Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bernini's Corpus

         I love art, everything about it. I love studying it, I love "googling" it, I  love all of it. I volunteer at a museum here in Toronto and I love it. I look forward to my Friday afternoons.
     Art takes me away from the real world. It's a trip without the drugs! I'm not saying that I love every piece of work ever created, that would be ridiculous. But certain works grab me and hold me. It is at this point that I become incredibly un-academic. It is funny what happens if you let yourself go. Certain works take me away. I always try and visit Bernini's Corpus when I volunteer on Fridays. You walk in the room and it calls your name. It subtly and quietly whispers me forward until I am directly below it. I look straight up at Christ's face and stare admiringly at His calm features. I look down at the platform which tells the viewer who donated the work and the usual artist name, date, and medium. I look back up and the gallery swirls around me and disappears. I watch the drapery, which is carefully placed around Christ's waist, flutter in the wind. I feel the cool wind whistle through the gallery entrance and the warm sand beneath my winter boots. I feel completely taken away, as if standing in the presence of Christ's last breath. And then it happens, students, families, museum goers enter the gallery and stand with me before Christ and I am taken back to present time.
         I look at them and wonder if they see what I see. If the museum is disappearing to them also. Sometimes, sadly, my questions are answered when they quickly walk away. Other times I watch them stare up also. Usually those who stare up are little kids, between 5 and 10 years old. They just stand underneath and stare. I remember one instance when a couple of young mothers visited the museum and I was assigned to stand right outside the gallery which houses the Corpus. They had little kids who were still waddling and crawling as they walked into the gallery. The mothers looked quickly at the work and then turned away to have a discussion of some sort. But their little children stopped in front of the work and plumped down on their diaper protected bottoms. They just sat there staring. Totally taken away with the work. Their mothers did not notice how entranced they were with the work. But I watched them and they could not take their eyes off of the piece, until of course their mothers swiftly scooped them up like trained athletes. I wondered what they saw. If they thought it was real man standing before them or if they were aware that he was not real. I wondered what they felt and what they were thinking. I mean they were babies, what could they be thinking? It's funny because I wondered if I stared at the piece in the same way, with the same awe.
       It must seem mad to those of you who are reading this. But this is why I love art. As a viewer, whether knowledgeable or not, art speaks to you, art can allow you to time travel and take you away. But only if you let it. A baby has no preconceptions about what is good or not. What is accepted to be good by institutions and the scholars attached to those institutions. They have no pretensions or previous knowledge. They just look, and when something grabs them, they stare in amazement.
     I am not crazy, well maybe partially. But this is art. It was, and is, created to make you feel. It was created for the viewers of the period to feel the moment and mood of their times. A piece of art does not need to be political in nature for you to feel a period. It is purely the style in which it was created; the way the brush hit the canvas, or the chisel stroked the marble. You can feel the Renaissance through the smooth oil paint on canvas, or the classical ideal of the body, or the beautiful drapery in the clothing. You can feel the modern period in the quick painterly brush strokes and the artist's fingers in the sculpture.
     I know this is incredibly anti-academic, discussing how the work makes me feel. But it is nothing but the truth. Before all things art makes me feel. Before I choose a work to write about, I always make sure I feel something for it before I research it. What is the use in researching a work if I have no feeling for it?
     I will try to be more academic in my following postings. I will try to read something and comment on it. But it will be about a work that makes me feel, a work that grabs me and shakes me around a bit.

Happy Holidays.

Image from the AGO website. www.artmatters.ca