Saturday, November 13, 2010

Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary

It had just rained when I was shooting this backlit tree which was lit up like an electric Christmas tree. Look you see the blue energy "orbs" that Sedona is known for?

I didn't notice them at first. You can't see them with the naked eye; it requires a camera lense. In fact, I didn't see them until I blew up the digital images on my computer.

That got me to thinking, what else do we overlook in every day life?

I must admit that since my return from Sedona it's been quite difficult to find as much inspiration. My everyday life seems to pale greatly in comparison to the adventures I had in Arizona. I'm sure you all can relate, yes?! I went to an art exhibit Thursday at the Blanton Museum here in Austin, and it reminded me that sometimes the most interesting, insightful moments are in the very ordinary, day to day living. We have to be looking with the right lense...and not just with our auto focus!

The exhibit,"Turner to Monet", depicted two major art movements competing with one another. The older art movement was more academic and had an idealized or romanticized view of the world, referencing history, mythology or scriptures. The newer art movement, which was struggling to be accepted even by the public, wanted to express their vision of the beauty found in real everyday life...from nature, to a peasant plowing, to the streets of Paris, to dappled light falling on a dress. These artists made the ordinary seem quite extraordinary. They simply told the story of the moment, not of the ages. They were, if you like, the predecessors to the TV reality shows, exhibiting never before seen glimpses of personal life as we all experience it...not as we wish it to be.

I was so inspired by how many of these artists made travel an integral part of life as well. It was an exciting time to be alive and so much was changing as the Industrial Age moved forward. Some artists would travel to Africa, make studies and go home to paint what was known as "Orentalism"...only to return to Africa again for more painting studies of Muslim wars and peoples. Degas began to make use of developing modern technology and referenced a photographer's images for some of his horse paintings. Jean Beraud worked from his mobile carriage studio to paint the bustling Paris streets. (OK, if he can work from a carriage, I can work from my van!!!!)

Asher Brown Durand's grand forest made me feel like I was back in the Sedona forests. His work is from the Hudson River School of artists which reflects Ralph Waldo Emerson's transcendental philosophy of the time, that "through intuition one can comprehend a world in which all of nature bears testimony to a spiritual truth." I think I would have gladly joined these artists if I'd lived back then!

Theodore Rousseau. I'm not sure we'd ever been properly introduced, or maybe I'd just never noticed his work before, but it was love at first sight! The big skies, the moody dark clouds, the abstract textured foregrounds, the roughness of his strokes and the intensity of his moved me. Yum. From the Barbizon art movement, Rousseau was among the first artists to paint outside, traveling to a place and taking a week to paint a large canvas. A WEEK, mind you!

Here's one of his works that I saw in person; I remember the sky being more intensely orange and peach:

"Hoarfrost" by Theodore Rousseau, 1845

Sigh. I need to think Rousseau thoughts this weekend on a few of my Sedona photos, yes?!

Finally, there was a Monet at the very end of the exhibit which simply showed his obsession for dots of light on his wife's dress. He wasn't concerned with were she could have been my backyard or yours. Nor was he concerned with her likeness. It was all about those dots of light on her dress. I know how he feels...I adore those dappled lights filtered through trees that you can chase especially in the spring, at certain times of day. He captured them so bravely, with a tender toughness.

So the good news is that you can chase the light anywhere...Paris, Sedona, a French countryside or the Texas hill country. The thing HAVE to chase your muse. Where ever it is, what ever it may be that inspires you to paint. Look for it wherever you are and you'll most likely find it! Because just maybe, it's really been in you all the time, just looking for the right lense to be seen with.

Happy creating!

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