impressions of art

When you're working on a film, it's almost like photographing paintings at a museum. You're photographing somebody else's world. I just try and interpret it and make it real, and make it what the actors are about, what the director is about, and what the film is about.
Mary Ellen Mark

 dancing pony | fred jones museum of art, norman ok

dancing pony | fred jones museum of art, norman ok

I wasn't raised with art nor was it an area discussed or taught in school. I actually had the sense that artists were viewed with suspicion; perceived with a condescending sneer or irrelevance; opinions most likely shaped by fear and discomfort with a pinch of underlying envy.  There was a pervading (resigned) definition of “work”  and art certainly wasn't in that category. It was something that lived on the fringes – something you might see in New York City; something others did, but in our little hive, it just simply wasn’t part of the pervading culture.

All these thoughts flashed through my head in my first Art History class. I remember feeling desperately uncomfortable and out of place. Yet once the lights were turned off and the first slide presented, the conflict that raged inside dissipated. I remember being carried onto a current of insatiable curiosity - enamored and possessed. I was so taken with Egyptian art that I painted hieroglyphs on pretty much everything - clothing, walls, canvas. When I couldn't visually understand the early Christian Cathedrals, I drew the floorplans; carefully mirroring each detail and curve to see the underlying structure. And when we arrived at early Flemish and then Dutch art, I found a peaceful intuitive understanding; like when you meet a person you feel you’ve known your entire life. I spent long days and nights in the Old Stacks sections of the library and in the Art Library on the floor looking at art. Pouring over paintings, etchings, woodcuts, sculpture and photographs. I couldn’t get enough of it and within a few years, I took a deep breath and changed my major to photography and art history.

I mention this all as my coming into art was like the first blossoms of spring which bring a burst of color into a dreary grayness. Art opened my eyes to the  long view and while criticism abounds on the housing of art in museums and those who decide what is and isn’t worth showing, the feeling I have in a museum is no different than that first day in art history. I feel transported to another time and place of being and seeing and knowing. The narrowness of the day-to-day slides into a cosmic vastness for art is much more than an object; it is about life and living and stories of a particular place and time; at its core, it is a self-portrait. Over the years I've traveled to and visited museums whenever and wherever. I've been to the large ones and small ones and with each experience, I have felt swept into a time tunnel; a beautiful vortex that leaves me clear and inspired. 

Though I didn’t’ feel the pull to photograph my wanderings through art museums until about five years ago, I've been quietly tucking them away enjoying them on my own. Recently, I took an afternoon and looked at them together. I began with words from Mary Ellen Mark in how she approached photographing on a film set because that's how these have surfaced. What I see in the photographs are quiet meditations of an enchanting solace -  still, silent impressions of timelessness. I've chosen to share a few from a larger series I hope to present later this year.