Art in the Ordinary

Jul 2, 2011

Art is filled with grandiose things: a divine finger touch, a goddess emerging from the sea, awe-inspiring mountain shadows, epic human drama rendered in black and white, epic human pain brushed in vivid colors

Those things are interesting, to be sure. But then again, there are the quiet little things that happen around us every day. Take a look at this mom and daughter sharing a meal on a sunny, summer afternoon. It’s such an ordinary scene. It’s not Wagnerian. It doesn’t require interpretation or explanation. It’s just life. Andrew Wyeth might have painted this scene in rich browns. Mary Cassatt would have illuminated the faces of the mother and child. Cezanne would probably have focused on all those plates of food…

I had a photography teacher in high school who used to say, “Don’t look too hard to find a subject. Let a subject find you. Let one sneak up on you in a familiar form and when you look at it, you’ll see it in a new way.”

Although we all nodded when he said it, my classmates and I weren’t really sure what it meant. (One of my friends said it just meant that our teacher was a leftover hippie who had read too much Tao de Ching.) I think I might understand it now, though. He was talking about finding art in the ordinary. There’s plenty. In life, every function has beautiful form. We just need to pay attention.

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