Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Head-On Collision

So imagine this. My second-born and I were cruising through the teacups and colonial furniture displays at the Seattle Art Museum, dutifully patrolling one of our least favorite exhibits in the off chance that there was something new to see. 

There wasn't.

We had worked our way into the far reaches of that particular gallery space, past the sitting area and service elevators, and were just about to give up and reverse our steps.

When I saw one last doorway leading to a remote, rarely used corner of the second floor.

I popped my head in and, expecting to see more 19th century portraits and Manifest Destiny landscapes, took a quick visual sweep of the room.

This is what met my eyes.

Errrrrrr! Screeeeeech. CRRASHHHHH.

That was the sound of me smashing headfirst into one of the most exciting art exhibits I have ever seen. In a word, this collection of Australian/Aboriginal work from the 1970s was 


and just the kind of art that I love best.

Yes, that's a lot more than one word. But I was in shock and definitely not thinking clearly.

^ My second-born tailed me into the space and had a similarly explosive experience. After much deliberation, she decided that this was her favorite piece. It was the massive scale, warm colors, and intricate variety of shapes and patterns that won her over. I thought it looked kinda like a coral reef.

^ This was my early favorite. The four shapes represent plums, each ripe and colorful but unique in its appearance. The colors knock me off my feet, and I bow down to the amount of skill and patience required to create the almost-perfect stripes and dots.

But there were so many fantastic paintings in this new collection that we needed time to take in the entire scene. For at least a half hour, we meandered around the room, standing before each painting once, twice, three times or more, absorbing its nuances and trying our darnedest to articulate what made each one great.

We were stupefied, mesmerized, at a total loss for words.

Detail from Walu, 2008, by Tommy Mitchell

In the end, I could not resist the lure of this pink masterpiece. Reminding me of either jellyfish or a very crowded colony of earthworms, I loved it for its complicated squiggliness and rich black background. Not to mention that it uses every shade of pink ever devised.

Anooralya (Wild Yam Dreaming), 1995 by Emily Kam Kngwarray 
Detail of Anooralya
When we had looked and talked and photographed to our satisfaction, my daughter and I slowly and quietly walked out of this amazing space and back through the stuffy gallery through which we had come. Seemed so long ago. We were both a bit stunned by the energy and excitement of finding that tremendous art, almost as if we were in shock.

Which isn't too surprising because that's how you feel when you've just had a head-on collision with art.

Note: In my altered mental state that evening, I neglected to jot down the names of these works and their creators. Piecing together the data online takes time, but I'll add that information to this post as my research slowly bears fruit.

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For more stories about my encounters with masterful art, read:

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