing out. I’m amazed what I can pick up about a particular painter or sculptor. Now the fun part is if you already know about a particular artist and what the guide is pulling from the work.
Very often I hear about shapes, the repetition of angles and most often light and how it is used to emphasize a framed masterpiece. Case in point, when I was in MoMA in New York recently, I happened to stop by one of the most famous paintings in the world – Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night.”
Vincent van Gogh painted “Starry Night” in 1889 during his stay at the asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. Van Gogh lived well in the hospital; he was allowed more freedoms than any of the other patients. If attended, he could leave the hospital grounds; he was allowed to paint, read, and withdraw into his own room. He was even given a studio. While he suffered from the occasional relapse into paranoia and fits – officially he had been diagnosed with epileptic fits – it seemed his mental health was recovering.” (www.vangoghgallery.com).
The crowd was a minimum of some 30 odd art lovers trying to not only take selfies with van Gogh’s signature painting while trying to hear the information they were privy to listen to while the guide spoke.
It was as fascinating to see as watching a torcedor roll a cigar for the first time in say, Honduras, Nicaragua, or the Dominican Republic. Now, without sounding too egotistical, I am very familiar with the painting so hearing what I already know repeated in the discussion gave me a sense of empowerment that gave my ego a boost.
Same with the cigar roller. I’ve seen the process dozens of times and I always notice that some people are completely mesmerized by the dexterity of human hands and pay very close attention to his or her every move.
Others – and I observed this with both the van Gogh and the cigar roller – are not hypnotized by what is being explained or the skills of the roller. I used to get so annoyed that I used to think, “Look at those assholes. The know-it-alls.”
But that’s not the case at all. Oh sure, it may be that way for a few, but I’ll bet you those who are not magnetized to the museum’s speaker or the roller are either quite familiar with the artwork or the intricate process of making a cigar. So they begin taking in other things around them. I wish I had the nerve to ask them why they aren’t listening or watching, but I just keep my mouth shut. I keenly observe their actions.
And since I find myself oftimes in the latter group, I have discovered that I still learn – but just about something else that’s indirectly related. I love to watch people and I find that their immediate attention is what I find so fascinating at the time and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Like when I took the shot of the painting, I was able to weasel my way right to the front of the group, take the picture and move on to other artists’ work in the gallery that caught my attention. Why? Most of the people weren’t paying attention to me.
Same way with the rollers. I often find myself not so much focused on the skills of the torcedor, but rather the face of the individual doing the rolling. Is he or she bored, engrossed in the process, or feeling electric because he or she has the rapt attention of so many people? That must feel fantastic.
And it does.
I get such a rush when I write. I’ve seen people struggle with creating a letter or getting a homework assignment completed and it seems to take them an eternity. Not fun. For me the more complex, the more I get out of the end result. It’s what makes this blog so much fun to write. I get this intellectual and rapturous physical surge creating it.
I hope you’re one of those who get high when reading it. Thank you.