Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Visit to the Crocker

Last week, I went to visit the Crocker art museum to see the current exhibition, a collection of Sam Francis' work. He's an abstract artist from the 1940s. While I'm not generally a abstract art kind of person, I have to say that Francis' work was very compelling. The bright, beautiful sprays of colour, the positioning on the canvas, everything was very nicely done. If I were to make abstract paintings, I would think that I would make them like his.

My next stop after the Sam Francis exhibition was the centemporary art exhibits. I think my favorite piece in this exhibit was Gottfried Helnwein's "Untitled (The Disasters of War 10)," made in 2007. I really liked this piece because it carries similarities to the Greco-Roman style of art, where it carries a strength of realism and emotion portrayed through a human subject. But, although similar, Helnwein has a unique flavor in his piece that carries a sorrow and sense of weakness that isn't portrayed in the heroes of the Greco-Roman style. The soft, melancholy colours add to the feeling of sadness that the subject feels. Inspite of the general sadness that the character portrays, the character does not seem to be completely overwhelmed by despair: she still seems to have a reserve of strength that keeps her shoulders up.

The landscapes in displayed at the Crocker are almost perfectly beautiful. The detail, the suggestion of detail, the colours, the textures pushed me to the brink of tears. They were so beautiful. A lot of the landscapes that I remember were of mountains frosted in snow. The sight is a nostalgic one for me: it reminds me of home.

Some of the most gorgeous, breath-taking pieces I saw in the Crocker were the Greco-Roman, Neo-classical, and Romantic oil on canvas paintings. All of them were filled with such vitality. The emotions of the subjects were strong: you could practically feel what they were feeling. The life-like qualities of the subjects made it easy to relate to them, to see yourself in their shoes, no matter how heroic or mundane their situation.

My final destination in my two hour, whirlwind tour of the Crocker took me to the Asian art exhibits. While the pieces didn't carry the same emotion and strength of the European oil paintings, they did carry a charm all their own. The delicate nature of some of the pieces was enchanting, as was the case for the little musicians and dancing girls. While far less enchanting and endearing, the Japanese samurai armour was a sight to behold. The strength of colour, the care of assembly, the precision of the pieces of the armour all added up to an amazing presentation. Japanese samurai have always fascinated me, so it was an exciting thing to see a suit of armour up close and in person.

My visit to the Crocker was certainly a wonderful, if brief, experience. I hope to visit there again, but plan to spend longer to maximize my enjoyment of the exhibits.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Art and Science: Like Oil and Water?

The title of this blog might have confused more than a few of you. Surely science and art do not mix? One is based on logic, reason, and defined laws of reality. The other, emotion, feeling, and personal aesthetic. Knowing this, it seems ridiculous that there can exist such a being as a Mad Scientist Artist. Yet, such a thing does exist, and I happen to be one.

To give you some background, I have been drawing since I was old enough to hold a pencil, which isn't truly remarkable, but I've stuck with it. Now, I'm 21, enrolled in a BFA program with several possible art internships in my future. I paint, draw, sculpt, animate, model, and photograph. I also write, but that's a part-time hobby. You name it, I can do it.

Excellent, you say. You are clearly an artist. Not a mad scientist.

Allow me to continue, then.

When I was in the seventh grade, my dad tried an experiment. The experiment was: can Amaryllis learn Trigonometry, Geometry, and Algebra I in one year? The answer was yes. Yes, she can. I then proceeded to complete Calculus for my sweet 16.

I've been raised around computers my whole life. When I was about 8, my parents got me my first computer. Not a Win 98 box like most people had at the time, but a Commodore 64, an older computer from the '80s. It had no GUI (graphical user interface), just lots and lots of text. So, naturally, I had to learn how to program. As any good computer addict knows, programming is a gateway drug. First, you make the computer say, 'hi,' then you make a little, text-based RPG, you slowly progress into graphics, and then you start programming robots for world domination. Fortunately for you, my robots are still in the prototype phase.

By now, I hope I have convinced you as to my artistic and mad science abilities. You might now argue that I am one in a million, a freak with split personalities and conflicting interests. I won't deny it, but I don't think that I am all that unique, freakish traits aside.

When it really comes down to it, what is art, really? I believe that it is nothing more than strategic, carefully chosen placement of colours, shapes, and lines designed to capture or inspire an emotion. To be a truly great artist, you have to have a reason for the structure and look of your piece; there must be an underlying rationality to it, a reason for its being, or it is nothing more than the scribbles of a well-intentioned child.

Likewise, science is a result of humans needing to express a thought or idea through lines, shapes, and words. And it takes creativity to organize the shapes and lines into something meaningful. Otherwise, the lines and shapes are nothing more than tools, sitting around collecting dust.

So are art and science really so different? Can the too really never mix? Or is the separation as arbitrary as the color of a pencil? I'll let you decide.