A few weeks ago the weekly writing prompt I shared in my Unlock the Muse post encouraged trying out a new experience designed to excite one of the five senses. One of the suggestions was to go to an art museum. I had never before been to the art museum located here in my home town. Every time I would happen to drive by, I would remember how much I wanted to go. When this writing prompt showed up, I knew it was time to make it happen.
I had some time off work, so while my children were in school, I took an hour and explored the Hallie Ford Museum of Art. This art museum – the third largest in the state of Oregon – is connected to the Willamette University. Many of the displays in their permanent collection include artists who taught at the university at one time or another.
Since I was there by myself I made up my mind I would spend as much time as I wanted and thoroughly enjoy each piece. And I did take my time. I wandered through the rooms on the first level, stopping to read the placard beside each piece.
Some of the artwork really captured my imagination – pieces such as an oil on canvas, Untitled Memory #44, by Royal Nebeker and C-print photograph, The Glowing Drawer, by Holly Andres. I spent a good deal of time examining the first. It has so many various elements, something new would catch my eye every time I started to move away. The second piece looked like something begging to become a story.
My favorite piece was probably a welded bronze sculpture titled Oceanscape by Robert Hess. Swirling lines and interesting details give this sculpture a sort of whimsical look. According to the placard, “Oceanscape uses the forms of modern sculpture to speak in witty ways about Pacific mist, undertows, and whale watching.”
I also learned to appreciate the art better. One piece in particular was not visually appealing to me at first, but became more so after I read about the artist and her work. I found Spirit in Orange Skirt, by Marita Dingus at first interesting, but not especially attractive. Then I read the placard:
“Washington artist Marita Dingus learned to sew from her mother and paternal grandmother; she made her own clothes but also used sewing as play. Following a more formal education in traditional fine arts as an undergraduate, Dingus returned to sewn cloth as a medium in graduate school after taking a Black Studies course and thinking about African culture as a resource for making art. As she noted, ‘Not only was work constructed with a needle related to my own family heritage, but it sidestepped the inherent cultural baggage of the European painting tradition.’
Dingus uses scavenged materials in her art, first from necessity and then gradually working from a deep cultural affinity with Third World ethics of ‘waste not, want not.’ Her figures reflect childhood games with paper dolls (and the clothes she would make for them) as well as her familial and ancestral roots.”
I took a step back and examined the sculpture again, with a much greater understanding of its significance. It really is a beautiful piece of art.
I didn’t get to finish exploring the art museum the way I wanted to. I unfortunately ran out of time. But while I was there, I gained a deeper appreciation for the visual arts. I went there seeking a new experience and a new vision. I came away with all that and more.