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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Art Of Spring Break

This Blog entry is not intended to be an essay on what I did over spring break. Instead, it's presented as a reminder of the importance of art in our life and world. This, at a time when too many schools  are cutting art programs out of the budget - largely because the discipline may not be perceived as valuable, when resources becomre more scarce, as thos subjects that are tested in state mandated assessment programs.

Work kept me fairly close to home during spring break. The budget required a few of days of work which left a couple of days for some free time. My wife and I enjoy and appreciate the arts. My preference leans toward the visual arts, in particular the one dimensional work of paintings and photographs. That interest led us to two interesting museums, each within a day's drive from the capital region.

One day we went to Williamstown, Massachusetts to visit the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. There are many particularly fascinating pieces. My favorite painting of all is among the permanent works of art located at the Clark. It's a painting of a Moroccan woman by John Singer Sargent. It's visually arresting. The exhibits were very appealing. A lunch in town and a little shopping made for a fine day.

The next day we traveled to Cooperstown to tour the Fenimore Museum. Among the primary benefactors of this quaint museum is Stephen Clark, the brother of the aforementioned Sterling Clark. The attraction was a traveling exhibit of photographs of the iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, one of my wife's favorite painters.

Beyond the beauty of a work of art is the fact that it is inherently an example of problem solving, a vital life skill. There are multiple issues - depth perception, color mixtures, shading, line of sight, proportionality, use of space, meaning, symbolism, representation and many other points to consider when plying the craft of a painter. The design and draft of the painting requires preparation and thought. It's obvious that the work of an artist is challenging and necessitates skill and knowledge, creativity and problem solving.
Likewise, the art of photography is much more than merely taking a picture of your aunt at the wedding anniversary. It takes a sharp and discriminating eye to seize an object and convert it into a subject that is thought provoking or inspiring. Composition, use of light, balance, focus, angles and more must be considered when seeking just the right photograph that moves away from a memento among family members and becomes meaningful to the masses.

Photo-journalism has bridged the art of photography with the power of the medium to recreate and explain significant world events that frame human issues. These men and woman often risk their lives to present a realistic perspective on war torn areas of tremendous human strife and loss. Sadly, an acquaintance of my son was recently killed in Libya while covering the terrible conflict between the regime and rebels. He was a victim of government backed forces who indiscriminately launched mortar fire throughout the city of Misrata. Tim Hetherington was an award winning photo-journalist who had produced critically acclaimed documentaries on the war in Afghanistan as well as photographs that were gripping and thought provoking.

Art has been evidenced throughout civilization. The study of art history reveals the story of mankind. Art in varied forms reflects the major themes, conflicts, celebrations, and accomplishments of man. Similarly, music also represents a parallel path of man's existence. Our lives are surrounded by art well beyond what we can find in any museum - print and music oriented advertisements, clothes, car designs, architecture, and on and on... We must recognize the value of art and sustain the growth of art in all its varied formats. The arts serve an essential role in education.

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