Monday, August 26, 2013

Getting Emotional About Art

Mater Dolorosa by Simon Marimion

My friend and fellow Nes Artist, Marlaina Read, is working on an interesting project called "Art and Crying." She is collecting stories from artists that describe emotional reactions when experiencing different forms of art. I participated in the project while I was at Nes and my statement is now on her website along with many others. I find them fascinating to read. My contribution includes two stories, one surrounding my first time with the jewelry collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, while the other happened in Bruges, Belgium at the Groeninge Museum.

French breast ornament from the 1630s

"I study the history of jewelry as part of my practice. I believe it is very important to know about and understand what came before me in my field. I went to London for the first time in September of 2012. The first place I visited was the Victoria and Albert to see its collection of historical jewelry. (Perhaps one of the best or maybe the best in the world?) I got there early and was the first person in the room. I had about 20 minutes to myself before other patrons began to arrive. My breath was taken away upon first entering the space. I was overwhelmed, I didn’t know where to begin. I took a deep breath and collected myself and then started at the beginning. I definitely took some present thinking to get myself there. I took my time and took in as much as I could. Then after maybe two hours I took a break and sat down in front of a computer to look at some of the highlighted pieces. As I scrolled through, I came upon this one particular brooch, a breast ornament from the 1630s from France. It is the piece I use in my longer lectures when I talk about my influences and the importance of the history of my craft in my work. My action was physical and verbal: I jumped out of my chair, I gasped, my heart started to pound. My energy became focused on finding the piece. It was like I was completely alone in that moment. I found the case quickly and stood there in complete and utter awe. I immediately began to cry. Seeing this piece in person was so special. It was like seeing an old, very dear friend, a mentor or some figure like that. Someone very important to me. It was like seeing all my hopes for my work in an object that became beyond beautiful and larger than life. I just stood there with my mouth open and tears streaming for some time, I don’t even know how long. In many ways, I can’t put this experience or the things I was feeling into words beyond what I just wrote. It was absolutely incredible and I will never forget it.

My other experience involves the painting Mater Dolorosa by Simon Marimion (see top image). I saw this when I was in Brugge, Belgium last summer. I was at the Groeninge Museum which is basically a collection of works that show the history of Flemish painting. I had never seen this piece before. I remember walking around the room, looking at the Van Eyck’s and the Bosche and when I saw “Mater Dolorosa,” I was stopped in my tracks. I was across the room and, again, I had this visceral reaction. I gasped, I may have clutched my mouth. It felt like I had tunnel vision, like there was no one else around me. It was just me and the painting, or me and Mary, really. I walked very slowly toward it and as the details came into focus I began to cry. Mary’s expression is so real and feels like it is happening right there and then in that moment. It felt very private. I could feel her pain and her love and her devotion. I stayed with the piece for awhile, again I don’t know how long. I went on to see the rest of the museum but went back to see this piece again before I left. It was hard to leave the museum, to leave it. But, also, I had to leave because it was too much.

After both of these experiences, and often when I see incredible art or hear amazing music, I often need some time alone afterward. Time to just be with the feeling, with the work in my mind. To honor it and to commit it to memory."

I hope you will visit Marlaina's site to read more about this project and the other things she is working on.

photograph by Marlaina Read

Thanks for reading.

No comments: