Every several years or so, perhaps every decade or so, a work of art captures my emotions and imagination, and sticks in my memory, even though it may be several years between viewings – assuming I ever see the original of the work at all. One such is Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party; another is Rembrandt’s Slaughtered Ox; another, Picasso’s Guernica; still another, Edouard Manet’s The Old Musician. I have never seen the originals of the Rembrandt and the Picasso. I know them only from reproductions. But they haunt me. I recently discovered another such image while visiting the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC: Patricia Cronin’s Memorial to a Marriage (hereafter Memorial ).
Memorial is a bronze sculpture, cast from a marble original, depicting two women lovers,
Would someone please answer the following question for me: Why do Americans – actually, I think Westerners generally, but I will stick with Americans – believe art is something that must be approached so … well … seriously? With most art, most Americans seem to believe that, when looking at a painting or a piece of sculpture or seeing a play or listening to a piece of music, they are obligated, on pain of being branded as culture-phobic philistines, to wear a facial expression that announces to the world Pity me! I am dying of terminal hemorrhoids!
Well, before anyone makes any cracks about that remark, I will back up a step or two and say that, yes, to be sure, some works of art are explicitly intended to evoke play, laughter, and light-hearted dalliance. A good example is
mountains explodedestroying the landscapelife begins again
Drawing of Mt. St. Helens in response to Psalm 46 along with haiku, by Terri Stewartall rights reserved
Psalm 46 is dire with the earth collapsing: mountains crumble, mountains shake, surging waves, the earth melts.
However, the interesting thing is that God "brings wars to an end, breaking the bow and shattering the spear, burning chariots with fire." Declaring: "That's enough!"
Well, haven't we all felt that way? That the calamity of hurricanes and volcanoes and the climate crisis in addition to the wars and violence and children locked in cages. Do we not want to declare, "That's enough!"
I know I do.
But I remember Mt. St. Helen's eruption. I lived in North Carolina at the time but we heard about it. T...