Finding the Art in Everything

18 March, 2009

Seattle Art Museum

Not all art is created equal, despite SAM’s best attempt to assert its own significance. Significance comes when a gallery displays pieces that are actually important.

What makes a work of art important?

It is something that challenges the way we think or see already, if not bringing us to a new place of thinking with an original idea, new technique, or superior craft.

Unfortunately, these pieces sparsely populated SAM’s collection. More often, they were pieces produced for a commercial purpose (i.e. commissioned by a wealthy family), created for their own sake and self contained.

Most of the best works were visiting pieces from the YALE collection, such as Paul Revere’s Boston Massacre Engraving, John Trumbull’s Signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the piece I personally enjoyed the most, Winslow Homer’s The Old Mill (Morning Bell).

I love Homer because he presents such an intricate narrative with such compositional simplicity.

What I don’t like are academic landscape paintings, like SAM’s feature Bierstadt. It bores me (unless it’s part of a J.M.W. Turner-esque depiction of the Sublime).

Other highlights include Georgia O’Keefe’s A Celebration, one of her few canvasses without flowers or cow skulls or cityscapes, and this one, Jesseca Penn in Black, by Robert Henri.

I looked everywhere for an artistic rendition of Mount Ranier--no luck.

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