To my fellow college students,
Art is relevant. If you have not already, take some time to look at it. As an art history student and Nasher Museum intern, I may seem a little biased in saying this, but I have a point. Humor me.
Let’s start with the basics. Photographs, charts, icons, graphs, films, and buildings are part of a visual dialogue that people interact with everyday. Visual culture is rooted in art. Graphic designers, cinematographers, and even that girl in lecture taking instagram selfies, think about the aesthetics of their visuals. It is a means of communicating with the world.
The Fine Arts are trying to communicate with the world too. In some cases, years of a person’s life were invested in one artwork. That makes for promising conversation. Even the art that seems like it was done in an instant is secretly a treasure trove of stories. Just ask a second grader.
After observing elementary school tour groups at the Nasher Museum, I realized just how valuable art education is. One second grade class sat in front of an Archibald Motley portrait and began to ask “I wonder…” questions to the happy surprise of their teacher and tour guide. It started with one student saying he liked how the paintings told stories about each person. From there he and his classmates began to speculate on details and wondering who gave the woman her jewelry? Was it her father? Husband? Or maybe they belonged to her mother or grandmother. What about the flowers? Where did the door lead? Was she in a big office building in New York? Each of these questions was phrased as an “I wonder…” and came with an explanation. “I wonder if purple is her favorite color because her dress is purple.” The details that these young students used to create narratives for the many artworks they saw that day should not have surprised me, but it did. Even as someone who spends the day looking at works of art, I think it is easy to forget how to perform a simple image analysis and see the details of a work.
There is an idea that knowing how to critique art or focusing on art history is a very specific skill. These students made it clear that such an idea is far from the truth. Art education is important. It develops creative thinking, fosters attention to details, and emphasizes the big and little picture. Looking at art and really seeing it is a valuable skill that can help any major or career. If that is not enough, let me just say, it can be a lot of fun. Just ask Ferris Bueller.
Not to mention the Dutch masters. Just take a minute to look at the Golden Age and you will have enough bawdy humor to last the rest of the month. Plus, everyone knows there will be that one cocktail party where the host cannot stop talking about their treasured (insert artist here) piece. Look at art, any art, and you will be prepared to dazzle them with a comment about the color, composition, or perspective.
I simply ask that everyone take some time to look at an artwork. Visit the Nasher. See the artworks. Create a story or simply name the colors used in the artwork. Copy a statue’s pose. Read a label or two, maybe even a wall text. Trust me, your brain will thank you.
Photo by J Caldwell