Art that Teaches…

A long time ago in a town far, far away I learned the importance of a good art education (okay that was cheesy).  I myself did not receive the best art education in school.  Sadly, my elementary art teacher thought a good piece of art was cheap washable markers on construction paper.  He also said my ability was unsatisfactory in art. I never learned anything about any artist or the fundamentals of art.  I knew the “big” artists:  DaVinci, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael (sadly, because they were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) Picasso, Rembrandt, Monet, and Warhol.  Beyond that nothing. I didn’t even know that red, yellow, and blue were called primary colors until high school (don’t even get me started on tertiary and secondary colors).  My drawing and painting abilities were encouraged by my grandmother and my mom, who paid for local art classes for me.  My first figure drawing class was when I was 10.  I was the youngest person in the class and I didn’t say a word the whole class.  My first nude class was when I was 12.  I saved my money and paid the $250 to take this class.  I then bought all the supplies (costing close to $300).  My mom lied on the form so I could take that the class.  She wrote I was going to be 16, I was pretty mature for my age, I had a job (working for my grandma at her ice cream shop) and I loved art.  I sat there and didn’t say two words, just listened and watched.  The instructor asked me the last day of the class, how old are you really, and I told him.  He was very impressed that I was so into the learning aspect of drawing and took criticism really well.  I also took private oil painting once a week from an amazing lady who taught classes from her house.  (I drove 30 minutes one way, once a week to take her class.)  Till this day I see a tube of Brilliant Yellow Light and immediately think of her.

I then moved away to go to art college and learned about all the dead white men there have been and a couple of women artists.  I then went to another college to study art education and learned that there have been women artists all along, which I knew, but it was nice to be told that it wasn’t just a bunch of dead white guys creating art all those years.  One of the classes I had to take was a Modern Art class.  (At the time I thought Modern Art was one step above an elephant painting, actually I would have said the elephant had more talent.)  I was not a fan of Modern Art.  My impression of Modern Art was – it was all crap!  Little did I know I would have a Professor who would not only change my mind but also change my life.  I kept a very open mind during her class and learned more in one class than I had in 4 years of art college.  Then a couple people in my class talked about the “new” Christo and Jeanne-Claude exhibit in New York (The Gates) and I decided I needed to go.  I wasn’t married, I had no kids, and it was a great reason to go to New York and see my best friend Todd.  Christmas Break from college we (Jeff and I) went to Virginia to visit his parents (and to show my beautiful engagement ring!).  Jeff wanted to take me to the Chrysler Museum and I was amazed at all the pieces they had.  My favorite was a Nam June Paik.  I was speechless and really excited.  The story Jeff loves to tell is me telling Ken (my now father in law) about the Nam June Paik and he was trying to be so polite about the fact he didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. 

Nam June Paik – Hamlet’s Robot

After our trip to Virginia I had mentioned it to Jeff that I would love to go to New York and see The Gates in February and he said I should.  I got a great deal on air fare and had a place to stay and went to New York for the first time in my life.  The first time I saw The Gates from the cab I was screaming like a little kid, “Look there they are!  Aren’t they beautiful?”  I think the cab driver and Todd thought I was a little crazy.  I had studied Christo in my Modern Art class and honestly wasn’t a huge fan, but Dr. Miller said, “You can’t appreicate a Christo until you experience a Christo.”  Those words resonated through my head as I walked through Central Park with Todd.  I took so many photos because it was so beautiful, the brightly colored orange gates against the gray winter backdrop of Central Park.  I came very close to purchasing a Christo but I couldn’t figure out how to get it home, so I passed on the original Christo.  (I really wish I had bought that.)  I was also able to score pieces of The Gates (one for myself and one for Dr. Miller).  Dr. Miller was grateful for scoring a piece of The Gates and she loved my photos.  Dr. Miller passed unexpectedly in 2005.  It was a huge shock for all of us.  My daughter was named in her honor and I try every day to expand her knowledge in art, I will also do the same with my son.

I painted this lonely Gate on my bathroom wall.  It is still unfinished but I like it.
One of Dr. Miller’s favorite photos that I took at The Gates.

Todd and I at The Gates

Why did I choose today to tell this story about The Gates and my art background?  I’m not sure.  Mainly because when I do a project I want to learn something.  I want my children to learn something, whether it be how a volcano happens or how a butterfly becomes a butterfly.  What I learned from The Gates is that you have to experience art.  It is all around you and it teaches you even the most mundane item (an orange piece of fabric) can be the most beautiful thing when it is photographed, painted, and experienced for one’s self.  Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”  Imagination lets us all explore, discover, and create, which in turn leads to learning and knowledge.  This is how I approach or try to approach every project, sometimes successfully, and other times not so much.  I hope everyone else is enjoying the journey and continues to enjoy the journey.

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