a small ode to modern art

every first tuesday of the month, the san francisco museum of modern art is open to the public free of charge. i've been looking forward to this first tuesday since the day i arrived in the city.

there are very few experiences i adore more than going to an art museum by myself and meandering through corridors brimming with ideas and colors and creativity and expression. my arm hairs stand up on end and my skin gets prickly and something swishes in my heart.

i am wild about modern art. it started when i was a student of contemporary art at nyu. that summer, as i learned about the modes of artistic expression in this era, the way i saw the world fundamentally transformed. i get ticked off by people who write modern art off as silly but i realize it is only because they haven't taken the time to think about it much.

i love it. i love it.

allow me to share some of my favourite piece of art encountered today (i only had time to explore one floor!) and rant a little about how brilliant modern art is.

instead of a realistic copy of perceived reality, modern artists give us creative expression of the human condition. sometimes don't you just feel like there is a big blue clamp on your huge, drippy, multi-colored, battered heart?

this photographer takes the mundane and shows us how exquisitely beautiful it is. this is a cabbage leaf. it's stunning. who knew? maybe we should look a little closer at the random things around us. god made so many things so gorgeous!

a brilliant response to monet's series of paintings of the facade of rouen cathedral in different lights of day. viewing these paintings up close is an entirely different experience than from a few feet away - just like monet's. each of these is made up of tiny dots, creating a comic book type aesthetic. here the artist is taking a well-known series and reinventing it. i love that.

this guy moved into an apartment in san francisco and started making art out of the things left behind by old tenants. he arranged these brooms in order from least to most tattered. i just love that he made something really interesting and kind of quirkily beautiful out of left-overs, discarded household tools. i think this can say a lot of different things about the ordinary, everyday things we use in life, depending on our own past experiences and immediate interpretation as the viewer.

and speaking of the viewer being involved in the art, i adore this curtain of gold that an artist installed in the museum. we as spectators become a very part of it - bring it alive by moving it. the piece of art completely changes as museum-goers interact with it. the play of the light on the beads glittering and dancing really is dazzling, pretty and pleasing to the senses. the artist invites us to be involved in creating that beauty, just as we come and go.

is is a sculpture? is it a painting? what is it trying to depict? what emotions went into its creation? is it aesthetically pleasing? does it matter? i love that art like this makes us ask these questions. to me, it is so much more creative than realistic paintings that yes, require tremendous skill, but really are only an exact copy of the world as we see it with our eyes, physically. modern art like this (beginning with the impressionists) allows us to think about how we see the world with our hearts, emotionally or spiritually.

my sisters and i saw another part of this huge series in the museum in phoenix just this past winter - i was delighted to see it also displayed in san francisco! it is a collection of photographs of four sisters - always in the same order in the picture - throughout their lives. it is so interesting to see how the faces change over the years, and so compelling to think about what could have caused the changes. it's a comment on the evolution of life, the unique relationship of sisters, and what is constant in a constantly transforming world.

i think this was my favourite. the artist looked up pictures of a sunset on a particular day on flickr, and then printed off, collected and displayed the results. so each of these photos were taken by a different person on the same day of the same subject - the sun. some are taken with a cell phone, some with really nice equipment. all of the same blazing spot in the sky from different parts of the world. it's cool how that makes us think of how we all see the world - even little slices of specific places and times in the world - in unique ways. and who's to say if any are prettier than the rest?

a piece of art that doesn't hang on the wall, but bursts triumphantly from it? yes, i love that. this is made up of hundreds of different frames with different images, and the message seems to be something about terrorism. what a cool way to make a statement - one that has to be deciphered by each individual that comes in contact with it.

there was another piece of art that i loved but didn't get a picture of - it was three completely blank white canvases on the wall. most people see that and think it is totally stupid that it is in a museum. the trick with modern art is to look beyond what's on the wall to the idea that is behind what you see hanging there. the artist that made these blank canvases wanted to make a statement, and see how far the concept of painting and art in general could go. he put the most plain thing he could possibly create on the wall so as to question the world - who's to say what is creative and what is not? what is beautiful? what is worthwhile? what is art? what do you see in these blank surfaces? i just love that pushing of boundaries. as it turns out, the artist noticed that the plain white canvases caught shadows in a very interesting way, and the silhouettes of viewers cast on their bland surface made them quite extraordinary looking. what does this say about plain or bland things in our life? maybe we need to look a little closer at what they reflect.

so, needless to say, i really soaked up and enjoyed my 45 minutes in the sfmoma tonight.

and while we're talking about cool art, check out this alley of graffiti we found while thrift store shopping in the mission. gorgeous! inspired! right there on the cement wall in the middle of metropolis. totally rad.

well, that was a lot of blabbing, a jumble of poorly-written thoughts - but alls i'm saying is - humans have ingenious ideas and display them in exquisitely creative ways, and i really really appreciate that. people are cool.


  1. I've heard about that sister exhibit! I totally want to see that... excellent preview.

  2. That looks like an awesome museum. Why didn't we go to East Gallery while you were here in DC. Duh. That one of the sunsets is really cool. What an idea.
    Have you seen this? This is my favorite piece of art every from San Francisco. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMl5l6mOySU
    Yes they actually did that. No computers.

  3. I just found this too. This is how they made it.

  4. WoW! your friends got me looking at those Sony Bravia ads, and just brought smiles to my face and a little more playful to my heart!

    try this one!http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwO-wo892pI&feature=related

    charity...i want to meet you! i live across the street from ben & ashley. tripped on your blog thru them and shawni. i LOVE your exhuberance for life! you're the kind of girl who belongs in sf...cuz you soak in and appreciate every little bit of it!

    truly! we must meet!
    jonna carlile

  5. you take the first one by self timer instead. aja and i just looked at this together and she said "someone needs to make up new adjectives, she uses all of them" i really like your writing sis.

  6. Charity! I loved this post! And I'm so jealous! I want to go there right now.

    (p.s. The original versions of the Rouen Cathedral are by Monet, not Van Gogh :)

    (p.p.s. I love that you're friends with Britt)

  7. haha! of course, jen! what was i thinking? - it was late! thanks for reading once in a while...i hope i see you when i'm home next week, lovely girl!

  8. Ok, Char, I've been captivated by your blog this morning and that does it. We MUST come visit right away.

    I just took my family to the museum here and felt the exact same feelings about modern art.

    I love you!!

  9. Just love that we each went to a MOMA on the same day on each coast of the USA! FUN! I got pictures but they're not nearly as good as these (as usual) AND I would have given anything to have you next to us giving us a guided tour! It was so fun though. LOVED it! Love your passion for beauty in all forms!