There’s a difference between viewing art in real life and online. The Internet has made it possible to view, be inspired by, get ideas from the works and philosophies of current artists living and creating in just about every nook and cranny of the world. I’ve bought or exchanged artworks with artists from Alaska to Australia. I get a kick out of being able to participate in the global online art scene.
Viewing art in the flesh is more dynamic than viewing art online. The reaction to an artwork viewed face-to-face is more visceral. More senses are brought into play. This must be in part due to the artwork’s environment, normally a gallery or museum, where an encounter with other people is unavoidable. Bodies have to be manoeuvred round and the danger, however slight, of being in public places, has one on guard, alert. Alert to overheard remarks and a smörgåsbord of scents, from sweat to socks to Chanel. This state of alert – state of expectancy, hope of adventure, too – heightens the engagement with the art itself and through it, the artist. Looking at an artwork is an adventure.
I was drawn to Lam’s sketches – sketches and sketchbooks are more intimate, more revealing than larger finished works. A bunch of collaborative sketches for playing cards animated me. These were created when Lam was sharing a villa in Marseille with a group of artists which included the surrealist André Breton, all having joined the mass exodus to the port from Paris in 1940 at the outset of the Nazi occupation of France. Each artist involved in the making of the cards contributed something to each card. An adventure within a more serious adventure (Breton’s writings were to be banned by the Vichy Government). I was also drawn to Lam’s ceramics, in particular some flat plate-shaped pieces. The clay had been cut through in places, into dart shapes then these lifted out above the surface of the plate. I was reminded of Haitian vodou cut metal work.
I’ve seen O’Keeffe’s artworks only online. Truthfully? While noting the sensuality of her flower paintings, maybe more so, her landscapes, aside from that they left me flat. (I much preferred the works of Arthur Dove). In the flesh her paintings were smaller than I’d imagined. I was drawn to a painting of day lilies in a vase and while studying this, a thought came to me in the form of a question. “Why do book covers have to be the same size?” (Meaning the backs and the fronts). The cascade of of linked thoughts triggered by my viewing of the painting happened so fast I haven’t been able to trace.
I felt the question related to Found: Unbound, the series of encaustic and eco print artist book I’m working on. And yes, in response to the question of book covers there is no reason why the front and back covers ought to be of the same size, since I’m equating my book covers in Found: Unbound to the palimpsest and the tabula rasa and to the musical pause and space of possibility. And I think, in O’Keeffe’s painting of day lilies, there is the palimpsest, the tabula rasa, the musical pause and the space of possibility. More so in a much later works during the period O’Keeffe was inspired by the sky – clouds looked down on from an airplane. One in particular struck me, largely consisting of an area of blue and below, an area of white. Nothing else. The white struck me in particular as a space of possibility, space of potential.
A pause. A place of waiting. Expectancy. And a book cover holds those qualities. Maybe that’s why I like books with illustrations that have protective pages of tissue in front. These covers make the illustrations extra precious, important and they are. I have a large old family Bible whose illustrations are protected in this way and over the years the pictures, through the weight of the Bible, have imprinted themselves, in ghostly fashion onto the protective tissue. I like the idea of ideas being impressed in ghostly fashion upon the reader through the power of the words. And images. Such protective films over illustrations make the book extra mysterious.
Yes, book covers are waiting places. Moments of expectancy. Hope. That the book will change one’s life. Isn’t that why we read books?