Connecting to Art – Art Story Three

Connecting to art as a child

The National Museum in Washington DC is expansive, room after room meant for exhibitions, and when you are a 12- year’s old child, it is enormous. For me as a young girl from Ohio, it was an awe-inspiring experience, in fact, I can say my visit there was life-changing.

It happened in a moment in front of a painting by Renoir, “The Little Girl with a Watering Can.” I had such a tremendous reaction deep inside me when I looked at that painting. I didn’t have words for what happened, but I knew in my inner being that I was an artist. It was at that point in time that being an artist became part of my identity.

Art is powerful

I never shared that story with anybody until I began to teach art several years ago after I graduated from college as an adult. Once I realized what happened and could put it into words, the significance of that trip, I wanted to share with my students. I wanted them to understand that they were artists too. I asked them if they knew that they were artists. It was evident to me that they were. I also realized that they might not even know yet or like me; had no words for the memory. My unspoken memory stayed with me over the years. There was a treasure that I was trying to dig out of it.

Art can be very powerful in ways that we don’t understand. I think that’s particularly true of creative people. It’s particularly true of visual people, visual learners. I don’t think we necessarily always have a strong reaction to art, but we do have some kind of reaction to it when we view it. We must pay attention to that aspect of ourselves whenever we’re visiting a museum, a gallery, or an art show, any place we find art.

When you view art, you might want to ask yourself what’s going on inside me. Because you’re connecting to art.

How People Connect to art

I don’t know how it happens; I just know that it does. Here are four different ways people respond to art as shared by a member in a forum on “The Wet Canvas” website. The member got the information from a book by Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi and Rick Robinson called The Art of Seeing (1990).

Four ways people interact with art:

  • Visually: Art is perceived through the senses, particularly sight, color, texture, and composition are taken in and explored.
  • Emotional: Art triggers a numbers of emotional reactions, which you can be inspired, repelled, attached to, or even angered by what you are viewing.
  • Meaning: Art causes you to look for its messages and there is a desire to dialogue about it in order to communicate that to the culture.
  • Intellect: Art is put into historical context, the technique is studied and noted, the meaning is considered. There is a desire to further study the artist and his work.

People primarily respond to art in one of these ways but they will most likely embrace all these modes of taking art in.

You’re never too young to connect to art.

I started early to take my sons to the museums, art shows, and events.

My son Sean was 18 months when I took him to the Miami Museum of Art in Miami Florida, now called HistoryMiami Museum, a Smithsonian Affiliate. It was an afternoon where we had some time to spare and I found my way to their museum with its beautiful Spanish architecture. There were some paintings by Amedeo Modigliani and one particular of Elena Povolozky. I stopped to look at it and study it for a while as I pushed the portable stroller with my son in it. I tried to move on to other works, but Sean did not want to leave. I must have told him the lady in the painting was called Alena because he kept saying her name when I tried to leave the painting.

I did manage to see some of the other exhibits, but I returned frequently to Elena just to satisfy my son’s intense attachment to her. It was getting late, time to meet up for dinner and we needed to go, but I couldn’t convince Sean to leave Alena.

Mom fail

I took my toddler out of his stroller and put my purse and my diaper bag over my shoulder. With the stroller grasped in one hand and my son in my other arm up against me tightly, I walked down the marble stairs at the museum with extra care in my stiletto shoes.

Confession, this is a total mom fail. Somewhere halfway down the stairs, my almost-two-year-old who was already in his terrible twos decided the best thing for him to do besides calling out about Alena was to bite me on the shoulder and not let go.

I somehow made it down the stairs and when I put everything down, including my son, I leaned over and looked at him in the face and said with the ugliest voice I could come up with, “Don’t ever do that to me again.” To which every person in standing room looked at me in horror wondering what kind of woman would speak to her toddler that way.

Well, it would be me, as I burst into tears and left the lobby as fast as I could. But you know what, after the pain subsided and I calmed down, I actually appreciated his passion for that painting, and to this day, I think it’s a wonderful thing, because my friend, that is connecting to art.

Why is this important?

Art is all around and we take it in with our senses, it can soothe us, anger us, make us want to spend a little more time with it like my son Sean.

There is a very interesting book about Rembrandt’s painting of the “The Return of the Prodigal Son” written by Henri Nouwen, who arranged to spend hours in front of the painting in The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. The beauty and significance Nouwen mined from that exercise is worth the read, I recommend the book, one of my favorites. Good art is a treasure that will enliven us and enrich our lives if we pay attention to it. I will be sharing my reflections on the book next week.

I would just like to encourage you to view art as much as possible, in whatever setting you feel most comfortable in. Explore the art, talk to the artist at a show, and ask them about their work. Take note of the art that you’re attracted to, and maybe, later on, reflect a bit by asking yourself why it attracts you. And if you have a strong reaction to a work of art, you should definitely dig a little deeper into what is going on within you.

Biz News

Everyone loves colorful autumn leaves! Each year I like to capture then in watercolor. Here is this year’s Colorful Autumn Leaves Collection.

It includes three 9 x 12-inch original watercolors, and two smaller studies that are 6 x 6 inches. From these paintings I am making prints available for the original watercolors that are 8 x 10, 10 x 12, and 11 x 14. The leaf studies can be purchased as 6 x 6 or 8 x 8-inch prints.

There are notecards available. The Colorful Autumn Note Card Set consists of 6 notecards created from the three original watercolors, two of each.

And finally, I have made available the Colorful Autumn Leaves Square Card Set that consists of 6 note cards in a NEW size. They were created from the two leaf studies and on of the original watercolor.

The Colorful Autumn Leaves Collection is up on my Etsy Site. The original art will be up in the Shop at Ruthieonart sometime this week.

If you have not opted in to receive The Blog, some of my creations as downloads, special offers, and to be the first to know when I am releasing new art, prints and cards, please sign up at the top right hand side of this page. Thank you for your interest in my Art and as always, Be Inspired.


Leave a Reply