When in graduate school the pressure of intense reading and intense fellow students got to be too much and I needed some solitude, I'd wander to an art museum: the MFA, the Fogg, the Gardner (where I knew a security guard; she always had fun gossip about the little museum and its collection). Being with the paintings would help me to process some of what I was learning through texts, but in a different register. I always left refreshed.
There's a very nice piece at Snarkmarket today by Tim Carmody, a reflection on struggle, positioning, possibility, and the humanities and sciences. Its point of departure is a Gauguin painting that I'd make a regular pilgrimage to the MFA view. For sustenance. An excerpt:
“Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?” We need to understand where we come from, both in terms of our world history and our personal history. We need to question ourselves as to what and also who we really are, to recognize the unique character of present experience, and to offer up partial answers to this questioning: a novel here, a painting there, and again here, a piece of music. We – and this really does fall to us – need to try to determine what we are doing and where we are going. Because we understand that the world was once fundamentally different, we understand that the world can be made to change again. Studying art, history, and the other humanities thus works to restore both our creativity and our freedom, delivering on the same claim to emancipation that science has offered.Read the whole thing.
As I do art history I actually would not choose a gallery, but when I get stuck I always take the dogs for a walk. It is amazing how things in your head process while you don't actually think about them, but leave them to themselves.
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