I have a confession to make. Museums make me nervous. They don’t make me running-for-the-hills scared; they just make me a little nervous.
They make me nervous because I fear I’ll say something stupid or walk away having missed something significant about a work. Is it Baroque? Is it neoclassical? Am I looking at an oil painting, and is there some significance to the artist’s choice of plaster as opposed to clay? Wait, why did they put Calder next to Buckminster Fuller? Wait, do they expect me to read all of that write-up? Wait, why didn't they write more about this? I have no idea what's going on.
Where's the cafeteria?
Art can be really intimidating to the uninitiated, and I have spent years looking from the sidelines, nervous that I might say something stupid in a land where I would like nothing more than to be considered smart. Because, the fact is, I love visual art. I love a good set of lines, and I find circles calming. A nice pen gives me joy. I love the smell of oil on canvas, and I like how water colors bleed together. I love abstract videos that drown out my anxious thoughts.
But I never knew how to talk about it until I met my friend Ian
. He’s an artist’s artist. He runs an art gallery in his apartment and makes videos that stop me in my tracks. He makes synth videos that do the same thing to my brain as meditation.
I recently had a conversation with Ian about art, and I, in a roundabout way, confessed I had no idea how to talk about art and felt a bit like an moron whenever I tried. He looked me in the eyes, grinned, leaned in, and, in one sentence (which I will paraphrase heavily), taught me how to talk about art:
"Say whatever you feels true to you to say, and feel free to change your mind."
So, if you think something’s really cool, say so. If it makes you feel like that time you went out for ice cream with your Dad, great. If it makes you feel uneasy, that’s fine. If it doesn’t make you feel anything at all, that’s cool. It may have a totally different effect on someone else, and that’s okay too. Maybe one day it makes you feel like you can run the world, and the next day it makes you feel like you want to crawl under the blankets and hide from the world. It doesn’t matter.
The key to talking about art well is authenticity. Art is just an invitation to speak your truth.
That simple lesson changed museums for me forever. Now, I’m excited about the idea of going to the MOMA, and I look forward to talking to people about art. It’s an opportunity to drop into myself, to test my ability to be authentic with others and to listen to their authentic voice.