Sunday, December 20, 2009

Blog I: Introduction

I suppose I will begin this blog by telling you why I have chosen to blog about art. I am specializing in art history at a university here in Toronto. I have hopes of going onto graduate school and hopefully completing a PhD in art history. More specifically I would love to be a professor of Italian Baroque art.
I have a love for school and everything academia. I think people like me are a result of too many movies further stressed by listening to too many Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel tunes while walking around at school! I feel at home at school. It is more than a hungry thirst for knowledge, rather, a thirst to discuss and be in the presence of learning. 
My “a-ha moment” came when I had a couple classes taught by a couple of remarkable female professors. They made me feel their love for art and the study of such things. One specific professor made me think about the possibility of teaching art history. Watching her made me feel like the measure of success is not the thickness of your wallet, although a thick wallet does help, but the influence you have on other people. I felt she loved teaching Baroque art and it made me love it even more. I felt like she was successful because she inspired us and influenced us to look at the slides before us as more than just paint on canvas but bookends to history. Art is more than just a pictures but a way to time travel. Only through these works do you feel a period, a civilization, a people. 
What makes Baroque works so brilliant is its ability to move its viewer, even today in the twenty-first century. As students we look at these works as they permeate the projector screen and we can feel the artist. You can feel the movement of the brush strokes, the smell of the oil paint and the buzz of the city outside the window. In certain cases, especially in the class of that professor mentioned above, the class is still.
For me certain, or quite a few, works have an affect that makes me stop. They stop the buzz of the twenty-first century, the rush and stress we often feel. Some of these works include Caravaggio’s Crucifixion of Saint Peter or his The Taking of Christ.


Caravaggio's Crucifixion of Saint Peter (1600-1601)

The Taking of Christ (1602-1603).

I have a certain love affair with Caravaggio’s Ecstasy of Saint Francis. It makes me calm, my breathing slows as I sit and stare at the mastery that is Caravaggio. Caravaggio makes you feel. It is more than a didactic piece of canvas and paint but a movement. You can feel Saint Francis just slump back as the angel catches him as though he were weightless. You can smell the green of the grass and the wind in the trees.


                                  Caravaggio's Ecstasy of Saint Francis, (1594-1595).
      One cannot discuss Baroque without naming the great Bernini. His ability to mould marble into flesh was, and remains, remarkable. The choice of words here does not adequately describe Bernini’s talent and amazing works of art. 

Rather one must view them, even through a computer screen, and come to their own conclusions. For me his Saint Jerome always sends shivers down my spine. The way the figure gracefully grasps the cross and holds it against his skin allows you to feel Saint Jerome’s love for God. The billowing of the fabric and the wind in his hair allows you to sense a cool wind. You can feel the lions soft mane through your own toes. There are no words to describe my unconditional love for this work. It feels real and I have yet to see it in person. He makes me feel cool and calm. I believe that the purpose of this work is to make you feel an unconditional love for God. To feel God as you meditate in prayer.
 Bernini's Saint Jerome (1661-1663)

I am not a religious person, but through the study of art I have found a new respect and interest for religion. It is the purpose of these works that one can understand the purpose of Baroque works. They are to create a sense of religion. For the viewer, whether literate or not, to feel the need to go to church and be more Jesus like. They involve the viewer, and in some cases accuse the viewer, making them feel guilty. If one looks at some of Caravaggio’s works, the Taking of the Christ for instance, he incriminates the viewer. He is blaming the viewer for the Crucifixion of Christ, yet at the same time reminding the viewer why Christ was Crucified. We are guilty and we need to remember why Jesus died for us. We need to be more Godlike and live a more Christian life. I am not preaching but merely reiterating what some of these works are trying to express to its viewer.

Michelangelo's Pieta (c.1500).

       I have never been to Europe. My experience of these works is through my computer screen. My reaction to these works through my screen is an excellent indication of what my reaction will be in person, committable. I will be taken away and thrown into a foreign asylum of some sort.  I have always felt a strong connection to some works. My first experiences with art was in high school. We did studio work and art history. It was here we were shown Michelangelo’s Pieta, which usually brings tears to my eyes. This is no exaggeration but simply, and sometimes sadly, a truth. I fell in love with the Renaissance. I did not come across Baroque until university in which my love and obsession grew. Art is everything to me. I volunteer at a museum and the smell alone makes me happy beyond words. 
I find myself at odds at times between my love for Baroque and other periods like Impressionism and more modern works like Pollock’s drip paintings. I find Impressionism to imbue the same feeling as Baroque. Through Van Gogh, Monet, Manet you can feel the wind and the sun, smell the city and the water. These works make you feel. 
I have been told, as an academic, my writing needs to be more scholarly and less emotional. What is art but emotional? How can I describe and write about these works without writing emotionally? I will write more scholarly for class but here, in my blog, I will let emotion run rampant. I apologize in advance if my writing seems too emotional. It is in these writings that my great love for art will be shown. I hope those who read this will comment and criticize. I love discussing and arguing about art. If you have any pointers to improve my writing, which I am sure there will be lots, please feel free to let me know.

All images from Flickr and Fadis Image Library.

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