Sunday, January 17, 2010

Memory: It's A Mystery

Morris Louis, Doubt, 1959, Acrylic resin on canvas, 105 x 83 in., Courtesy Riva Yares Gallery Santa Fe, NM, Scottsdale, AZ.

The above painting is actually really big. When I used to look at it, hanging above me on the gallery wall, I always inexplicably imagined how fun it would be to cut it out of its frame and turn it into a queen-sized comforter cover. "Mmm... How glorious," I thought to myself, "to sleep under a marvelous (and heisted!) masterwork of one of America's most important modern painters."

Doubt came to the Brigham Young University Museum of Art in Fall 2008 on loan from a private gallery for the show Turning Point: The Demise of Modernism and the Rebirth of Meaning in American Art (now that's an attractive title if I ever saw one... pbbbt). I had worked on this show as a curatorial intern for six months previous to that day, from January to June 2008. I had carted home massively heavy tomes about Morris Louis, wikipedia'd him and other artists til my mind was saturated with images like Louis' stately moneymaker from the Met (on the left) and Yayoi Kusama's psychedelic installation piece (on the right). I had bravely called snooty gallery after snooty gallery in an attempt to locate a Morris Louis big enough and attractive enough to get a place in our thoughtful and elegant show. Doubt was eventually secured not by me but by our fabulous contemporary curator from a wonderful gallery, and it ended up being one of my particularly favorite pieces. Working as a docent for Turning Point for the next several months, I attempted to explain to patrons of all ages and interest levels how Morris Louis removed the practice of painting even further from its traditional definition into the realm of modernism. He did not even touch the paint itself anymore! He held up the canvases and let the paints slide down them, shifting or bending them as his artistic sensibilities demanded in order to create aesthetically pleasing patterns . The results are lovely, and yes, cranky patron, your seven-year old could have done it. But he didn't, Morris did, and now we move into the conceptual art gallery. Now as I was telling you before....

...At this point, a year into making this blog, I have something to confess: I am not giving you a thorough investigation of modern art. Or even art history in general. You are instead getting a smattering of my own memories of art: the images and stories that glow in my mind and heart weeks, months, or even years later, for myriad random reasons. These are the images that compell me forward into laborious reading lists and occasionally mind-boggling seminar discussions. (It's one week into my second semester of grad school and I am already tired, can you tell? And is that a very bad sign? ... And IS anyone reading this besides my mom and Auntie J?) At some points, I still feel like a child of two worlds: I am equally at home in a cabin with my family, playing facecards and talking religion, as I am in the large and spectacular museum world, embodied so beautifully for me right now in the impassive, cylindrical Hirshhorn, the awe-inspiring National Building Museum, and 20+ other lovely historical institutions here in Washington, DC. I don't know what that means and sometimes I don't think my two comfort zones can coexist within myself forever. What I'm getting at is that I don't know what the future holds, but I do know that every time I explain to a new acquaintance that I eventually want to work either in art museums or teach at the university level, Morris Louis' Doubt floats up to center stage in my brain. Somehow, someway, someday, I will be content showing people simple but beautiful pictures like that and causing some kind of pleasant or stimulating thoughts to occur on their end. That's what I would like. Everything else about the path ahead of me is currently a mystery. And time ticks on...


The massive doors to the National Archives- yet another landmark site that I have yet to visit in this city. Sooo many of those... I'm such a bum. :) That reminds me. In March last year I posted my list of things I must do before I left DC; I just checked, and I'm currently 9 for 19. I'll let you speculate which have been done and which haven't. To that list I'm adding Move to a house, Visit the Corcoran Gallery, See the Nats win a game at home, Get a great summer internship, Go canoeing or sailing, Find a good Pho/Vietnamese restaurant and most importantly of all... KAMFLTTM.

6 comments:

Summer Lewis said...

I read it. Thank you. Ellie likes the pictures too; she tries to touch them.

MOM said...

Okay, I'll ask. What's KAMFLTTM? You'd think I could figure it out, but it'll be Jessica or someone else, or just a fun secret you keep to yourself!! Teaser!

I remember Doubt. A big comforter would be cool. It looks like you go to sleep in the evening on one side, and wake up in the sunshine on the other! No Doubt!

PS-I'm glad you're getting all your cool DC museum experiences. It's just too unique to not love, especially while you're in it. I'm glad you can. Love you!

Judy Anne said...

Okay, I see the two sides of life, but, one thing you must see is that, this is ONE painting just as you are ONE wonderful woman. None of us are monochromatic, we all have different pieces and parts of us that make up the whole. That is why you can never totally understand or know someone else. You must always explore the parts of you, and the parts of others. The only one who truely understands all of our parts, pieces and potential is our Saviour Jesus Christ. By the way, I learned someting in primary...our music leader likes to teach the children sign language. The sign for love is to cross your arms close to and in front of your body, hugging your self. The sign for Savior starts the same way and then you open your arms up high and bring them down towards the ground. I find this very cool and symbolic of the love He has for us, His opening of His arms, and His decending from high in the heavens to us on the earth.
ps. what is KAMFLTTM?

Raunee said...

I read your blog all the time. I just don't have anything spectacular to say, so I don't comment. Good luck with school!

Anonymous said...

Yes, I read your blog. Don't even consider stopping! You put me into a world I would otherwise never have entered on my own.
Auntie Cheryl

Olsen Family said...

I love reading your blog. Its the only time I feel like an adult with real concrete thoughts. Although I sometimes have to read it 2 or 3 times. Remember I am only helping with Kindergarten HW! Your awesome & yes your museum world & home world can live in the same person. Its call priorities and being you!!!