The Love of Art

            Art is impactful in such a way that a viewer can fall completely in love with an artist or work of art, if not many. A quote by Jeanette Winterson, in her essay titled “Art Objects”, resonated strongly with me. She states, “saw a painting that had more power to stop me than I had power to walk on,”[1] where she describes the impact that a work of art in a shop window had on her.  As a viewer of art I have been in that unmovable position many times at the hand of art. The love that is felt, happens immediately and with such force that it feels as though it freezes time, space, and one’s body. It is the same impact that a person can receive from hearing their favorite musician play live, in concert, feeling the sensation of dance, or even seeing their child for the first time. It is an overwhelming experience for many. Winterson captures her experience in her essay, and attempts to convince the reader that not only can anyone fall in love with art, but for those who have not had this experience to go out and immerse oneself in it.

Aaron Douglas was an artist in the Harlem Renaissance movement. His paintings blended earthly and primitive worlds alongside story telling of African people. Douglas’ Into Bondage[2] depicts a sad and regretful moment in history, whereas the viewer can see African people wearing chains on their arms, looking confused and scared as they walk towards large foreign ships docked in the waterways connected to their land. Douglas utilizes softer earth tones in this piece. Although muted, the colors are still vibrant and provide lush natural color and depth to the landscape. One man in particular appears to look up to the sky, towards the sun star, as he walks towards the edge of the shore. It is almost as though he looks as though he does not know what he is walking into and is looking towards the sky for answers. This beautifully three-dimensional painting provides the viewer with depth of spirituality, culture and history of the African people.[3] It is through the story telling process that a viewer can fall in love with the techniques, colors, and rich historical statement claimed through Douglas’ painting, Into Bondage.[4]

Not all paintings provide the details of the story, as Douglas’s did. Norman W. Lewis was another painter who was part of the Harlem Renaissance movement. Lewis’ 1936 The Lady in the Yellow Hat[5] gifts the viewer with the feelings of curiosity, empathy, and a plethora of possibilities. Upon first look, this painting draws the viewer in to ask questions about the sitting woman in the vibrant yellow hat. Who is she, is she well, is she sad or just in deep thought, and if sad then why, etc.? These questions and so many more spark the conversation of content for the viewer. Upon reading a description of this piece, the direction of the reality is that the woman, in the painting, is deep in thought.[6] Color is important to this painting, as the brightest color is the yellow of her hat.[7] The intention of the hat color is to draw the viewer’s attention towards her face, hidden by the hat. The purposeful attention of her face allows the viewer to ponder into the insight of her perspective. Another important aspect of this painting is Norman’s blending of different art movements. He incorporates, European Modernism and realism, along with pointing out a portion of Picasso influence with the geometrical shape of the woman’s face.[8] By utilizing these various techniques Norman evidences his masterful artistry.

Mastery of the arts comes in many perspectives and one does not have to love all perspectives, but instead they need to stumble upon at least one to realize the impact art has on them. Georgia O’Keefe was an artist who captured her love of nature and the American desert southwest. Her paintings provided a female perspective, during the machine age of the 1920’s.[9] O’Keefe’s Black Iris III, provides the viewer with an elegant unraveling of a flower. She took an ordinary iris and transformed it into a deeply moving and constant unraveling work of art. With the close-up perspective of this Iris in full bloom, O’Keefe moves her audience into utter appreciation of life unfolding before them. Her use of colors, shades of grey, purples, maroon, black and white provide a three-dimensional realistic view of the flower. The bloom is so immense in skillful use of lines, that it provides a soft texture-like feel for one’s eyes to experience. It is with this painting that a viewer can not only fall in love with the painting, but see O’Keefe as a master painter. Her works of art took much criticism by those that saw sexual references in her flower paintings, although this was not O’Keefe’s intentions.[10] Her life was as much of an unraveling storm of colors as her paintings were, and she overcame much in the way of ridicule by critics of her works.[11] Paintings such as Black Iris III, display an artist’s love of the subject they are painting as much as the love of the craft. It is by such display that a viewer can fall in love with an artist and their masterpieces.

Jeanette Winterson also states, in her essay, “unlike Harold Bloom, I really believe that human beings can be taught to love what they do not love already and that the privileged moment exists for all of us, if we let it. Letting art is the paradox of active surrender. I have to work for art if I want art to work on me,”[12] which is the case with all of the artists and artworks mentioned in this essay. Aaron Douglas, Norman Lewis, and Georgia O’Keefe are all very different artists, yet it is easy to fall in love with their works of art and with them. The depth of story in each of their paintings mentioned is rich with content that beckons the viewer to learn and understand. As a viewer, the powerful love discovered in these pieces took much time and effort. Each painting was looked at through a deep and thoughtful lens. The time is necessary to see all of the colors, textures, lines, curves, and content offered. It is essential to stop in front of the pieces and allow oneself to be fully taken over by the art.

 


 

Bibliography

Douglas Aaron. Into Bondage. 1936 oil on canvas. Washington D.C.: Collection of Corcoran Gallery of Art. Museum purchase and partial gift of Thurlow Evans Tibbs Jr., The Evan-Tibbs Collection. In Amy Helene Kirschke, The Evolution of Douglas’s Artistic Language: Aaron Douglas, Art, Race, & The Harlem Renaissance (Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi: 1995). On iniva.org. 2016, July 24. http://www.iniva.org/harlem/aaron.html.

Foster, Hal, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, and David Joselit. Art Since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, Post Modernism, Second Edition, Vol. 1, (New York: Thames & Hudson Inc.: 2011).

Lewis, Norman W. The Lady in the Yellow Hat. 1936 oil on burlap. in Hal Foster, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, and David Joselit. Art Since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, Post Modernism. Second Edition, Vol. 1, (New York: Thames & Hudson Inc.: 2011). 339.

O’Keefe, Georgia. Black Iris. 1926 oil on canvas. in metmuseum.org. New York, NY: The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2000-2016). Courtesy of Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1969. 2016, July 26. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/69.278.1/.

The Art Story Contributors. Norman Lewis: American Painter, in Artists, Norman Lewis, Art Works. 2016: TheArtStory.org website. The Art Story Foundation. 2016, July 25. http://www.theartstory.org/artist-lewis-norman-artworks.htm.

Winterson, Jeanette. Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery. First International Edition: February 1997. USA: Vintage Books, Division of Random House, Inc., New York, NY, 1995. 3.

[1] Jeanette Winterson, Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery, First International Edition: February 1997, USA: Vintage Books, Division of Random House, Inc., New York, NY, 1995. 3.

[2] Aaron Douglas, Into Bondage, 1936 oil on canvas, Washington D.C.: Collection of Corcoran Gallery of Art, Museum purchase and partial gift of Thurlow Evans Tibbs Jr., The Evan-Tibbs Collection, In Amy Helene Kirschke, The Evolution of Douglas’s Artistic Language: Aaron Douglas, Art, Race, & The Harlem Renaissance (Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi: 1995), On iniva.org, 2016, July 24, http://www.iniva.org/harlem/aaron.html.

 

 

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Norman W. Lewis, The Lady in the Yellow Hat, 1936 oil on burlap, in Hal Foster, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, and David Joselit. Art Since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, Post Modernism, Second Edition, Vol. 1, (New York: Thames & Hudson Inc.: 2011). 339.

[6] The Art Story Contributors, Norman Lewis: American Painter, in Artists, Norman Lewis, Art Works, 2016: TheArtStory.org website, The Art Story Foundation, 2016, July 25, http://www.theartstory.org/artist-lewis-norman-artworks.htm.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Hal Foster, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, and David Joselit. Art Since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, Post Modernism, Second Edition, Vol. 1, (New York: Thames & Hudson Inc.: 2011). 237.

[10] Georgia O’Keefe, Black Iris, 1926 oil on canvas, in metmuseum.org, New York, NY: The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2000-2016), 2016, July 26, http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/69.278.1/, courtesy of Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1969.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Jeanette Winterson, Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery, First International Edition: February 1997, USA: Vintage Books, Division of Random House, Inc., New York, NY, 1995. 5-6.

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