Last weekend I saw the exhibit Cross Country: The Power of Place in American Art 1915-1950 at the High Museum here in Atlanta. It's a thoroughly enjoyable show for several reasons. First of all, there's lots to see--hundreds of pieces of painting and photography. It's organized by region rather than chronologically or by medium, so you see artists responding to the Southwest or the Midwest or wherever all together in one gallery. I particularly enjoyed seeing photography hung next to painting rather than off in a side nook somewhere.
I enjoyed it also because, like at a party where you meet new people and are delighted to discover you have things in common--who knew?!--I discovered a few artists new to me that I really enjoyed. More about that in a minute.
And finally, and most interestingly for me, I watched myself watching, caught myself looking as it were and became curious about what was catching my eye this day. Why was I taking these particular photos with my phone? What was I responding to? What clues might this give me for my own work?
Here are some of the pieces I photographed. My hands-down favorite was this piece by Georgia O'Keeffe.
|Georgia O'Keeffe, Barn with Snow, oil on canvas, 1933|
Hanging next to that piece is this one (apologies for being out of focus):
|Arthur Dove, Landscape, oil on canvas, 1929|
|Dale Nichols, When the Grass Grows Green, oil on canvas, 1939|
Now for something really simplified:
|Harry Callahan, Weed Against Sky, Detroit, silver gelatin print, 1948 (printed later)|
The next day, I saw this on my morning walk. I don't think I would have noticed it at all had I not seen the Callahan the day before.
|Molly Elkind, tree buds|
Here's another piece from the show that I mistook for a print at first glance. Again, these strong simple shapes seem so expressive. And a textile artist is bound to love all those perpendicular lines.
|Jacob Lawrence, Firewood #55, gouache, watercolor, ink on paper, 1942|
|Carolyn Wyeth, Open Window, oil on canvas, 1944|
I love running across women artists I hadn't known of before. Carolyn was Andrew Wyeth's sister and obviously a thoughtful and sensitive painter in her own right. The composition, with its single wilting rose on a ledge or table in front of a window, is unusual and enigmatic.
|Charles Sheeler, The Upstairs, oil on canvas, 1938|
I am sometimes surprised as I round a corner at home by the interesting compositions made by doorways, shadows and furniture. I liked Sheeler's paintings in the Cross Country show for the same reason. This one of Sheeler's reminded me of a photo I had taken in our house:
|Molly Elkind, interior|
Looking back at the pieces that struck me from this exhibit, it occurs to me it might be a useful exercise to print them out and trace over the main shapes and lines, to see the compositions without the distraction of color and texture. I might learn something about shape, line and proportion.
What about you? When you see a gallery or museum show, do you find yourself noticing what you notice?