I am a believer in the notion that to create art, one must breath in art. It’s impossible to sit at a keyboard and bang out stories or poetry if you don’t also breath in stories and poetry. I’ve also learned that not all stories or poetry is confined to words. Some poetry is in a painting. Some stories in a sculpture. Words flow out of a dance and music can invoke the full range of human emotion.
In that spirit we took a trip up to the new San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). The museum closed in 2013 for a major expansion which is now complete and officially reopens on May 14. We found out that members could get tickets for an early preview so Heather went on-line and now we’re members and got tickets for yesterday.
We arrived just in time for our 12:30 ticket and took the elevator to the 7th floor to start at the top and work our way down. There were a lot of people there and at times we had short waits to see some exhibits. Actually there were more people there than I would have expected for a member’s only day. I wonder what the crowds will be like when the general public can buy tickets?
My first impression of the place is it’s vast size. The galleries are on floors 2 to 7 and each floor is huge, seemingly going on forever. More than once I thought I’d got to the end of an exhibit only to find a doorway leading onward. There was a lot great art and some that I didn’t understand why it was in an art museum. I’ll admit there were a few times I’d look at a painting, sculpture, or whatever they called it, and think, “Heather paints better than that,” or “If I found old urinals and put my initials on it, would that make me a great artist?”
That’s the problem with modern art – often it pushes at the boundaries of what art is and sometimes misses, or fails to explain it’s relevance to me. I guess it could be that the curator’s definition of art and mine aren’t in alignment. I’ll dare to ask the question, “What is art?” It’s a difficult question – as it pushes us to consider our basic concepts and put them into words.
About twenty years ago the subject came up in a Humanities 1A class I was taking at community college. It was your basic art appreciation class and the first topic was, “What is art?” In a group discussion with other students, we came up with this definition: “Art is a creative expression intended to create an emotional response.”
Let me explore that a little more. Art is an expression of our creative self. We do it to communicate ideas, stories and feelings. A song can make us feel happy or sad. A dance can tell the story of two lovers. A painting can tell us of the beauty of flower while a sculpture lets us view concept from more than one angle.
When we see a work of art we have a reaction to it. It could make us take a breath, remember a love, or set in our spirit a longing that we can’t name. Good art moves our soul, spirit and emotion leaving our mind and intellect to try and catch up. Viewing a picture I often have to consider for a long time before I can find the words in my mind to explain it.
It is the notion that, “art creates emotion,” that drives my mind as I walk though a gallery. Always I am asking, “what feeling is this giving me?” When the answer is “none,” then I feel that the artist failed their job. This definition also drives my own approach to the creation of art, either in my wood shop or at the keyboard writing poetry. It is my intent to make you feel something with the object or words.
I would like to note that not all art is aesthetically pleasing. Ugly stuff is art when the artist uses their creative self to conjure into being an object or experience that makes you feel angry, disgusted, hurt or any negative emotions. We like art that looks good because we like to feel good, but sometimes it’s the artist’s job to make us look at the darker side of our nature.
At SFMOMA, I found the higher floors to have more art that I reacted to. I’ll also add that I like exploring artist’s process and sometimes find the information card about an object to be more interesting than the object itself. Sometimes it’s fun to try to figure out how an object was made – that is what material and methods were used to create the thing I am viewing. Some times that offers a glimpse into heart and mind of the maker.
The 7th floor contained works by contemporary artists that I found interesting. There were a couple of film exhibits that were interesting. One was a short film of a large soap-bubble floating through an empty house. You could hear sounds from outside, dogs barking, doors closing. The effect was eerie and made you long for the bubble’s release either by finding an open window or just popping it and ending it’s endless wanderings.
It would take a long time for me to describe all the art and my reaction to it so I’ll have to skip a lot of things. The next interesting exhibit was on the 6th floor called, “German Art after 1960.” This was a large collection that featured a number of artists reacting to a changing Germany and the last effects of the Nationalist Socialist party. One artist working with canvas, paint and straw, created vast dark scenes of war and a world being burned. We spent a long time on this floor.
The 6th floor also had an exhibit titled, “Typeface to Interface” that traced the changing world of graphic art over the last 60 years. It started with a display of 1960’s typewriters and end with computers and computer generated art. I’ll admit that this was more of a walk down memory lane for me as I remember using the equipment in the displays they first came out all those years ago. I guess, nostalgia is an emotion.
The 5th floor I didn’t get. Titled, “Pop, Minimal, and Figurative Art,” it featured comic book art, a few Andy Warhol pictures and a whole room of what appeared to be to be colored sheets of plywood, cut into geometric shapes and nailed to the wall. The only emotion they generated was of a longing to get to another gallery where I might see something. This floor also had a little cafe were we stopped for a cold drink before wandering down to the 4th floor.
I’ll have to admit that by this point I was getting a little mentally overloaded and I found little on the 4th or 3rd floors that caught my attention. Until we found a gallery titled, “California and the West.” This had a number of great old photos of historic California and we spent a good deal of time in here.
The second floor is really the main entrance level where the ticket counters are. Just as we were about to head down to the first floor and to the museum store we came across what we thought was just a small gallery. It turned out to be huge and contained many interesting works from SFMOMA’s permanent collection. You could have spent a whole day in just this one section of the museum studying and appreciating just this collection.
On the way home I was both mentally drained from taking everything in and creatively excited. So many projects and things I could do, rushed through my tired brain.
When we arrived home we were greeted by an unwelcome sight. Just outside the front door was a large pool of water that shouldn’t have been there. At first we thought roof had leaked but I couldn’t see water dripping from up high. Then it dawned on me that the water heater was just the other side of that wall. A quick inspection showed that the water heater was leaking and needed to be replaced. Not something you can really get done on a Saturday night so I decided to use my limited plumbing skills to shut off the water to the tank and drain it. We’d be out of hot water, but at least the house wouldn’t flood.
It would have worked if the cutoff valve still worked, but it just spun and didn’t turn off the water. We called the plumber, who didn’t answer his phone and I figured we were stuck. After considering the possibilities, I decided that with a few parts from the hardware store I could cap off the water supply to the heater and the plumber could deal with it on Monday. Lucky for me he called back just as I was opening the car door and said he could be right over. He capped it, drained it, and will be back on Monday with a new heater. In the mean time we’re a “cold-water” house.
But my creative mind is in action and I am thinking of having the plumber leave the old water heater in the driveway. Then I’ll find my axe, sledgehammer and maybe a few cans of spray paint. Then I’ll start on my art work. The modern sculpture will be titled, “Domestic Bliss.”
Now, who do you call at the museum to donate a piece of art?
Till next week,