Art That Remembers

Remembering

. . . a vexing activity at times. Unfortunately, the older I get, the more vexing it becomes.

Alain de Botton and John Armstrong in their book, Art as Therapy, name remembering as one of the seven functions of art.  It helps us “hold on to things we love when they are gone.” They clarify this even further when they point out what in particular we want to remember. Not form as much as personality and essence.

The work of the portrait artist, our great dilemma, is how to best communicate the person. What to include, what to lose? What to exaggerate in order to pull out a necessary quality?

There always comes a moment, the most supremely delightful moment when somehow, slipping around the canvas in a gloppy pile of pigment, where I sigh in relief, “Ah . . . there you are.” I have in my bumbling ineptitude, stumble upon their vital essence.   Remembering

. . . a vexing activity at times. Unfortunately, the older I get, the more vexing it becomes.

Alain de Botton and John Armstrong in their book, Art as Therapy, name remembering as one of the seven functions of art.  It helps us “hold on to things we love when they are gone.” They clarify this even further when they point out what in particular we want to remember. Not form as much as personality and essence.

The work of the portrait artist, our great dilemma, is how to best communicate the person. What to include, what to lose? What to exaggerate in order to pull out a necessary quality?

There always comes a moment, the most supremely delightful moment when somehow, slipping around the canvas in a gloppy pile of pigment, where I sigh in relief, “Ah . . . there you are.” I have in my bumbling ineptitude, stumble upon their vital essence.   

Big Art: "The Colossus"

My sister was only six or seven when she created her master piece. Her teacher provided a pile of scrap lumber for the class (2x4’s, big stuff). Her tiny fingers worked industriously on her abstract sculpture hammering with childlike precision. Finally running out of nails, she began colorizing her creation with great glops of tempera paint until the entire apparatus was encased. 
       Then one day after it eventually dried (possibly months later). She brought it home. Puffing out her tiny chest, she referred to it proudly as “My Sculpture”. It would have been more aptly named “The Colossus of California”. 
       She determined to gift it to Dad on Father’s Day. The angular projections were unwrap-able, so she presented it naked, with a bow. It was received with marvelous expressions of gratitude.

Dad took a picture of it with his Nikon so she could see it sitting on his desk. I remember wondering, how he would get anything done with The Colossus looming over everything. The picture remains in the Family Archives to this day.  
       Decades later, she brought up the subject. 
       “Do  you remember that Sculpture I made for Dad when I was little?”
       I thought to myself, The Colossus? . . . “Sure.”
       “Dad and I were talking about it the other day. I was saying how cool it was that he kept it in his office all those years.” 
       “Uh huh.”
       “Well, apparently, he took a photo of it and then tossed it in the office dumpster.”
       A moment of shared hilarity.

In Dad’s defense, it was COLOSSAL! 
       I love BIG art. It may have been the early influence of The Colossus, but whatever the source. I do think it is delightful. In fact, this last weekend, my husband bought me a huge two inch think gallery canvas. It’s beautiful. It barely fit in the car. We journeyed home from Portland with it in the back seat. The Goliath canvas, its height laying across the seat loomed. The white gessoed surface screamed the whole way home. 
       Oh, how I love it‘s pristine whiteness sitting at home on my easel in the sunshine so full of promise. Nibbling toast at the kitchen table I can hear it shouting from the studio, 
       “I . . . AM . . . COLOSSAL!”
       I have to do something about that or I’ll go deaf.

With giant glops of paint, my fingers start to create. . .

 24 x 48 x 2 Acrylic Portrait, “Anne with Jasper”

24 x 48 x 2 Acrylic Portrait, “Anne with Jasper”

Collecting Art: Art Has a Function?

According to Alain de Bottom and John Armstrong, authors of Art as Therapy, art has seven functions. It helps us remember . . . that sunny day on the beach, the walk by the pond, those people we love most dearly and the way the light makes their hair glow. It gives us hope to others who are persevering through difficulties; or as in religious art, in whom we may hope. Art inspires, depicting beauty absent in our present circumstance. It teaches how to bear suffering. It comforts as we identify with it. We are rebalanced when confronted with doses of our opposing tendencies or excesses. Certain works gift us with self-understanding. Art brings growth in attitude as we examine why certain art make us uncomfortable. Art brings renewed appreciation for things taken for granted.

When pondering the many benefits of art, and many more not listed, it’s a wonder we are not all great art collectors. We might be a healthier nation as a whole if we bought more art . . . Just a thought.