Monday, February 16, 2009

Art & Human Nature

We went to Chicago this weekend to watch the UAA Championships swim meet. Not that you can recognize him in this picture, but that's him in lane 5.

He and his teammates set 18 School Records, posted 12 NCAA Provisional Times, and established 223 Lifetime Bests. Not bad at all. He is a Sophomore this year and is really looking forward to next year's season. Now that the season has wrapped, we are looking forward to him doing well in the classroom too.

While we were in Chicago, we visited the Art Institute of Chicago. There are two magnificent lions that guard the entrance.

The lions are huge and stand on blocks, but their tails are within reach of everyone passing by. Countless thousands of hands have grabbed those tails and polished the bronze into a brassy glow.

Admission this month is free so the place was packed. Not all the displays were open and a lot of renovation is underway, especially in the modern art area.

Everyone has a different way of appreciating art. From the tactile youngsters who swing on the lions tails out front to the dedicated sketchers scribbling onto fat pads to the atmospherics all coiled up in front of their favorite masterpiece.

Art gets reaction and it's an interesting thing to witness. People crush forward and stare at Georges Seurat's pointillist masterpiece "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte".

It's an amazing piece that took two years to create. Looking closely enough, it's no more than a strange series of dots, just pocks of paint that resolve into an image only when stepping back from the canvas. The study of light and composition that made such a work possible leads directly through the years to our electronic renderings of dots of color that form the images we see on televisions from the comfort of a couch.

This one gets quite a reaction from most of the men who pass by it.

This is Antonio Mancini's "Resting". The woman's face, especially her eyes are very vivid and expressive. Her covers and bare bosom are softened. Magnificent work.

We also visited the Field Museum. We went with a guide through the Egyptian display. He was absolutely wonderful and made the place and all that history come to life. I don't think I've ever had such an entertaining tour of an exhibition before.

Upstairs, we saw this sculpture.

Like the lions tails before, a thousand hands had polished this poor woman's bosom to a brassy glow. From the rock and gem display across the building, I watched the people pass by the bronze woman and child. A pair of middle aged women took turns touching the metal breasts as they carried on a conversation. They might have had the same conversation in the produce aisle of grocery store. Then a teenager tentatively touched those stiff, shiny nipples. Then a very young child clutched the right one like a life preserver. His mother, mortified, called him away from the statue before anyone else could see.

I almost photographed this woman in the act of polishing this African warrior's butt with her left hand as she passed by him.

People need art and it serves many different purposes in our lives. I couldn't help but think that the artists who created each of these works would smile knowing the effect their art still has on us.


Technonana said...

Very Interesting!! Have you ever been to Brookgreen Gardens In SC.
It'a huge park filled with statues and art of all kinds. Beautiful, restful and peaceful.
It is said that Aaron Burr escaped authorities from there down the inter-coastal waterways. Of course that was before the plantation was turned into a park.

Brandy Rose said...

Its certainly interesting how often one can catch people fondling statues when they think no one is looking.

Leni Qinan said...

Well Skeeter, I guess that's the purpose of art, to provoke sensations and feelings. Pleasure, annoyance, happiness, relax...

I bet artists love to get a reaction from the public and hate their works to remain unnoticed or just get indifference.

It has been a very nice visit, and I really enjoyed the pics you've posted. As for the swimmer in lane 5: I hope he does fine at college and wish him all the best there!

Harshita said...

This is an interesting post. And I am sure he will do well in the classroom too... My best wishes for the same.

I think every piece of art has its own purpose... some aim to arouse feelings of pain and sorrow...others happiness and pleasure...

I am a finnicky person and I can't take Art being dis-respected... but tht's a personal thing.

teenie said...

Chicago sounded like a fun place to be. I didn't think you could photograph things in such a place, but I guess if you can fondle statuary, you can snap a shot or 2.
I would've loved to have seen the one you didn't take (warrior butt rubber)! Reading about the child "milker", brought to mind the antics of my own children. Ah, the joy of parenthood! Thanks for bringing back the memory of some parental moments I thought I had successfully repressed...

Mel said...

Ohhhhhhh.....I definitely need to go to the Art Museum.

And congratulations to your son.

Maria said...

I think that Chicago is my favorite city in the world.

Lavinia said...

This post is a hoot. Glad to see a museum where you are allowed to touch. I don't think I'd feel any impulse to touch that saggy bosom or the butt, but I'd be grabbing that lion's tail, oh yeah. We had a statue here in Toronto of a man seated and thousands had touched the shoe that was within reach. I wonder at this urge to touch....I was in a store today with mittens on and I had to take them off, if only to touch a wax candle.

Anonymous said...

I knew I'd kick myself for not getting to to the Field Museum. On our last trip we went to the Shedd Aquarium. Next time though...