When I was 17, I visited the Seattle Art Museum, also known as the SAM, for the first time. I was with my family and this was something we did often, spending the day in art museums or museums of any kind, really. We were homeschooled and my mom would always say “this counts as school, right?”. I’m not really sure what the state’s opinion of that is but I was ok with it. Going to art museums has always been one of my favorite experiences. There’s something elegant about a rainy afternoon spent inside the Sam or a day spent hopping from one Palm Beach dealer gallery to the next or a morning at The Met. Something satisfying about seeing “Picasso” unexpectedly in a room full of works by other artists you don’t know, like finding the prize in the cereal box. Something holy about being in a gallery of El Greco in the middle of Madrid.
I don’t remember many of the specifics of this trip to the SAM because my experiences all sort of meshed together into one big trip to the museum inside my brain. Some things never change though, like my father’s distaste for post-modern abstraction which is why I was alone when I entered one of the final galleries of our visit on this particular day. It was over six years ago so you’ll forgive me if I don’t remember all of the details but the gallery was filled with the works of either one or two artists and all of the pieces were similar in style and color palette: Bold, simple geometric shapes, mostly lines and squares, in overwhelmingly primary colors. As far as post-modern abstract paintings go, the material was fairly unremarkable. However, the sheer size of the pieces was enough to make even the most critical gape a little.
The gallery which held this collection is the largest in the museum. It has the highest ceilings and the most uninterrupted square-footage. Not one of the pieces in this room was less than five feet tall or wide and most of them were well beyond that. In particular, I was struck by one painting on the wall opposite the entrance of the gallery. I started to stare but I didn’t feel I was in the optimal position to fully examine it in my place in the doorway. I wanted to take it in all at once, savor it, so I forced myself to follow the walls around the room to quickly examine the works which covered them, averting my eyes to this piece which absorbed my full mental attention. When I finally arrived, I positioned myself at the center of the painting and then looked up.
At least 15 feet tall and probably 18 feet wide, this was the single largest canvas I had seen in my life up to that point. As I said before, there was nothing incredibly special about what was on the canvas but the fact that someone undertook to create this was beyond anything I had encountered. The experience of standing in the middle of this gallery, feeling dwarfed by a painting was the truest experience of “surreal” I have ever had. Even since then. It was also the first time I had ever come to understand, if only for one second, God as the Creator. I had seen oceans and been to the mountains and watched waterfalls and been to the desert and in all of it I only had an abstract cognition that God had created it. But seeing this one painting, feeling it in my physical space as something created by hands I could not see on a scale I had never known, this abstraction had made the omnipotence of God real for me.
This moment began my personal journey of exploring art with more than a regard for the aesthetic (although that is still important) but a deeper understanding of art as something to experience and even join with when it’s called for. Which is why I have decided to launch this new series on this platform called “Here, Have Some Art”. I believe art is an integral and transformative part of the human experience and something not everyone feels is accessible. I’m going to try to make it as accessible as possible so that we can all appreciate and be more open to experiencing art when it’s around. I’ll talk about specific pieces or artists, art museums that I’ve visited, art books, and movements that I think are intriguing or relevant. I want this to be a growing experience for all of us and I love to talk about all kinds of art so if you have anything you want to learn more about or a piece you really love and want to see featured or any suggestions, let me know and I’ll do my best to get on it. I’m excited for this new series and I look forward to experiencing art with all of you!