Remote work-life began for me on March 16th 2020 in Minnesota, United States. Life as we knew it ended. In slow motion time cycles globally, many of our institutions closed. Alongside the shock and grieving for the tragic illness and death due to COVID-19 that continues across the globe with the United States at the current epicenter there has been a seeking and outpouring of human connection.
Health care workers and those whose services are declared essential are on the front lines working incredibly hard to support the rest of us. To them much is owed and it’s critical that we do everything we can to protect the community and do the work we are assigned and/or called to do that contributes to the larger community good.
Simultaneously, there is an upsurge of creative activity by individuals and institutions. Art programming has been redefined in/by art institutions. For example, here in Minneapolis, a couple weeks ago I attended the Walker Art Center hosted first-ever online life drawing session led by an artist, Leslie Barlow. The museum host of the event shared that she expected around 30 people and to their surprise 500 people signed up!
As for me, typically the rest of life and responsibilities of work and family makes it easier for art to take a second seat in my life. Now, Saturdays are declared art days where I think and read about art, experiment on my latest art-related projects. Julia Cameron, inspiring author of The Artist’s Way recommends the artist date which involves an artist taking time to spend time rejuvenating and replenishing the artistic self. Last Saturday, then, two thoughts came to mind: one, it was a perfect time for an ‘artists date’ and two, visiting an online museum seemed like a great idea.
I picked the Louvre. For one, visiting it someday is on my bucket list. Perhaps, I thought to myself, the physical Louvre will reopen at some point and global travel will reopen as well but when it does, will it not be flooded with crowds? And with the fragility of life that permeates our consciousness these days, why put off until tomorrow what I can do today?
So it happened that I visited the Louvre last Saturday. Even through the video I was struck by the crowds and the sheer amounts of magnificent art – there are masterpieces everywhere! While at the Louvre I wasn’t going to leave without seeing Leonardo d Vinci’s La Gioconda (the Mona Lisa). The anticipation mounted queuing up with the camera pushing through the crowds to see her from as close as the security will allow. The closest experience that it reminded me of was the lining up at temples in India to see the deities during festivals – the anticipation, the surge and the exhilaration of the view. The quick glimpse of the La Gioconda was not satisfying enough – it seemed like a short selfie-op more than anything. The Mona Lisa Selfie apparently has been well documented, I later discovered. To see her up close, I had to go back to the documentation of her on the Louvre website, grateful that they offer it.
I learned a lot about the painting and about da Vinci’s techniques and about the enigmatic smile and the background but also learned about other related works including the Mona Lisa at the Prado. Thought to be a copy painted by one of Leonardo’s pupils alongside the master’s work on the original.
Mona Lisa, revisited by other great artists, was mentioned. I remembered Marcel Duchamp’s version of Mona Lisa with a moustache and beard and also Fernando Botero’s work in a characteristic style, a large Mona Lisa. It gave me much to think about related to art the power of art to represent being and soul and the dialogue between the work of artists. Do check out the online tours and other art resources available to us at this time. Next on my list? The Uffizi Gallery….