Orsanmichele. (Say it with me: or-sahn-mi-KAY-lay. Rolls off the tongue. Seriously, say it a couple of times and you won’t want to stop.) When I think Florence, I think Orsanmichele. Not the Duomo, not Michelangelo’s David. Don’t get me wrong — I love all of it. But a church, originally built as a grain market, with statues commissioned by the guilds of Florence around the outside, on the Via dei Calzaiouli (“via day-ee calz-eye-oo-WOH-lee”), which means, “street of the shoemakers” — it really doesn’t get better than that. And to top it all off, Via dei Calzaiouli is a pedestrian-only street. Get it? The street of the shoemakers is for walkers only! (I’m sure that’s not intentional, just an interesting coincidence.) Orsanmichele on Via dei Calzaiouli. Doesn’t just saying it make you smile?
Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks is such a famous painting that every time I see it, I skip right over it. Today, though, on a rainy melancholy day, I stopped, to think and look.
Edward Hopper, Nighthawks, 1942, Art Institute of Chicago
The words isolation, remote, misery are always used to describe this painting, and with good reason. The light is harsh, and the figures don’t interact. This is 1942: Pearl Harbor has happened, the US has entered WWII. Times are not particularly good. Hopper had specific ideas in mind about the misery of the people inside the diner when he painted this — that they should be outside and free like birds, but instead they’re closed in, “dazed and miserable, with their heads constantly banging against the glass of the world’s callousness.”
But what we love about art is that once an artwork is out there in public, we are free to view it as we choose, to take what we know and who we are and interpret it in a way that works for us, right? So I’ve always seen Nighthawks quite differently. Continue reading →
I went to see the pre-season viewing of Art21 because of El Anatsui. I wanted to see him in action. My friend and I sat down in the auditorium, thinking that we’d just see how it went, maybe leave part way through, after the bit on him. Then the film came on, and we were riveted. From start to finish. I’m not going to say too much about it. I don’t want to give too much away. Let me just say that it’s totally worth seeing. In the first episode of season 6 of Art21, “Change,” the artists interviewed are Catherine Opie, El Anatsui, and Ai Weiwei. I’d never heard of Catherine Opie, and I was totally blown away. Continue reading →