I recently went to a place, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and I had some thoughts. So I took a page from the Vlogbrothers (John and Hank Green), and decided to write a Thoughts from Places about my day at the museum.
In my opinion, there is no better place to realize how quickly we grow, how easily we change, and how much we learn than in an art museum. I've only been to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which is unfortunate when there are so many museums in Philly alone I would love to visit. However, for the purposes of this article, I have a clear comparison from my visit to the art museum as a freshman in high school to my visit as a sophomore in college.
The Japanese Footbridge and the Water-Lily Pond, 1899, Claude Monet
Looking at Claude Monet's work and the other Impressionist artwork was like having an existential crisis. When I looked at this same work as a freshman in high school, I thought, "Wow. That's pretty," and moved on. I didn't give myself a chance to take the piece in. In my most recent visit, of course the first thing I thought about was how pretty it was. After that initial reaction, though, I was overcome by the thought that this picture was once real, and the image and sounds of the water and the water-lilies flowing rapidly down the falls and under the bridge. It was one of those moments where you remember how truly insignificant you are in the grand scheme of things.
Orange, Red, Yellow, 1961, Mark Rothko
Modern art is pretty tricky, but how our reaction changes to it as we mature is pretty simple. My progression went like this:
High School Freshman: That's so dumb. I could do that.
College Sophomore: Yeah, but I didn't. But something made Mark Rothko do it.
Portrait of Mrs. Louis C. Madeira IV, late 1940s, Walter Stuempfig, Jr.
Portraits are hard to really appreciate, except for the extraordinary technical skill it takes to render someone's likeness in paint so that it appears like a photograph. When I was a freshman, I mostly thought "So what? It's just a person rich enough to pay someone to paint them." And, I mean, I still think that. But as with the Impressionist scenes, this time around it really struck me that this woman, and all subjects of portraits, were real people who thought and felt and lived. I wonder what Mrs. Louis C. Madeira IV was like; she seems pretty cool.
So going to the museum was a great time. I learned about art, and I learned about myself. I encourage you all to do the same!