Have you ever noticed the different connotation that art takes when you perceive it from a distance?
I found myself gazing at a re-print of Monet’s “Banks of the Seine, Vetheuil” this afternoon. It was a small re-print, and I was looking at it from across a room. It didn’t take me where Monet would have had it take me, however. The realism of the scene he painted from the Seine (where I’ve never been, actually) didn’t strike me until later, almost as an after-thought. Instead, it took me to a park.
A park in Philadelphia, to be exact. A place where I stood with a group of others trying to touch God, praying to the sounds of sirens and hip-hop in the distance. The skyline of the city was stunning in the background. Standing amidst that greenery, gazing at the skyline and praying, was one of those moments that stays in your memory for some time to come. The greenery of the foreground of Monet’s work, against the trees in the distance that morphed themselves into the Philadelphia skyline in my mind’s eye, took me there, forced a pause…I can still hear the sirens, still feel the throbbing beat of the music.
Nathaniel Hawthorne said that the highest value of art is its subjectivity, its suggestiveness. He stated that the goal of encountering beauty in any medium is to get more from it than the creator foresaw. The fact that I got Philadelphia from the Seine is, I think, that at work.
I hope Monet would be proud.