Thursday, July 23, 2009

Freak out, part. 1 of 2

(Disclaimer: I know I've been focusing on art a lot.I can't help myself. But I will expand, I promise.) The next two posts have to do with the quality of art. I have something to say about what I see presented online. First of two entries...

I used to work for an art moving company. We’d pack and crate paintings, photographs and sculptures for collectors, galleries and museums. I remember being in a storeroom, a van Gogh painting resting on its back, thinking how lucky I was to be this close to a work of art, no alarms or guards to shoo me away. My boss said “Go ahead, touch it.” I blinked at him. “Really?” He nodded and giddily I touched the surface of the canvas, tracing my fingers over the hills and valleys of aged paint.

It was electrifying, feeling the brush strokes, and I began to get an idea of how the master worked his magic. There is a phenomena called Stendhal’s Syndrome or hyperkulturemia – the feeling of being totally overwhelmed when regarding a work of art or anything of great beauty; the heart races, you feel faint, dizzy, mad even. People have been known to react violently too. At the museum I work in, a man ran into the galleries, slashed two paintings with a knife, and ran out again. Beauty can inspire pain when it feels unattainable. There are times when I’m working with a great work of art when I feel almost besieged by beauty. I stare endlessly into a canvas and try to put myself in the artist’s mind – looking as he looked – taking in the scene before him as he transports it from eye to brain to arm to fingertip to canvas. I am overcome. I run.