We often think of art as just something we can see but sometimes we can also experience it with our other senses.
During the exhibit, Insurgence-Resurgence at the Winnipeg Art Gallery visitors were invited to enter a dark room created by Anishinabe artist Scott Benesiinaabandan. When you stepped inside you heard this rhythmic sound like a heartbeat and then a woman started talking in a poetic and soothing voice in an Ojibway language. I liked to imagine the heartbeat belonged to a child in the womb and the woman talking was the child’s expectant mother soothing her unborn offspring.
Here I am at the Art Institute in Chicago helping myself to some candy from an art installation by Cuban artist Felix Gonzales Torres. The work actually has a very sombre theme. Gonzales Torres made it as a tribute to his partner who died of AIDS. The weight of the candy when the installation first opens is 175 pounds the healthy weight of the artist’s partner Ross who died of AIDS. Gonzales Torres is a Catholic and just like mass participants are invited to eat the body of Christ here visitors can take candy to participate in the sweetness of Ross’s life but they also diminish the pile until bit by bit it disappears just as Ross did when he finally died.
Every other year the Winnipeg Art Gallery hosts an event called Art in Bloom. Floral artists are invited to create arrangements to compliment different works of art in the gallery. The whole gallery is full of beautiful flowers and you can also smell the blooms of course. There are unique scents for each painting depending on what kind of flowers have been chosen. Here sweet-smelling pink roses grace a painting of the patron saint of music Cecilia who has turned her head to speak to the cherub holding her music.
Tsema Igharas is an Indigenous artist from the Tahltan First Nation. Her work Ejjnda-Push is a stretched caribou hide on a wooden frame with an amplifying speaker behind it. The skin can be played like a large drum and that is exactly what art gallery visitors are invited to do- use their hands to create a beat on the skin of the drum. We had this piece on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 2017 and our younger visitors especially enjoyed this tactile work.
Of course, the way we usually enjoy art is through our sense of sight. Here I am with Vincent Van Gogh’s iconic Starry Night at the MOMA in New York. The MOMA was one of the first galleries that didn’t forbid photos, but in fact, encouraged patrons to take pictures with the masterpieces in their gallery and post them on the gallery’s website.
There are times when visual art can be experienced with one of the other senses as well. I am excited to look for more examples once we can visit art galleries again.