Thursday, March 02, 2006

frederic and i in the underworld

After my meeting with Dr. Aronson yesterday afternoon, I walked to the nearby National Academy Museum in order to listen to a lecture about Church as planned. The twelve to thirteen block walk to the museum was pleasant for I haven't walked much since I left the hospital and it felt quite invigorating to get some much needed exercise. However, I became winded very easily by the walk. The fatigue was most acute in my chest, but it didn't prevent me from continuing to walk. I managed to get to the museum just fine at a relaxed pace.

I arrived at the museum about one hour before the start of the lecture, which was great because it provided me with sufficient time to explore all of one exhibition and most of the second exhibition. Given by Kevin Avery, an associate curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the lecture was titled "The Center of the World: Frederic Church, Olana, and its Landscapes." The presentation room appeared to be full of lots of professionals from the art world: professors, curators, and students many of whom seemed to know one another. So, in an odd sense I felt a bit like an interloper. I was perhaps one of a handfull of visitors off the street, who had no connection with the muesum other than the fact that I passed through the same entrance as everyone else but I didn't allow my feeling of awkardness get to me.

The presentation itself I found to be quite enlightening. Rather than focus solely on Church's stately home, Olana, he reviewed the artist's life and career and the role that Olana had for Church as the artist himself referred to it as his 'center of the world.' He talked about the artistic differences between Cole and Church and the distinct way in which Church surpassed the genius of his teacher. Avery gave significant energy to the topic of Church's family too, which was very revealing as I didn't know anything about it.

As I reflect over the new information that I gathered from Avery's lecture, I was thinking to myself that I bet Church would have been a pretty awesome guy to meet. When I look at his works, it's clear to me now that many of the subjects - history, religion, science, nature, travel - he chose resonate in me too and therefore, it's off little surprise that I find his work to be so remarkable. Church too, like many of his contemporaries, was an avid traveler but as Avery put it, he was the first American landscape artist to go truly global.

He traveled to the frontiers of the Arctic and transversed the jungles of South America, walked the lush hills of Jamaica and explored Mexico, visited the sites of the Holy Land and marveled at the wonders of Petra. Avery said that whereas most American artists visited and studied in Europe first before going elsewhere, Church did the opposite. He, in fact, traveled to many parts of the New World several times before finally arriving on the continent of Europe. It's Church's apparent gusto for the road and fascination in the diversity of life that this rich planet has to offer, which really fascinates me, and it's in this that I see myself. Of course, to top it off he was perhaps the most gifted of his generation at depicting the sublime beauty and awesome power of this world with a photographic eye that few if any could rival.

If Hades offered me a round-trip ticket to meet and talk to any five persons from the long pages of human history, Church would definitely be one of them.


Comment Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Duane, for again sharing some of the beauty you see. You have come a long way fighting with such strength. May all your dreams come true, and best wishes in your travels. Keep us posted.

3:41 PM  
Comment Blogger Duane said...

Thanks for your beautiful and gracious words. I'll definitely keep everyone posted. It's my plan to maintain this blog for the forseeable future.

12:07 AM  
Comment Anonymous Su said...

Insomnia continues...

Olana is really beautiful. My dad used to take me there as a kid. He worked in historic preservation for the state (he's retired now) and I haven't been there in well over a decade but recently my friend Edric and I have been talking about making a day trip this spring/summer. Unfortunately the house is closed for 2006 (usually there are tours) while the put in or update a fire system. But the grounds are still accessible and gorgeous. And of course the house will be reopened, in 2007.

It's travel, if regional rather than worldwide and it's really worth it. I hope you get to check it out at some point. And if Edric & I work out a date you'd be welcome to join us!

5:42 AM  

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