"After enlightenment, the laundry." ~Zen Proverb
While climbing the metaphorical slippery cliffs between canyons of paintings of cherubs and canvasses smeared with what almost resembles a newborn's fecal matter, most of us plummet into art-idiocy without a net.
What the "slurping-champagne-noses-in-the-air" types shower with praise and what the "common-Joe" thinks stinks are often one and the same. Art, much like everything else, is a completely personal experience. Clued-in or not, forming your own opinion is what art appreciation is all about.
Artists stimulate our senses with line, shape, form, space, texture and color. And throughout the ages humans have tinkered with these same basic elements with an almost primal urge to create something where there once was nothing. But to understand it all a bit more clearly, with a little guidance, anyone can muster enough know-how certain to make even Andy Warhol do flip-flops in his grave. I hope that my super-abbreviated history of art, below, might be of help:
Although they're priceless, antiquities often seem like objects dug out of your neighbor's marigold patch, and even though they're in prized museum collections, they kinda' look like they've been glued together in someone's basement.
On the other hand, the Greeks and Romans made idealized sculptures of naked, mostly male bodies that now unfortunately have missing parts...noses, ears, arms and other "protrusions." (Ummm? A fig leaf anyone?)
Although not as old as the Roman Empire, 800-year-old medieval artwork often seems cruder than the shattered bits of this-and-that found in the antiquities gallery. But, being the art connoisseur that you're becoming, you, too, can now "Oooh-and-Ahhh" because you can see beyond their shortcomings and seemingly primitive and highly stylized intricacies, instead.
Next stop -- the early Renaissance. This is where you'll expect to see a lot of spooky, two-dimensional, religious-like figures stiffly gesturing and wearing glittery, gold leafed halos and flowing robes, usually posed in some unnatural way, supposedly jabbering on about one moral tale or another.
Often less religious and infinitely more "sugary sweet," Baroque and Rococo art introduces us to the "more-is-more" school of thought, in which slickly painted voluptuous ladies, cherubs zooming around the clouded heavens, heaps of flowers, the occasional goose or peacock, lutes, mountains of expensive looking fabrics and tassels, tassels, tassels fill the canvases.
Step into the Impressionistic and Post-Impressionistic galleries and the subject matter all of a sudden comes back down to earth by offering textural paintings of real-life, everyday junk and ordinary people in commonplace settings and situations. These were scandalous in their day, but now seem super-tame to our jaded eyes.
Like I've tried to explain, art is for everyone -- but not everyone will like everything, and that's OK. What I like best is artwork that shows everyday, ordinary folks doing regular things. And, being the cleaning nut that I am, I always get the biggest rise outta' seeing great works of art that depict people doing chores. The famous Impressionist paintings of Degas, the Post-Impressionist images of Toulouse-Lautrec, the modern paintings of Pablo Picasso, and even the artwork of the prominent American Pop artist, Roy Lichtenstein, all made paintings of folks doing, of all things, their laundry. How mundane, yet how heavenly (for me, at least!).
When artists have creative blocks they doodle, excercise, listen to music, read, take a drive, go for a walk, write, study works of the old masters or procrastinate by doing boring things like the laundry. But when your washing machine has a block -- creative or not -- it's a whole lot easier to resolve. To unclog soap scum formations from the inside of your washing machine, pour a whole gallon of white vinegar into the washer tub and run it full cycle. The white vinegar magically melts the built-up gunk away.
The motivation to create can come from anywhere. Throughout history works of art have inspired confidence, innovation, passion, science, wellness, and sometimes -- lucky for us -- even more great art. But in my case, silly as it seems, those paintings of folks doing chores have motivated me to do mountains of laundry. Now that's inspiration!
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