Let’s talk about art

I am excited to return to writing about the arts beginning next week!

Look for my article on Carolina Ballet’s Monet Impressions following its opening on May 11.

I started this blog when I was writing reviews for Triangle Arts and Entertainment. I received press releases and calls for media photographers for performances and events we covered, but since there was no photographer to attend from Triangle A&E, I bought a camera and started going to the photo calls myself (*see note below). I included a few of the photos to beautify my review of the show on Triangle A&E and used ArtsView NC to share additional photos.

I would attend the dress or tech rehearsal for photos, then return to watch the performance later that same day or the next day. Spending hours in the theater during the rehearsal allowed me to witness firsthand some of the hard work that goes into a live performance before showtime. This view of artists behind the scenes gradually impacted the way I wrote reviews.

Over time I stopped thinking of my articles as reviews and started thinking of them as experiential essays. I don’t have to love a performance, but I don’t want to discourage someone from supporting artists doing earnest work. Reviews are for products intended for a specific purpose. For example: “This shirt does not have arm holes,” or “This table only has three legs and won’t stand up.” We can’t predict what characteristics will make art good like we can with a shirt or a table. Art is an experiment, a risk, a posed question, or a kind of discussion, and art takes courage.

In 2010 I went into the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. to find a room full of solid blue canvasses, solid blue hanging cubes, blue body prints… nothing with more than one color, and nothing that looked like it took more skill than most 3-year-olds have.  The exhibit was the work of mid-1900s French artist Yves Klein, who I had never heard of. I stood transfixed in front of a blue canvas and kept returning to it to wonder, “what the hell?” I went to the other floors of the museum and could not stop thinking about that monochromatic piece. Why is Yves Klein such a big deal? I had this idea that if I’m looking at art that is sought after by museums, and that I have to pay to see, it should demonstrate extraordinary skill and creativity, and I thought this canvas showed no skill or creativity. Yet I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I bought a book about the artist and learned how he created his Yves Klein Blue from lapis, which gives it it’s mesmerizing glint and about his philosophical interests that lead him to go into uncharted territories with his art, opening doors for future artists. Once I understood the inspiration behind his work – simple relatable events such as gazing into the blue sky – I was able to see the skill and innovation in his work that had not been immediately apparent, and it has become one of my favorite works of art.

But even if I hadn’t come to admire Yves Klein, his work generated conversation and stuck in my mind. I would never think that a trip into a museum was a waste of time or money because I hadn’t loved every piece of work. I want to go, experience the work, allow myself to think about what I’m seeing and have conversations about it, and to think about what the artist might have intended. I don’t need to love the work, but I always love the experience of finding out. I look for the same discussion with theatrical performances. The many artists involved in creating a theatrical performance make the discussion and experience rich and complex.

Nothing makes me feel more alive than to have a piece of art occupy my mind – whether in admiration or curiosity. I am excited to return to writing about the arts thriving in North Carolina, to share my experiences and support artists who work earnestly, take risks, pose questions and generate discussion.

featured image is:

Yves Klein, Untitled Blue Monochrome (IKB 67), 1959

© The Estate of Yves Klein c/o ADAGP, Paris, 2018

*This was the start of a new passion. I took a break from writing to dive into photography. Visit my photography website at denisecernigliaphotography.com

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