Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sister Wendy Explains It All For You

Though raised in a secular household, I was introduced to Art History by a nun. My Dad had Sister Wendy's 1,000 Masterpieces on his shelf, and one day I took it down because it looked interesting, and I wanted to see what the nun on the cover was all about.

Now I know that her BBC series made her an unlikely household name, but at the time I had no idea who she was, or what nuns had to do with art. But I remember poring over every image, and being fascinated both by the work and by her concise, enthusiastic explanations of the pieces. Her commentary was unpretentious and invited me to explore the details and history of work that was totally unfamiliar to me. I specifically remember pausing over Allori's Judith with Head of Holofrenes and thinking "Woah. That is a cut off head. Art is cool."

Like Sister Wendy, our best art history teachers are the ones who bring the same kind of enthusiasm to this complex subject, and open up the whole history of art to our students. Sister Wendy made me realize that art is supposed to be exciting and emotional, and her good humor and insight helped me connect with some of history's great works.

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