Friday, October 26, 2012

Schock and Awe

Collaboration by Jeremy Schock and Eric Dubnicka
Last night I attended the Duluth Art Institute opening featuring a photography exhibit called Instant Love: Polaroid Land Cameras and the Impossible Project and the collaborative work of Jeremy Schock and Eric Dubnicka, aptly named In Cahoots. The former will be on display through November 23 and the into the end of December.

In thinking about the two exhibitions, I thought I would make some suggestions here about how to enjoy an art show.

A lot of us who have been in the art scene for years, or decades, may take for granted that what we see at an art museum is the same thing others see, and frankly, this is simply not the case. A report by the National Arts Index indicates that more people are attending galleries and museums than ten years ago, but the reactions I see on some peoples' faces give me the impression that they are worlds away from enjoying some of the art that many fans of the arts get enthused about.

Here are just a few suggestions for those who are new to attending art openings or art museums.

1. If you don't "get it" that is O.K.
Sometimes the artist is exploring concepts that are elusive unless more fully explained. There may be written materials that you have not seen regarding the aims of the art. There may be a historical context that the untrained viewer is unaware of. Don't feel guilty or bad about it. You can, however, talk to the gallery staff or a friend who is knowledgeable about art history and learn more. The gallery may have printed the "artist's statement" regarding the work displayed which contains an explanation to help bridge the gulf between you and the work.

2. Meet the artists if you can.
It's kind of an unwritten rule that the artist should be there for his or her opening. This affords interested persons the opportunity to pick the artists' brain. If you have an interest in understanding a painting, its choice of themes, modes of expression, there is no better source than the creator of the work. Ask them questions about where their inspiration comes from. Ask what it is they were trying to achieve. What attracted them to explore these themes? Where are they from and why are they here? How did you do that?

3. Meet the other people who attend the show.
Just a small portion of the turnout at the DAI last night.
If you go to enough openings you'll start to get to know other people who are curious about the arts. You'll see them at events. They may even tell you about other art events. But go out of your way to meet the artists because they are usually people just like you. 

4. Drink the wine. Or the punch if you prefer.
Most art openings have finger food and something to wash it down. The show is not about the food and beverages, but they gallery offers it up like any good host, to help make your stay a more pleasant one. "You are a guest and we want you to feel welcome here."

5. If you do see something that interests you, take time to engage the work.
What's going on in the picture as you look at the details. Step back and look at it from a distance. What do you see now?

6. You do not need to be a pro to enjoy it.
Preprinted tissue on repurposed material, by J. Schock.
Poetry, theater, art... it's not created for professorial dissection. It exists to be engaged, to connect with viewers of all types. Well, that's a half truth. Some people make do what they do for critical acclaim. Others, because they have a need to create. But for the most part, music and poetry and art are for the masses.

7. We don't all like the same music, so why do we need to like the same art?
We don't. I respond to this and don't respond to that. We have different tastes. Some people like miklk chocolate and others prefer dark chocolate.

8. If you see something you really like, maybe you should own it.
I've started collecting pieces from various local artists. Here's the deal. You can enjoy it for a few minutes or you can enjoy it for life. I never tire of the pieces I've purchased. They are a form of aesthetic nourishment. Unlike food which is served but once and digested, art continues to inspire or nourish your soul over and over again. 

As for the work of Jeremy Schock and Eric Dubnicka that is currently on display at the Duluth Art Institute, I found many of the pieces quite enthralling. I'd encourage you to take a lunch hour and mosey on over while the exhibit is installed these next two months. Tell me what you think. I enjoyed it.

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