Some time ago I went to the Art Institute of Chicago. I had been pegged as an “outsider artist” at that time, and kind of embraced it because I didn’t have a choice, and didn’t want to be associated with the “insider artists.” My impressions or feelings on Art at that time in my life, were not special emotions based on any kind of educated theory really. They were the identical impressions or feelings I spread thinly across the board for any given topic or scenario. Its fair to say I was super sardonic, and not a thing or a creature was safe from me.
So on this one particular day, I went to the museum. I don’t even remember if I went alone or not. I can tell you that I was scared. I was embarrassed. And I was secretly elated to the point of distraction. But over these dumb histrionics, was a more discriminating force within me, Anger. And Anger, was definitely along for the ride that day. Anger, was just radiating from me and I may as well have been a red light. I am going to attempt to explain what it is about me, that made me feel that way on that day. I don’t think it was a sunny day, but I don’t remember rain.
I wanted to be invisible so that I could walk through all the rooms without eyes on me, while I had this experience. I could hang my nose within an inch of the exhibits and no one would arrest me. I could lay down and just stare at paintings. Its almost as if I was suddenly a barbarian, for the amount of one dimensional energy I poured into just desiring these basic actions. The problem was that I had so much to learn, and so many limitations. Me Vs Me. One on one. Anger.
So you see, I wasn’t angry because I hated the modern institutionalization of the arts, from some kind of twisted outsider perspective, like you might assume. I was angry because I knew this was going to be a deeply personal experience and I had two hours or some shit to have it in. I would have to be institutionalized if that was even possible. The task before me, was to experience miles and miles of these exhibited objects. Objects made with unknown meanings, by men and women long ago dead and buried. Men and women who were legends and lived during very different times. Men and women who had to create things to the extent that they would rather die than live without that right. How can you be critical of Art? And, what’s your point?
Don’t cheat yourself.
During this phase of my life, I seemed to have chosen the sad ability to remember approximately one memory for every few months of my life, and I was a sober individual as I made my way through the years. The reason for this horrible lack of memories can be blamed squarely on the fact that my emotions and my heart were running the show like a fucking death squad, spraying every experience with blinding sentiment. Which is why, I can only tell you about one piece of art that I saw on that day. The one piece of art that made me want to cry.
I never understood why Vincent Van Gogh was famous. I don’t suggest that I understand now, in any total way why he was famous. I thought his paintings were ugly. The content didn’t even excite me after learning about his life. He was an artist who was part of the Art 101 Outline, and I preferred the works of other artists. I didn’t think that I would leave the Art Institute of Chicago with a broken heart because I saw one of his paintings. But I did.
I saw his Self-Portrait. The paint was literally swimming like pixels. Every inch of the canvas was alive with his ageless spirit, and thats not something I have ever said, or ever hoped to say honestly.. but... It crushed me. I could feel my anger being zapped by compassion. I have nothing but compassion for Van Gogh now because I truly experienced his artwork up close, and it marked me. I had been deceived by the whole world for so long. I had deceived myself as well. Van Gogh was amazing and how could I have missed that? One on one. Experience.
Even though I know there was serious art all through the museum for me to get with, I am satisfied with my experience there. I’d love to go back for a second chance, and it would be great to hit The Mutter Museum in Philadelphia again while I’m at it. These places play a crucial role in our society, which in greener days, I would have shot the bird at. I learned something very important when I visited these Museums. I can’t tell you what that is exactly, because I am still cultivating it, and its final yield escapes me still. I do know, that I am no one to be judging, and maybe, you aren’t either.