“Paris, France is flawless.”
“I hear the Mona Lisa is insured for $750 million”
“I hear she gets a ton of Asian tourists… from Japan.”
“Her only well-known movie is Amelie.”
“One time she met me on a train – and I told her she was pretty.”
“One time she punched me in the face – it was awesome.”
It took me three months but I made it there. For the past five days, I was in Paris for my art history and oil painting classes’ joint excursion to the grand Parisian art museums, the literally dozens of world class collections housed within one city’s limits. We visited four museums and spent about eight hours a day just looking, discussing, processing these images before our eyes. However, I think we discussed about ten paintings in total. I have never sat before a painting for more than 5 minutes before, just hanging out with it, getting to know how its day went, etc. But I was definitely not the only student whose entire perception of painting changed and expanded. Paintings can make even hardened, yuppies-to-be cry, if they open their minds to the possibility of a painting being more than bits of color on canvas.
Edward Hopper said, “If I could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint.” Paintings have the same mysterious ability of a poem, a story, a movie to connect to the viewer on an emotional level, yet it’s an experience that is unique to the medium of paint. In a way, the connection between the artist and the viewer is even more direct than those of novels or poems because there is no middleman of something like language, words, connotations inherent in writing. It’s just you using a sense you’ve had since you were born to perceive an idea. And that’s why I think the experience of viewing a painting can be so personal. The image opens the door for you step through and understand other things – whatever human struggles that are in one’s life at that moment. I know. I sound like a hippie, free-lover spewing these abstract terms about the human condition and expression. But if you ever want to really know what I mean, come with me and I’ll take you to a museum and we’ll contemplate the world before us through the work before us.
I have to be honest, I don’t personally get all the hype about the Mona Lisa. But at least it forces people to look at a painting for a while.