I was in the Louvre the other day. Perhaps the world’s most famous art museum, it is also one of the world’s largest. According to this on-line source, it has 300,000 pieces of art spread out over 100 acres of real estate. Whatever. After about the first thousand paintings and five acres traversed, the mind kind of numbs.
I don’t know if you are at all like me (who could be?—so perhaps I shouldn’t dwell on the obvious), but when my mind numbs, perspective tends to shift. A lateral slide that mimics liquid mercury rolling along a metal surface, rather than just freezing in place as it might with other folks. Thus was it that when I finally found myself in front of the Mona Lisa (well, La Joconde, to you purists)—which would have been about after 4,357 objects of art and 13 acres of stairs, escalators, marble corridors, domed halls, etc.—I found my camera doing this . . .
and this . . .
and this . . .
Call me strange. Off-kilter. Or simply a bad reporter. Always missing the main point in any story.
The reality, though, is that point of view is important. In just about any human endeavor. Shift the viewfinder even a few degrees and an entirely new reality comes into view. What the story is, is often simply a matter of where we place the boundaries that become the frame that defines what we can—and cannot—see.
As for this particular reality? Well, we tend to think about the pieces on the walls, but almost as interesting is the attention they engender.
This got me to thinking—in my benumbed state—about viewing behavior. How is it that others view pieces of art? So, (like any good reporter!) I did a little reconnaisance on this score. And what I came up with was this.
There are people who wait and wait (and wait) for the crowds to clear, so that they can have a painting to themselves:
There are people who spend their time commiting the canvas to their sketch pads:
There are folks for whom the art is part of their vacation moment:
People who really scrutinize and absorb the work:
People who place themselves in the sphere of art’s universe—not simply one work, alone, but the totality of the artistic experience:
And then there are those who are oblivious to the art, the abundance, the magnificence surrounding them:
In fact, so many different ways to orienting oneself to art that it probably was only natural that one who spends so much time around galleries—say, an artist—would think to capture it on canvas. His project: to sleep in the gallery, if need be, in this canvas canopy . . .
then when inspiration (or just the right viewing audience) entered his consciousness, he’d decend to his makeshift studio, there in the gallery . . .
. . . and render the artisitc/audience interaction on canvas:
Well, if I can see what an artist can see then I guess I’m not as much of a schlep as I might have supposed. Maybe not numb as much as channeled into a deeper position of vision. A different kind of “p-o-v”, for those of you keeping score at home. But, as I have found in life, striking a different pose—assuming a different place from which to view reality—can be rewarding; well worth the effort.
Even at those times when p-o-v would seem so straightforward. Where practical roles and experiential expectations would appear so obviously and clearly codified. Even in a place as simply configured (though endlessly unending) as the Louvre.
// Notes from the Road
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