Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Peter Schjeldahl And I Are Different: An Exploration

I love and cherish the New Yorker magazine, but it just. Comes. So. Often. Am I right, New Yorker subscribers? There is a lot in each issue! It's not like Us Weekly where you can knock one out during your lunch break. That thing is DENSE. And you get one and then a week later you get another? Craziness. (I'm just teasing, New Yorker. Don't ever change. Kisses.)

Anyway, I was reading the New Yorker from last April, and there was a cool little article by Peter Schjeldahl about a show at the Frick that included pieces on loan from the Norton Simon.

I feel like the Norton Simon keeps sort of a low profile in LA, but yet it's amazing. Peter Schjeldahl said something like "It has the best painting collection on the West Coast." That is a guesstiquote, because I don't have access to the article because back issues of the New Yorker online is by subscription only (cough*EVIL*cough.)

Schjeldahl's article addresses the idea that memory is inherently subjective and imperfect, especially when it comes to art. We might remember one detail in stark clarity, but completely forget another aspect of a painting. He makes specific reference to a painting by Francisco de Zurbarán,"Still Life with Lemons, Oranges, and a Rose." Here's the painting:

I can't say this painting is lighting my fire, which would probably be way #1 in which I am different than Peter Schjeldahl. He LOVES this painting, specifically the citrons (they're obviously citrons and not lemons - what are you, an idiot?) The second way I am not like him was revealed when he started talking about how the items in the painting are supposed to represent the virtues of the Virgin Mary. He was like "Yeah, strength and purity and blah blah blah, I don't care about symbolism."

People, he literally said BLAH BLAH BLAH. At least, I think he did...it's too bad that I can't access the original article online to quote him in full. But anyway the point is that he could care less about symbolism, and just wants to talk about how the citrons are yellow and green and stuff.

I think symbolism is truly my favorite part of art. When Paul and I were at the Louvre, there were a million paintings of like, very specific scenes from myths or the Bible, or tableaux that looked like a woman carrying a basket, but were actually complicated political endorsements. Luckily, we had the museum audioguide, and I was so excited to sit and listen to the soothing British voice explain that this Flemish painting is actually an allegory condemning lust, and the fish represents immoral women and the sausage links represent wicked men, and the kitchen maid represents purity, and the dog at her feet is the holy spirit, or whatever. I mean, it was truly fascinating to me to hear how each detail was like a puzzle piece in the story of the painting's meaning.

So there you go: Peter Schjeldahl and I are different. If you want proof, here is a picture of me sitting on a bench, as the audioguide whispers to me all the secrets of the paintings.

Oh and P.S., if you are looking for an excuse to visit the Norton Simon, we have a great class coming up around Ingres's 'Comtesse d'Haussonville,' which is actually on loan from the Frick (they share!) Click here for details.

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