Saturday, March 13, 2010

Art Schmart

Upon a friend’s recommendation, I visit the Getty Museum on a Saturday night when parking is free after 5 pm. Strolling up the stairs amid couples and families, I try not to feel out of place, but rather focus on my intended task. Find a cozy room filled with paintings, settle in on a bench, and write, surrounded only by the light murmur of patrons discussing art.

Where I end up is a sedate hall filled with 16th Century Italian paintings. Nothing cozy about this art. The images are stiff, posed. Solemn faces holding crosses or babies in pious reverence. Dignified portraits and divine ah-ha moments, captured for posterity. Paintings that reflect generations of religious influence. Just looking at them makes me stand up straighter.

I see couples holding hands, walking slowly through the room, and I wonder, “Are they really feeling romantic right now looking at all these paintings of Jesus?” But as they cycle through and I remain staring at Lorenzo Lotto’s “Madonna and Child with Two Donors,” I start to wonder if I was one of the people in these paintings in a past life. Rigid and disconnected. A pleasant citizen concerned with appearing noble and important, devoted to the church, but with no real sense of what life is all about.

Because I can see elements of these subjects in my personality. The desire to be good, searching for a higher meaning, putting on a stoic face to conceal my inner life. Looking at these paintings reminds me of the elements I’m attempting to release as I grow into a more fluid and open person. And my posture begins to relax.

I leave the Getty a few hours later, conceding that while I don’t find them aesthetically attractive, these staid Italian paintings have affected me. And that’s the beauty of art. Artistic expression meant for a subjective audience to interpret and consume. There’s always more than one way to connect to anything. And I found mine.

Meanwhile, someone is buying a print of this freaky picture right now, thinking to themselves it will look perfect in their spare bedroom.

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