abstract art


Anne Truitt writes beautifully about the influence of being born with undiagnosed nearsightedness and its influence on her view of the world and art. She speculates that it is partially why she is attracted to abstract art. 

I’m badly nearsighted, too. Without my glasses, the world will often look like a Rothko painting. As a result, undefined and blurry landscapes are comfortable - I recognize them.

 Dr. Barnes, of the famous Barnes Museum, did not appreciate abstract art because he felt the image being painted should reinforce the “plastic quality,” as he called it, of the paint itself. By “plastic quality” he meant the texture and feel of the brushstroke. Little wispy brushstrokes would lend themselves to a painting that had a transferred value of delicacy or fragility while strong brushstrokes and thick paint might have a transferred value of strength and power. Think of some of Cezanne’s seated figures. The perspective is often from knee level looking up at the strong figure and the brushstrokes support this impression.

 But I was drawn to abstract art because it feels universal to me. An abstracted landscape could be the plains of North Dakota or a sweep of Puget Sound. It might remind me of Minnesota lakes and you of Cape Cod.

 When done well, I let the color, the movement, the paint of an abstracted piece wash over me. As time stops, it’s like I enter that painting and feel the wash of color surround me. Helen Frankenthaler was one of the first artists that touched me that way. I went to see a retrospective of hers decades ago and let her paintings, one after another, wash over me. They are magic if you don’t try to figure them out. No specific place or person pulls your thoughts into some earthbound story.

You can be in the universe for a moment.

Roberta Wagner1 Comment