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My Crash Course in Art

I don’t know much about art. Compared to most people I don’t know anything about art. I’m a neuroscience and GWSS major. Science is definitely my strong point. I took this class because it seemed interesting, and I was going to have to push my boundaries a lot. I found this to be a correct assumption, and this trip to the Walker was no different.
After an incredibly stressful week, I was pressed for time to complete this assignment. I had to find a feminist art showing in a city where I constantly felt lost. I took the city bus system for the first time (a feat I would never recommend doing alone) on what quite possibly could have been the day with the crappiest weather of the year. After many wrong turns I finally found the Walker Art Museum. As soon as I entered the doors my luck changed.

Steve Jensen, the head of security, greeted me at the front door. He took me to the Friedman Gallery, where JoAnn Verburg had a photography showing, and told me to take my time. The first thing I did was read a biography on the artist. JoAnn Verburg splits her time, living and working in both St. Paul and Spoleto, Italy. She first because known for her ability to capture facial expressions. Most of her work done in Italy is outdoors where she seeks out rich, manipulative landscapes. Her photos sport a continuous view with a steady horizon line with more than one visual entry point. I found myself looking at some of the photos more than once, and seeing them differently each time. JoAnn’s biggest interest in photography however, is in her human subjects. She strives to capture the inter-human aspects of society through paying close attention to human interaction.
The first room of the gallery contained a group of photos from Italy in the last decade. They were all pictures of a forest at dusk. The variety of trees were appealing to the eye and drew the viewer in with a winding stone wall close behind them. The pieces correspond to the art of Andy Goldsworthy with his creation “Stone Wall King,? where he photographed a forest after rebuilding the wall to curve around the trees. JoAnn contrasted her pieces by creative use of blurred spots. My two favorite pieces from this genre of the showing were Sacred Trees (Under Water) 2000, and Sacred Trees (for Bruce) 2000. I would suggest anyone who is interested in nature shots to check them out.
The next room was filled with more photos with trees as the main subject, but the feeling was different. The pieces were of an olive orchard, also in Italy, most likely taken at a foggy mid-morning. I have never seen more than one olive tree at a time before and was captured by their beauty. When you see them in groups a foggy silvery blue-green fills the air, creating an essence I have never seen before. After seeing these two rooms I was ready to max out my credit card and buy a flight to Italy. Favorites from this room are hard to chose, but if I had to pick one it would be Thanksgiving (2001).
The third room of the showing was filled with images of her renowned human expression pieces. Unlike the rooms before this room had photos covering the majority of the wall, all of different sizes placed strategically, inches from where its partner to the side ended, much like the showings of David Hockney. Each photo was captivating in its own way. I could have spent an entire day in that showing, never being able to see each piece completely. JoAnn is also well known for her photos that contain newspaper. She uses newspapers to mask portions of her subjects’ faces, letting the viewers determine the complete expression conveyed.
The next room had less, but larger pieces. They were made of split posts. My favorite photo was Jim Sleeping (Spoleto) 1988. This particular piece was in three different pieces, trisecting Jim sleeping on a worn davenport. Each piece was taken with a differently focused lens, but together they all made the same piece. I’ve never seen that before. If you took each section apart they could still be hung on the wall separately.
The rest of the pieces were just as fascinating as the first few rooms. The photos were all from different years and places over the past few decades, including famed artist David Byrne and other members of the Talking Heads.
After viewing the pieces I talked with Steve and learned many things, not only about art, but also life. I realized that good art is art that can be viewed over and over again, with it getting better each time. I found this to be true with a few of JoAnn’s pieces. It doesn’t matter who made it, or their reasoning behind it. What matters is if the image captivates you. When I left I realized that I have never enjoyed art as much as I did that day. I hadn’t ever before taken the time to really look at an art piece. It may have been the presentation or the size of the pieces. Maybe it was discussing the pieces with someone who was well versed in art. I don’t really know. But what I do know is that for the first time ever I have been captivated by artwork. I had underestimated the power of artwork, something I hope to never do again.