An Artist’s Date

In her book, The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron starts the reader off with two commitments. One is morning pages – essentially keeping a diary, something I have done off and on for many years, since my mother suggested it. it’s long been a place I could pour out my insanity as a tool to stay, all in all, sane.

The second is what she calls “Artist Dates”, making time each week to stimulate your mind and heart with art. I have not been so diligent with this over the years. But recently, I have gotten better, and it’s a huge joy and benefit to me. It keeps my mind focused on possibilities and ideas, instead of my own struggles and battles. And that is a better place to be, by far.  My new job takes me from my little village of West Pawlet, Vermont to big cities, where there are museums on nearly every corner. So often, when my work day is done, or I have an hour or so between appointments, instead of sitting with a cup of coffee at Starbucks, or climbing on the subway to get back to where ever I am staying that night, I go to museums.

Last week, I went to the Smithsonian Museum of American Art. I didn’t even know the Smithsonian HAD a Museum of American Art. That’s because it’s not on the mall with so much of the rest of the Smithsonian. It’s off a few blocks, in the middle of businesses and government agencies and subway stations. But it is a treasure chest of art, ranging from classical to wildly modern and experimental.

The space itself is staggeringly beautiful, Classical. Spacious. Friends know that often I love museum spaces with their light and space as much as the art itself and this was no exception.

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The first floor hall

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The third floor galleries

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The modern art galleries

The art itself ranged from realistic art from nearly every era. I was particularly drawn to this painting, “The Little Soldier”, done in 1964. It captures childhood, but also makes you think of the lives lost in that and every war, and the tender hearts that go into battle for noble causes, but end as a bloodied statistic. Perhaps it is because I am a little tender emotionally right now, but beautiful as it is, this one made me cry.

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Little Soldier by Eastman Johnson

There was also a lot of sculpture. Most of it was in the classical style, the marble impossibly smooth, the lines and faces impossibly pure. The admiration I have for people who can create life out of stone is beyond words. It’s some kind of magic, I think. I am convinced of it.

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The Lost Pleiad by Randolph Rogers

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Busts by Jo Davidson

Random pieces jumped at me. Some, like this, titled “The Ruler”, were so simple, yet somehow, for me, so powerful. Yes, all you classical artists, I am aware this likely makes me a little off. Still…

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Ruler, by Jasper Johns

 

Another piece of beautiful simplicity that sang to me.

 

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Moonlight Albert Ryder

There was furniture too. from the simple…..

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To furniture made art…

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America Receiving the Nine Muses by Thomas Wilmer Dewing

Perhaps the most interesting. (not the most beautiful, but the most interesting, were several pieces by Nam June Park, a Korean artist who came to America and created installations of art built around media and television. Being in the Broadcast Technology industry as I am, his work fascinated me, and I stayed and watched, often for quote long times.

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Zen for TV

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But all good things come to an end. Museums close. And it was back to the subway, to my sister’s house where I was staying. But I carried with me not just a productive day at work, but ideas and beauty and thoughts and ideas.

A good artist’s date, indeed.

Tom

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