One of the best things we can do for our own artistic development is to view the work of other artists. Viewing the art in books or online is ok, but seeing a body of work in person, life-size, as intended to be viewed is a much stronger experience. It’s immersive. You don’t just “see” the art intellectually. You feel it, you become part of it. And you discover new things about yourself as an artist.
So I was excited to be in Chicago for a few days, a big city with lots of art opportunities. I didn’t see as much art as I might have liked to… It’s always a balance when traveling with the family. I don’t want to go off by myself too much, but I want to have a little time for this experience I love so much. I managed to sneak in a few different visits, and made a couple of discoveries I’ll share with you today.
I had a couple of hours to spend at the Art Institute of Chicago, and was lucky enough to see the special photography exhibition, Abelardo Morell: The Universe Next Door.
I’ve seen Morell’s camera obscura work in a couple of magazines and have looked at his website before. I love the juxtaposition of the outside world onto the inside. It was very cool to see the progression of this work from the early black and white with the upside down projections, through his transition to color, and more recently the tent work, where he projects images on to the ground. The combination of landscape image and ground texture is fascinating to me.
But what was even more interesting was the depth and breadth of his other bodies of work included in the exhibition, and how they all captivated and delighted me. He has a wonderful way of seeing interesting things in the every day. His ability to see and present the most mundane things in a surprising way is an example of what photography can be, at its best. Sometimes I feel a little jaded with photography, as if everything has already been photographed a thousand times over. Morell’s work reminded me that there is always a fresh way to look at things, and we can cultivate and develop our own unique perspective, even in the deluge of photographs shared every day. It is something I strive for.
Louis Comfort Tiffany
Navy Pier, as one of the main tourist spots in Chicago, was disappointing. My impressions were nothing but heat, tourists, and an exorbitant $18 price tag for our family to have ice cream. I had read about the free Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows, and we found this fantastic display inside as we searched for relief from the heat. It completely redeemed our visit to Navy Pier.
Most of the stained glass I’ve seen is in churches and cathedrals, and with the exception of a couple of places with more abstract designs, it’s been less than interesting to me as an art form. This museum transformed my thinking on stained glass, with the discovery of the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany.
Of course I’ve heard of Tiffany lamps before, but they’ve never really caught my eye. But did you know that he did incredible landscape windows?
They were amazing. The colors, the depth, the feelings he could evoke, all surprised me. I fell in love with his work.
This man was a genius with glass. He developed an amazing array of techniques to create different effects with the glass.
We think of photography as the art of capturing light, but stained glass is an art of capturing light in a completely different way. (Kim, these poppies made me think of you!)
I was inspired by Tiffany’s use of color and simple shapes to convey a complex scene. I’d love to develop a way to create images that evoke a similar look and feel.
Frank Lloyd Wright
I fell in love with Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture when I first visited the Gordon House here in Oregon a number of years ago. Architecture, even more than 2D art, is something you need to physically see and experience to understand. I wasn’t impressed with anything when looking at the outside of Wright’s Gordon House, but the inside! Wow! I finally understood what all of the fuss was about.
So having the opportunity to see another of Wright’s houses while in Chicago was something I couldn’t pass up. I visited and toured the Robie House, in Hyde Park.
It was great to learn more about Wright’s history, and to see another of his styles of architecture. Robie House is considered one of the ultimate examples of his Prairie House style, intended to give a feeling of the spaciousness of the prairie in the urban environment.
I love Wright’s use of space and attention to detail, everything down to the fixtures and furniture. The patterns and designs he created for each building appeal to my sense of order. There is always a wonderful repetition of motif in his work, like this leaded window pattern.
We couldn’t take photographs inside the house, but it was great to be inside, to see and feel the spaces. It was also great to compare the Prairie House style of Robie House with the Usonian House style of the Gordon House, and to discover I liked the Gordon House better. In thinking through why, I learn more about myself and my preferences. It’s all good artistic inspiration.
While I didn’t get to explore art in Chicago as much as I would have liked to, I think I brought home some fantastic inspiration and discoveries that will stay with me. It doesn’t take a lot of time to be inspired by other artists, but the benefits are long-lasting.