29 April 2008

The First Part.

I want to say that I saw the first Mondrian in Liverpool in their museum of modern art in 1996. I had spent some time studying at Lancaster University--far away from the south of England, and particularly Cambridge which I had to wait nearly 10 years to visit.

I took a theory of modern art class and was abysmally stupid in it. I was lost. I was confused. I wasn't nearly bright enough, nor pretentious enough to be there.

The professor always asked me questions about the "American South."

"So. Tell us, Ms. Academic, about the trouble and turmoil that is the American South. Mississippi. Alabama. You, of course, can enlighten us."

"No, sir, I cannot. I have not spent an incredible amount of time in any of those places; so no, I cannot speak about them. But I do know a little bit about the Matisse paintings in the Baltimore Museum of Art. I am from a town near there."

"We don't need to know that. I know all about that. I know all about the Cohn sisters and their, how shall we say, eccentric collection. You'll say nothing new."

" Very well, sir."

Yes. He was that much of a prick.

After writing a decent paper on theories of color and shoving it under his office door, I ran for Liverpool to see the Mondrian.

I stood in front of one very much like this one:

And I knew that slides had failed me. (They fail you every time.) The pomposity and, of course, learning that exuded from the professor (who would have killed to use his Oxford PhD somewhere better than my adopted school) failed and angered me.

I saw the painting finally. And I saw the brush strokes and the care that went into this painting, this geometry. And the colors. The tears rolled down my cheeks.

Early this week, I had a difficult conversation where I was told that I was too academic, too intellectual and not emotional enough, that I don't open up enough.

I thought, "perhaps if we had had this conversation in Liverpool in front of a Mondrian (or in front of the Eames house that evokes the same visceral reaction in me), I could give you what you're looking for."

And I know that I wasn't always this closed off.

It comes and goes in waves.


susan said...

My good friend was studying at Lancaster the year I was studying at Nottingham. I went up to visit a couple of times and was quite charmed by the place.

I can say nothing intellectual or insightful about art, and I enjoy reading what you (and others who, like you, actually seem to know a thing or two on the subject) have to write about it. And in my opinion, one is not required to bare one's soul indiscriminately in order to be "sufficiently emotional." Being emotional and being academic are not mutually exclusive conditions, and anyone who says otherwise is full of it.

Casey said...

I dealt just fine with all my post-military angst and a couple good friends still in buying it right when I came home. I never even breathed hard. I have always been called a "hard-ass" because I'm more or less a militant stoic.

Good thing none of them saw me walk into the hollow Entrada of Devil's Kitchen for the first time after coming home. Or smelling the sage brush for the first time in years. I teared up a little (cried like a girl).

People that judge the emotions of another are usually just too lazy to see past relationship or Lifetime Movie bullshit emotion into the true nature and current that flows in quiet people.

a little of this, a little of that... said...

I agree that often there is nothing else like experiencing the real thing.

In my experience, when folks in academia start labeling someone as too much of one thing or too little of another, it is usually more about them than it is about the person that that they are labeling.

Pick up most any academic journal for most any discipline, and you will most likely find it devoid of passion. That is not to say that passion is not a part of what people can do. Most folks don't or can't. The people that can bring passion to writing and inquiry (your writings on space, theatre, art, and architecture, for example) are special and memorable.

Megarita said...

Well damn, I like Casey's comment more than my own. I will say that I had the same experience when the Van Gogh exhibition was in DC. The field with crows painting made me burst into tears. So powerful. And I'm another discreet one, to use the nicer term. :)

Pascal √Čbert said...

I've been often maligned by the two or three people who actually know me for my lack of passion for dance or any musical movement for that matter.

I write music, I perform music, I speak the language. My relationship with music is different - not unique - but different. That my body is not compelled to move by melody or rhythm is not to suggest that my mind and spirit are similarly complacent.

I just move differently.

I reject the notion that one could be too intellectual. The notion that you might somehow be emotionally deficient is suspect to me as well. You're clearly one to be easily moved.

I wonder if perhaps you just move differently.