I just returned from visiting Washington DC for the first time in my life. I loved it. I’ve been to the National gallery of art (twice) and discovered new works by familiar artists and learned about others, whom I have only known by name. Visiting an art museum is a challenging experience, both physically and mentally. It is also a very humbling experience – So much creativity, so many talents. A continuous monologue rattles inside me, bouncing back and forth between self criticism and pure joy while facing centuries of inspiration. Somehow I emerge victorious, modestly accepting myself and my journey in this life and understanding, once again, that I can only walk my own path, one step at a time.
In one of the galleries I saw a few paintings by Mary Cassat. The first time I saw her paintings was at the Philadelphia art museum, about a year and a half ago. Now, at the National gallery, I was facing about six or seven of her works and I noticed something very interesting: She seems to be handling a few things simultaneously – First there is the obvious story – a girl, or a mother and her child. Outside in the garden or inside the house. Expressions, appearance, emotions, light and shadow.
Taking a step back, I noticed complicated two dimensional color compositions.
Those multiple levels of interpretation create a very rich experience. Here’s an example:
A girl and her dog in the living room. A very relaxed atmosphere combined with lively brushstrokes which create texture and patterns. And this is what I see when I step back (god bless my iPad for helping me here)
A beautiful nearly abstract four colors composition! And if I reduce the girl to a single shape it’s even more fascinating. That turquoise next to the gray really moved me. It brought tears to my eyes.
I call it “hidden abstract”. I’m pretty sure she was fascinated by the division of the canvas, the way colors correspond when placed in proximity and the impact they have on the viewer. In that aspect, I’m think she might have enjoyed a conversation with Mark Rothko, who was intrigued by similar ideas. I don’t know if they could even speak the same language, but I’m pretty sure they would understand each other very well if I only handed them a pair of brushes and some oils.
Here is a link to Rothko’s paintings at the national gallery of art:
A few hours later, I needed some time away from art and got myself a cup of coffee at the cafeteria while making drawings of the people around me. I’m almost out of markers. Most of my markers have already dried up but I am determined to finish the whole box before getting a brand new pack of markers. So I am now embarking on my pink-purple-orange period, using colors I would normally avoid using.
As always, taking one step in a different direction has a cascading effect and other decisions change accordingly.