Last Fall I visited the The Quent Cordair Fine Art Gallery in Napa Valley, California. Out of the plethora of paintings that beautifully illuminated the gallery, one in particular especially caught my eye. As I started "reading" it, I started recognizing a moment that I've never seen captured in a painting before--a moment that was exciting and self-affirming to reflect on.
I'd like to share the experience with you by guiding you through a reading the painting with images graciously provided by Linda Cordair. Below are a few questions to help you understand what kind of moment this girl is experiencing--a moment that I hope you will be able to relate to easily. I hope you enjoy this painting by Bryan Larsen as much as I did!
What's your first impression of the painting? Can you come up with a quick one-liner to describe what you immediately see? (E.g., girl and statue)
Please click on the images to see a larger version.
Where is this scene taking place?
A museum? A home?
(*Remember, in answering each of the questions, be sure to ask yourself the follow-up question, "How do I know that?")
Is the sculpture still being worked on?
Has it been finished? If so, how long has it been?
(*Each general question is followed by helpful follow-up questions or suggestions.)
Who is this girl?
The artist? The patron? The model?
How are the girl in the sculpture and the real girl different?
Immersion: Imagine being able to move around the room to the other side of the sculpture and looking at it: what would you see? How does this view enhance the difference?
Clue: Along with the difference in attire, take a close look at body language.
Immersion: Take the pose of each figure. How do they feel different to you?
What moment is the model experiencing?
Is this her first glimpse of the completed statue? Is this a public viewing?
How is she responding to seeing herself?
Is she disappointed?
Immersion: Quote her. Imagine what she could be thinking to herself.
How can you relate to what the young model is experiencing?
Can you think of a time when you've seen yourself in a way you are not used to--in a way that brings out qualities you don't often get a chance to notice about yourself.
I hope you enjoyed your guided reading, and please feel free to jot some thoughts, feelings, and observations down in the comments section. I will post my own reading soon!
This is a post I wrote last year about an artwork that captures an aspect of Thanksgiving I love. Enjoy!
From November 27th, 2010:
I rarely cook—I live on frozen meatloaf and take-out barbecue. But for Thanksgiving, I was in the kitchen.
For once during the year, my full attention and effort wasn’t directed to preparing classes, writing, or grading, but rather to basting, stirring, and chopping.
Before you read further, I suggest you take a look at this deceptively simple scene and try to figure out what’s going on.
A blue-collar working man is on his lunch break. Pretty straightforward, right? But take a look at the length of the unbroken apple rind curling downward. I’ve tried cutting a rind like that, and that takes concentration and skill. Look at how carefully he’s paying attention to his task. (And in the original I could more clearly see a slight smile of satisfaction.) Furthermore, he isn’t sitting down. (Isn’t this supposed to be his break?) The apple is lifted for close examination as he stands with his legs spread and his posture erect. His creased pants and attentiveness suggest professionalism in his work. But right now, rather than his work (or his break!), his whole attention is directed to the task of pealing this apple. He’s not lounging back chomping into it. He’s relishing the process of skillfully completing what seems a simple, basic task.
He peals his apple, and I turned my attention to actually cooking a meal.
(The name of this Norman Rockwell Painting is The Apple Peeler. It's currently on display in Washington D.C. at the Smithsonian Institute for American Art.http://americanart.si.edu/exhibitions/online/tellingstories/