art, city

Delacroix, goats, and enlightenment

A few days ago I began writing this post and at the very top of it was to be a most excellent photo -to be fully attributed/embedded of course- that I had found on Instagram: a scene from a buzkashi game in Afghanistan. It was extraordinary in its detail, dynamic color palette, movement, and emotion, and the eastern locale was evocative as well : a perfect catalyst/inspiration for a post about my recent visit to the Delacroix show at Mia (the newly re-branded Minneapolis Institute of the Arts) last weekend.

I looked again today, eager to publish his post, and the photo in Instagram, which I think was from National Geographic, had disappeared. I can’t find it, nor can I find a suitable replacement for it if I search for something similar. So, the above photo will suffice – it’s just as good and also relates to my additional discovery for this post:

In my desperate search for the photo featuring a game requiring a dead goat (perhaps some of you will be thankful for the omission), I did learn something about how the National Geographic Instagram feed is managed. Over 100 photojournalists run it. They do a lot more than simply post amazing photos periodically: they post them  about once per hour, and they write captions with detailed stories about the locales from which they are shooting and posting. It’s fascinating stuff, period, but as photojournalism was a career direction I once aspired to, but abandoned: I love it.

As someone who has worked in content management, creative team management and in user experience design, I’d love to hear about the actual workflows and technology used to achieve it. I can visualize a few, though I can also visualize chaos.

Art, technology and media have a wonderful way of colliding and then revealing, sometimes.

The exhibit I checked out last weekend is titled “Delacroix’s Influence: The Rise of Modern Art from Cézanne to van Gogh”: it’s a collection of several of his paintings as well as several master works from other, later artists in which his influence is remarkable.

I don’t go to all the big shows that come through, though this one intrigued me. The tiny bit I learned about Delacroix and his era in my art-school art history course was too tiny: I didn’t know what was signature about his paintings, and I wanted to know, though I liked his paintings, which are usually big. I love big paintings, especially if there’s a lot of detail in them.

Here’s the real reason I went: a year or two ago, Mia did a survey of its members to help decide what to name this show. The name Mia ended up choosing seems awfully long to me; I recall there being a more clever or mysterious title in the running. It didn’t win but the survey did manage to pique my interest. So, I patiently waited.

Once there, I opted to use the audio tour, mostly because I didn’t feel like doing much reading as I moved through the exhibit. It was a free perk with our membership, as well. I expected the audio to offer something different than the placards, and it delivered! It offered insights from various curators, local artists and other people who have something to say about Delacroix’s effect on their lives. I listened to most of it, as I spent a fair amount of time with at least two thirds of the paintings.

My favorites were The Fanatics of Tangierthe Lion HuntCombat of the Giaour and the Pasha, and Manet’s Music in the Tuileries Gardens. (Note: I’d share them here but I wasn’t allowed to take photographs at the show.)

Here’s what I learned from my 90 or so minutes in the galleries:

  1. Delacroix’s precise –but faithful to movement and emotion more than to photographic detail– strokes appear to be a catalyst for the impressionist painting style/movement that followed his time. Or… viewed in retrospect his work is a clear transition.
  2. His use of intense color as a composition element and tool for stirring empathy in the viewer was novel – or at least unusual at the time – and timely.
  3. It’s easier to make decisions involving #2 and #3 if you’re not copying a scene directly from reality or a photograph. This fact is “painting 101” but it’s been a few years since I was in art school. Plus: photography is my preferred creative medium. What made this very obvious to me was learning (from the audio tour) that Delacroix never observed a lion hunt. But he painted one, or at least how he envisioned one.

Back to the photograph, even to the replacement one I chose and placed, atop this story: Bright colors, directional lines, brushstrokes that draw the eye closer to see fine detail, and gestures that infer and intensify emotion: these are some of many compositional tools used by a painter. These in particular, sometimes used to paint distinctively eastern scenes, are for me what makes a Delacroix painting. All of them appeared or were evoked in the buzkashi scene and also in the scene above, shot in Kenya.

Yay, art. And life. Happy Thanksgiving! Go see this terrific exhibit, if you’re in Minneapolis over the next month or two.

Random other stuff to share, from Thanksgiving week:

I watched a great movie at home, just before going to Mia. I recommend you see if if if your knowledge is minimal about what happened in Cambodia in the late 1970’s, and you’re curious: The Missing Picture. It was beautifully done and is heart-wrenching. Anyone who’s been reading my posts for a few years may still be waiting for my promised post about our trip in Cambodia. I’m still processing it and this film helps.

I recently finished reading Candice Millard’s The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey. It’s a great bit of American history to learn about, and if you’re into adventure stories or think you already know a lot about how weird nature is, I recommend it.

We’ve been doing some cooking at home lately, and have found a few recipes worth sharing:

Yes, we ate tacos on Thanksgiving: we are so grateful for crazy ideas!