Self-Portrait with Burning Cigarette
Painting by Edvard Munch
We pass through different degrees of relationship to a particular artist and this clearly fascinates me. In some ways, this entire exercise is an exploration of late stage artistic exposure, which does sound like something terminal. At the very least, you would think there would be an available lotion with a high APF, somewhere between boy band and humorous t-shirt.
Naturally, the first stage is complete ignorance, where you have no idea who Edvard Munch is. In his case, stage two might be defined as familiarity with The Scream. Maybe you even associate his name with the painting, though you might pronounce his name so it rhymes with “brunch.”
Next, you start noticing artwork that could be by him. Occasionally, you think about The Scream. Maybe you acquire a parody version with someone screaming on a bridge. I own a t-shirt with Daffy Duck as the screaming stand-in. I like to wear it on long airplane flights because I think it brings me good luck. Other passengers have been known to disagree. (One in a long list of reasons that you don’t want to sit next to me on a flight.)
Stage four arriveswith a serious exposure to the artist in question. Perhaps you spend an hour or two listening to Rachmaninoff. However intense the exposure, it needs to be enough that you develop a taste for the work enough so that you want more. For me, I found myself at the Smithsonian art museum during a Munch show that displayed only prints. Munch made a lot of prints, often of the same subject with slight variation. Sometimes, the variation was not very slight, but you knew that he meant it to be the same thing because he used the same title for the work at hand.
In my case, I wandered through rows of pictures and could not stop thinking about the emotions and ideas that drove this particular artist to these themes. Munch, more than any other visual artist that I had previously seen, poured his feelings out on the paper. At the time, he mesmerized me because I believed that was the sole purpose of art. Others have compared making art to opening a vein and that was a very enticing description.
Later, but not much later, I had to confront the rows of work that Munch created. Perhaps that was stage five. More than touching my heart, I had to come to terms with the craft and skill and industry. This was a man who showed up and did the work, which means that he found a channel for his artistic expression. That focus always amazes me.
Sure, there are more stages that involved doctoral dissertations and marriage to the artist, but I tend to stop around stage five. When I look at Munch’s self=portrait, I am stunned by the ethereal image. Like no one else, he captures dreams and exposes the inner life of humanity. That is far enough for me.
What’s it all about?
You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 21 more to go.
New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out release regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry post irregularly. Receive notifications on Facebook by friending or following Craig.
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