These Are A Few of My Favorite Things

As I was walking through a painting gallery over the weekend, a friend asked me if I had a favorite artist. It’s not a question that brings an easy answer. It would be almost as hard for me to tell you my favorite color, though I may come up with one. I don’t generally see the world in this way. I think there are so many elements in the world, so many paintings, so much music, so many colors that they come and go each making some impact on us and then fading away or becoming a more significant bulding block in who we are and the way we see things. Sometimes the way we see things at first leaves one impression and then with further contemplation, something completely different. The perception can change with time. The immediate perception itself doesn’t change, however. What changes is our perception of the immediate perception. Our perception morphs from that immediate perception into something else, a perception that includes that immediate impression and everything we’ve thought about it since and what together it means to us at any given moment.

So I have described the immediate perception, and at any moment the current perception. A third element to our impression of a painting is our memory of that perception, which can vary from an immediate perception as much as any memory can vary from the actual event. What we think about the immediate perception differs from a memory in that we are not necessarily thinking about a memory.

I wasn’t thinking about this all at once when I, after a few moments of pause, gave my answer of George Inness. Yet in pondering my answer, I think this is what I like most about Inness– that sense of an immediate impression, perception or perhaps the most accurate word would be feeling. To me, many of the works by Inness provide this sense of how we feel about something the first time we see it. Not the thing itself, but that feeling of what it is that we get even before we look at it completely. As soon as we look at it completetely we destroy it. Its almost as if we have to be walking one way, turn our head quickly, breathe in and then shut our eyes. We let the world with a breathe in and then hold it in our breasts to be forever not what it is, but what it is to us. That’s George Inness.

The other type of Inness painting I think is the ones that seem to depict memory, and sometimes a memory of that first feeling we had when we set our sites on a place in time. The specifics don’t matter the way they seem to in a Dali, in fact if they are there in our memories, they aren’t what they were physically anyway. It’s our minds that can see the world somewhat, but not entirely independent of what exists. It’s our memories that keep it in existence long after that fleeting moment in time has passed.

These feelings, first impressions and the memories of them would have been lost to eternity had they not been painted by Inness. More, they seem to let us inside Inness himself and enter our phsyche almost as if it was an impression on our mind or a memory therein.

Inness himself may have recognized the changing nature of impressions and images in our minds. As an image enters our mind covering over or somehow changing another memory or idea, so Inness enjoyed most painting not on a blank canvas, but on other work. He is also said to have never considered a painting finished and always reserved the right to rework it even after it had sold, almost as if the paintings were a recording of his changing idea of an impression on canvas.

So my answer for now is George Inness.

Images: Close up from work at Toledo Museum of Art (top) Close up from work at Buteler Museum of American Art (bottom)

About Art After X

With the death of President Kennedy in 1963, America changed. As hard as it is to minimize that sentiment, the effect of Dallas was even greater. The same year saw the merging of the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts, which had been central to the art scene, and the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Douglas MacAgy, then the director of DMCA, not only opposed the merger, but also declined to directorship of the combined museum. The regionalist movement which had been strong for decades, was giving way to more of an interest in what was going on nationally, and internationally. Like it or not, Dallas was on the national stage.

When the Kennedy’s arrived in Fort Worth, local collectors had decorated a hotel room with internationally-renowned works. While the president and his wife learned a great deal about the ability of Texans to collect major art, there was little they could glean about the local scene in this era-defining city.

With this in mind, we have begun a project to look not back at the art scene in Dallas, but foreword from 1963. We are interviewing gallery owners, curators and others involved in the art scene then, but this will be a story told mostly through interviews with artists active in the city from that point into the 1980s.

The result will be a book with a video component.

We hope you will join us in our journey. The hashtag for the project is #artafterx and the url will point to the latest updates on this weblog.

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