Tag Archives: Miro

Is It Art?

“ How can that be art?”  I went on a trip to Spain with twenty- four teenagers.

With my students in Spain

The art teacher at the high school where I taught had arranged our itinerary. During our nine days in Barcelona and Madrid, we visited eight art galleries, two museums and three cathedrals. Our students saw so many great works of art in such a short space of time that their heads were spinning. Frankly mine was too.

We had a chance to look at famous masterpieces by Degas, Van Gogh, Botticelli and Valazquez. These were artists I could relate to since they painted realistic scenes from history, from the Bible, from their travels or from the everyday life they saw around them. 

I enjoyed examining paintings like Goya’s The Third of May, in which he depicts an exciting battle scene where Spanish troops are confronting Napoleon’s army.

I immediately recognized Holbein’s portrait of King Henry VIII having seen it before in history textbooks.

Jan Brueghel’s depiction of the Animals Entering Noah’s Ark had so many interesting details.

Mata Mua- Paul Gaugin -1892 Museo Thyssen Bornemisza- Madrid

I liked the colourful work Gaugin created after visiting Tahiti.

I had to laugh at Nicolaes Maes’ painting done in the 1600s of a naughty boy whose mother has taken away his drum sticks because the noise he was making woke up his baby sister.

However, we also saw the work of more modern artists like the Spanish greats, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and Joan Miro. I have to admit some of their masterpieces were much harder to appreciate. Four ninth-grade boys from our school called me over to examine an art piece by Joan Miro displayed in a Barcelona gallery. It consisted of three large floor to ceiling white canvases several meters wide. On each one was a single, long thin pencil line.

Panel for Joan Miro’s Painting on White Background for the Cell of a Recluse

The boys had listened to an audio explanation about the piece and knew that Miro confessed it took him only minutes to draw the artwork labelled Painting  on White Background for the Cell of a Recluse.  He said, however, it took him years to figure out what it meant. No wonder! What meaning could it have?  “ How can this be art?” my fourteen-year-old students wondered. I didn’t know how to answer them.

Later I asked myself the same question as I examined some of Miro’s simplistic colourful metal sculptures.

I studied Picasso’s massive artwork Guernica in some depth before going to see it in the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid. It is a war protest piece completed after the Nazis bombed a Spanish town named Guernica. I knew what it was supposed to mean but I have to confess Picasso’s rather bizarre forms and figures didn’t engage me immediately. It took a while to appreciate his strange way of protesting injustice.

Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man- by Salvador Dali- 1943

I could certainly see why Salvador Dali was considered talented. His paintings contain a myriad of tiny detailed figures that must have been extremely difficult and time-consuming to create. However, the various images in his paintings were put together in such strange ways I couldn’t figure out what they meant for the life of me. I noticed some of Dali’s painting titles had the word enigma in them. I thought this was very appropriate since much of his work was an enigma to me.

I realize I still have a long way to go when it comes to understanding art and what makes something a masterpiece. I looked at many amazing pieces of art on my trip to Spain which I could clearly see were works of genius. I also saw some creations that are world-famous and worth millions of dollars that left me asking the question “Is that art?”

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Chicago/Hong Kong Holiday- Day 3

Today we visited Millenium Park and saw one of Chicago’s most iconic works of art Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor. Most people, however, know this stainless steel sculpture as The Bean–because of its shape. It is said to have been inspired by liquid mercury. I liked the way the Chicago skyline was reflected in its curve and it was fun to watch people interacting with The Bean, especially in the sculpture’s underside or ‘navel’ where a concave chamber warps and multiples the reflections.
It isn’t always easy for me to convince Dave to take photos and often before he will snap the more conventional shot I want I have to pose for a shot he favours, like this one where I am kissing myself in The Bean’s reflective surface. 

It was a bright sunny day in Chicago and much nicer for outdoor exploring than the day before had been. We had a pleasant walk through Millennium Park, enjoying the great views of the Chicago skyline it affords. 
We took the elevator up to the top of the Willis Tower. It was formerly called The Sears Tower. Till the building of the Taipei Tower 101, the Sears Tower was the tallest building in the world. Dave was in a good position to compare the two towers since he ascended the Taipei Tower on a trip to Taiwan with the ICS senior class a few years ago. Dave spent quite a bit of time checking out the landscape and trying to figure out where the stadiums were for the  Chicago Cubs, White Soxs, Blackhawks, Bulls and Bears.  

Dave is trying to ‘get in the mood’ of Grant Wood’s famous painting American Gothic.  We spent the morning at the Chicago Art Institute and I think it is the best art gallery I have ever visited. In so many art galleries they make you keep your distance from the art but here you are invited to interact with it. Unlike most galleries where photos are banned the Art Institute invites you to take pictures as long as you don’t use your flash and in fact encourages you to post your photos on their website.

The Institute wants visitors to get all their senses involved as they experience the artwork on display. You can taste. This piece of modern art was a mound of wrapped candy and visitors were invited to take one and eat it. During the day the piece changed as people chose candies and ate them.

You can look. Art students had set up easels and were painting replicas of some of the masterpieces. Here a gallery visitor watches an art student painting 

You can look at Marc Chagall’s beautiful stained glass American windows. I was particularly interested in them because we had seen Chagall’s similar blue windows on Old Testament themes in a church in Mainz Germany.

Dave really likes modern art. Here he is checking out Miro’s Personages with Star. We once spent an afternoon at the Miro Gallery in Barcelona, so Dave considers himself a little bit of an expert.

Dave has very strong opinions about modern art. He loved this piece but he hated this one.

You can listen at the Art Gallery. The music of this talented classical guitarist, Jeff Kust who was situated in the lobby of the modern art wing, could be heard echoing up through all floors as he played everything from Greensleeves to the Beatles. 

You can listen to groups of students all over the museum learning about art from volunteers. It was fascinating for me to listen in on these interesting talks. I think I might want to look into being an art gallery volunteer. 

 You can touch. Here Dave hides behind a statue called Vater Statt by Thomas Schutte. This patriarchal figure represents totalitarianism and is said to be an anti-hero. 

We spent our evening with Karen Lee and her husband Ming. Karen was an administrative assistant at ICS in Hong Kong. She was the secretary of the ICS elementary school where I taught and was indispensable. The last four years we were in Hong Kong Karen was in charge of Community Service. She was so organized it was just a pleasure to work together with her on projects. I taught three of Karen’s four children, who are all in college in the United States now.

Karen and her husband Ming and their youngest daughter moved to Chicago in August, when Ming got a job as a pastor at a small church.  Karen is working at a school in China Town where she is an administrative assistant once again, doing the job that two vice-principals did previously.

She is also teaching Cantonese classes every day. She got the job right after they moved to Chicago. We visited first at the Lee’s townhouse in the Skokie area of the city and then they took us to a Chinese restaurant for supper.  Karen is as full of energy and life as she always has been and it was so great to see her.  I admired her so much and the job she did at ICS. She is one of the school’s unsung heroes. 

What next? Tomorrow we want to explore some Frank Lloyd Wright architecture and then we are going to Wheaton College to visit some of our former ICS students. 

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