August 15, 2013

Use Art Tools for Deep Engagement at Museums

For years I have used a camera as a tool to aid my absorption of art at museums, to make my seeing keener and to aid my retention of ideas and imagery.  A multiple exposure at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston:

Reconsidering Mount Rushmore

As my artistic path has become multidisciplinary, I now often bring a sketchbook along with my camera.  View a visit to the Guggenheim Museum in New York for the Picasso Black and White exhibition.

A couple of weeks ago, after spending the afternoon at MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art) in North Adams, I sat at picnic table in front of the museum and carved and then block printed my interpretation of Bang on a Can composer David Lang's Revolutionary Etude #1.  An hour earlier, I had watched - heard - felt his piece performed by a saxophone quartet.

Carving Grooves at MASS MoCA

The other day, I visited the deCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in Lincoln, Mass.  The gorgeous grounds are bejeweled with sculpture and the museum building is loaded with contemporary art.  To disrupt my normal practice, I brought neither camera nor sketchbook.  However, realizing my deep need to leave with inspirational mnemonic devices, I snagged two pine cones.

Pinconus deCordoveris
In a few weeks I will begin teaching a course on Cultivating Creativity at American International College in Springfield, Mass.  Aiming to refine exercises for my students that relate to viewing art and then creating interpretive responses using a variety of media, after my deCordova visit, I spent an evening experimenting with tools.

Aside from the paper work above, I photographed my productions a pine cone's throw from Walden Pond in Concord, Mass.  Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau's book Walden emerged from the journals he wrote while living in a small cabin near the pond in the mid-19th century.

Figure #1 - Imagined Scientific Drawing
I wanted my pieces to be displayed out of doors, like the sculptures at the deCordova.

Plucking a Pine Cone "Scale" Sounds Like an African Kalimba
In the midst of this project, Dennis Kois, director of the deCordova, published Song of Experience on Slate.  His carefully crafted essay combated assertions made by Judith Dobrzynski in her New York Times Opinion piece High Culture Goes Hands-On.

Clay Cone - All Arises from the Earth
As she prefers staid art viewing, Dobrzynski laments the trend of museums creating social, interactive experiences for visitors.  Kois contends that as the cultural world evolves, so does what goes in museums and how visitors interact with the works.

I think it is clear where I stand on this debate.

© 2013 John Nordell