I turned 50 years old this year. It’s enough to make a girl think about her past, and how it affects her present.
If I am any good at art at all, I’d say it’s because a.) my instructors at Queens College were exceptional and b.) I spent many countless hours in some of the greatest museums in the world, wandering aimlessly and drawing.
So I went on a sentimental journey through my past. My goals were to visit a few college friends and to recapture that experience of the slow, intuitive progress through a museum.
No matter how much you enjoy the company of a companion in a museum, it changes your experience. Like Madeline said in Vertigo, “Only one is a wanderer; two together are always going somewhere.”
Unless, of course, you go with another artist.
My BBF Bridget Benton Carwyn met me in NYC and together we infused ourselves with art. The key to our successful saturation is that much of the time we split up, sometimes even going to different museums, and meeting up to share a meal and debrief.
We saw some amazing exhibits, such as The Brooklyn Museum's Frida Kahlo show, and The Guggenhiem's Hilda af Klint show.
I visited paintings I used to gaze at during my formative student years. I reexamined art I had dismissed before. I sketched, and filed away material for potential future work into the recesses of my unconscious.
Now for the rant.
Tourism has changed in the past quarter century. Namely, there is a lot more of it. The number of folks milling about in art museums seems to have grown steadily. But the onset of the smart phone has changed everything.
To me, an art museum is a place where one goes to look at art. But to many, it is a tourist destination. They are there to say “I was there”, but don’t seem to be paying much attention to what they are actually seeing. Crowds of people take selfies in front of famous paintings makes it so that no one really gets to see the painting in question. To add insult to injury, often I saw one person posing in front of a painting pretending to look at the art, while a companion shoots a pic to upload it onto social media.
I understand that, as an artist, I am in the minority, even in an art museum. I know I am probably coming off as a snob. It’s just tough having a wonderful experience get mauled to death. When you go to museums, try to talk quietly. Don’t talk loudly on your phone. Be aware of the people around you who are also trying to see the art. Stand slightly off to the side when looking at a painting, don’t block other peoples’ view. If you bring your kids, engage them with the art by talking to them about it and asking them questions about what they see, and teach them about museum etiquette.
For an interesting article about how social media has changed viewing art, click here for the New York Times Article “What the MonaLisa Tells Us About Art in the Instagram Era”