It’s not strange to find me wandering around a museum. I’m usually focused on the art, but sometimes I turn my attention toward the patrons. I listen to snippets of conversation (great training for writing dialog), check out the fashions (weird, wonderful and everything in-between), or simply observe how other people interact with art.
I’m definitely not the first one to observe the “museum-selfie” phenomenon. For a certain number of museum visitors a self-portrait photo with Van Gogh’s Starry Night or Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory (AKA the melting clock painting) is a required Museum of Modern Art experience. I was amused by the conversation of a group of teenagers gathered around the Dali. After their requisite photo-opp, one of the girls pointed out some of exquisite details in the painting —the ants on the clock, etc. I couldn’t help wondering how Dali might feel about their need to be IN his popular masterpiece. I think he would like it (and LIKE it on Facebook, too).
Other museum patrons seem unable to see a work of art unless they see it through the lens of a camera — or the camera on their phone. I sometimes snap photos of both the art work and the legend with the artist’s details, as it’s faster than taking notes and less weird than my rudimentary sketching, but I’m acutely aware of the difference between the view through the lens and the experience of just looking — really looking— at a work of art.
Right now, virtually every museum offers stand alone audio guides or guided tours on phone Apps to enhance the experience of art. I won’t argue with the educational aspects of these “enhanced” art tours, but all the facts about the artist’s life, the context of the work’s creation and how the museum obtained the work can also get in the way of simply seeing and experiencing art. It’s been a long time (college) since my responses to art have been graded. Art history classes stuffed my head full of knowledge about what I see, but all of that STUFF gets brushed aside when I simply look.
There are times when I enhance my experience (exhibits of unfamiliar ancient artifacts, etc.), but still… I’m most likely to be inspired and awakened if I simply allow myself to meet a work of art one-on-one. This is an experience analogous to reading. The reader meets the words of the story and sometimes, something wonderful happens. No enhancements needed!