Think about it. You can explore a landscape by touch, by smell, by hearing. It often takes all of these senses to fully examine your surroundings. But, to see! To see something beautiful is in itself something beautiful.
Art is meant to make you think, right? What is it about art though – what connects us to a piece? Is it the way a line is drawn, the perspective of a photo, the colour, the sound, the place, the time? What do you need to connect to something in front of you?
Last night a good friend and I had the pleasure of attending the Fondation Louis Vuitton’s late night/first Fridays event, where they opened the doors to their temporary collection “Être Moderne” (To Be Modern) on loan from MoMA NYC. The halls and salons were minimilistically adorned with all the usual suspects (admittedly nice to see them in a different environment): Warhol, Cezanne, Hopper, Kahlo, Evans, Klimt, Picasso, Ray — the list goes on.
In my opinion, it’s easy for most of the living generations to connect to these artists and pieces because many of us grew up reading about them, seeing them on postcards, in magazines, in art books, and understanding them as a part of our normal lives. In fact, the mass-reproduction of many of the works on display from the 50s and 60s speaks to the beginnings of the grand art global migration — that opening up of the postwar art world, making it available and tangible to the average Josephine. Nonetheless, it was a unique era for painters and photographers alike. And, while I felt like a lot of what I saw last night I’d seen many times before, this didn’t make it less enjoyable, it just made it “easy”.
There was one large-scale work by Jasper Johns that I had never seen – neither in real life or in print. Map (1961), a colourful 2m x 3.5m map of the United States, struck me. It is a work that is said to be “seen and not looked at, not examined,” but I couldn’t help myself. Apparently, it preserves the overall proportions of the country and the general shape of its states, but there is a chaos to it that invites closer inspection. It is not only beautiful to behold; but it makes me nostalgic.
I grew up moving around a lot so when people ask me where I’m from I often respond with, “Pick a state!” Before the age of six we’d moved states four times (and not just across the next state line, but from Indiana, to Pennsylvania, to Texas, to Washington and back again). I used to tell people we were in the Witness Protection program: “WitPro, it was a hard life.” Then as a young adult I moved again, and then again, and then again and then overseas and back a couple times and, finally, I had amassed nine states that I felt I could easily call “home” if I so pleased.
Maybe Johns’ ‘portrait’ of America, its content both familiar and imaginary, doesn’t perfectly respect state borders, but neither does my memory. The boundaries of my idea of “home” as a child are blurred by my often homogeneous interpretation of the USA. Yes there was snow in this state, there were fire ants in that one, big forests and blackberry bushes there, beaches here, history there… but there were also always big box stores, strip malls, giant groceries, shopping malls, street lamps, pavement, Americans. Same things, as my brother and I termed them early on, were good. They were necessary. If you find “same things” here or there, the move isn’t so big, or scary, or overwhelming.
John’s Map, unpolitical, unapologetic in its childlikeness, made me feel closer to “home” than I have in years. That’s saying a lot, since, with the current political climate and every piece of disgusting news that pours out of the papers and interwebs into my eyes and ears, I want so little a connection to that place. But Map sparked in me a need to explore again the recesses of my memories of my America and a grand desire to examine the parts of that vast country that I still need to see.
TIMBL was recently awarded a (very hard to come by these days) US B2 visa, valid for 10 years and, in the Spring, I will finally have a French residency visa in hand. Once that happens, we can come and go as we please. So to celebrate this, we’ve booked April through September (that’s six months) to be back in the USofA together, visiting home and friends, roadtripping through those memory wildernesses, seeing something new as often as possible, and eating up other cities to see if there is one we might like to settle in for a while.
I’m so happy the #MoMa lent this piece to the @fondationlv to spark some new ideas 💡 and a new longing for my homeland I haven’t felt very often recently.
#america #painting #art #map #popart#makesyouthink #memories #childhood#home #athomeintheworld #sheisnotlost#wanderlust #happyhere