A Hands-On Art History lesson

I have been working at my grandma‘s house since mid-May (with a break for Saltnote Stageworks). She has been a selling artist since the early 50s and yesterday I got to label a cross section of her work. The archaeological implications of the phrase “cross section” is apt–like most storage areas, her art storage space has been filled and refilled for over 30 years.

As I was labeling the art (by grouping, name/description, date) I flipped through her earliest work all the way though her contour drawings from the early 70s (and she is still drawing actively today!). Now, I have had some training in Art History–mostly in my Images of Modernity class last semester where we covered Impressionism and Post-Impressionism–but there is no comparison between that class and my current experiences.

I watched her art transform from unformed preteen portraits, to experiments in abstract expressionism, finally coalescing into her sparse and emotionally powerful contour drawings (the section I am organizing does not go past 1973). I had never seen (much less touched) so much art. The feel of oil paints as they brushed my hand told me more about the attraction of impressionism than chapters and chapters of essays in class. I could see from less than a foot away (sitting at the base of pictures sometimes 5 feet tall, sometimes 12 inches), how different expressionism was from her other art. Many times I would stare at a picture for nearly a minute before my eyes adjusted enough to describe the figures I knew were there. The magic of exploring art from close up is something I did not expect in this job and which I could not have gotten any other way. Even her contours had something of the puzzle image about them–many are so sparse the eye must search to find forms among the lines.

Thank you Baba for this new education!

Inspirational Quote:

An optimist stays up to see the New Year in. A pessimist waits to make sure the old one leaves.
– Bill Vaughan

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