As a “full time creative person” my business is fueled by ideas.
My business requires creative energy. When I travel I spend time looking for new ideas to inspire projects in my home studio.
On a recent trip to the east coast trip I wanted spend several days in favorite museums. My first stop was the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC. The Hirshhorn is an easy walk from public transportation and sits along the Washington mall. The building itself is a work of art surrounded by sculpture with a cool fountain at it’s center. The permanent collection is wonderful and there is always an engaging exhibit to explore.
The work of Iranian born photographer and videographer Shirin Neshat is currently on display at the Hirshhorn.
Before I entered the museum, I knew nothing about Shirin Nashat and now I am a fan. “Facing History”is visually, emotionally and politically compelling. Her show was divided into multiple galleries some of which contained large scale beautifully printed photographic images and other galleries showed large video presentations.
The films presented were like odd poems or strange stories centered around life in Iran. In one gallery there was dual video called Turbulent of a man singing in Farsi with his audience behind him and in the second scene a women (I believe the artist) sings toward the now empty seats.
Most of videos seemed to be a comment on the tension between the roles of men and women in Iran. In “Fervor” the scene is of a man speaking to a large group divided by gender. The crowd includes men in white western shirts and women covered in a traditional hijab.
My western sensibility views the scene is a picture of the cultural repression of women. If I was a women in this culture would I view the scene as picture of the expression of deeply committed religious people or as repression?
The photographic work gave me something specific to take home to my own studio. Each of the photo’s included an intimate portrait; a person, a pair of hands, feet, a mother and child. The artists transcribes contemporary poetry with ink over the surface of the image. Sometimes the text is obvious. In other portraits the text is subtle like a layer of drawing on the surface.
The idea that images of the people contain the deeper story of their lives really grabbed me. The scale of these portraits which made the visual statement of a life having immense power and beauty. Shirin Neshat describes her work as deeply personal exploration of her own personal and social anxieties. It seems to me that her body of work is an exploration of identity.
For more information about the artist, check out this video lecture from Berkeley.
Washington is a wonderful gift to the artist. Galleries and museums are free and in great supply. After the Hirshhorn my husband and I walked across the mall. We ended up in from of the “National Gallery of Art”. Inside we found an exhibit of the impressionist artist Gustave Caillebotte.
I recognized many of the paintings in the exhibit. I have seen many of Caillebotte’s paintings of Paris reproduced as cheap posters and commercial items sold in museum gift shops. The originals are beautiful and easily understood by a wide audience a window into 19th century Paris.
It was the first painting I saw, as I walked into the gallery; that captured my attention. It was a painting called “The Floor Scrappers”. The painting was rejected entry in the 1875 Salon de Paris because of it’s common subject matter. The “Floor Scrappers” has a photographic quality and the craftsmanship is superb.
While I walked the gallery and I read Caillebotte’s biography. He was a rich man who ended up supporting the impressionist art community. He sold very few of his own paintings because he had no need to support himself through his art. He was not held hostage by money or a desire for fame. He painted the food he saw in local shops and the new architecture of Paris. His eye did not reimagine what he saw. Like a camera, his painting was vehicle to document his life.
My three big ideas:
1. Dig through my own history for ideas (family photo’s, stories, traditions, history)
2. Explore the culture I live in (life in my community, how do I live, eat, worship, what does my community value)
3. Be authentic (what interests me, how do I view the world, my inner life)
Can’t wait to get back into the studio!
Until Next Time