In a recent New Yorker Peter Schjeldahl writes in "Dutch Touch" this sentence:
An artist has contrived to lure me out of myself into an illusion of reality more fulfilling than any lived reality can be. (p. 90, Sept. 21, 2009)
Wow, I think, I like it when an artist does this for me. I like to be lured out of myself. I think illusions of reality are reality. I think lived realities can be damn fulfilling. And it seems to be human nature to be as often as possible on the look-out for occasions which are potentially awe-inspiring.
I like to lose a little self-consciousness when I can. I don't really fight with that loss all that often. I love to be confronted with what appears to be perfection.
I like to be lost in someone else's art. I want to be. It's a thrill to allow one's brain to be taken over by an artist who's doing something that I'm sure I could not be doing.
To allow my brain to think (or my eyes to see, or ears to hear) through the delicious complexities another brain has supplied is something I'm grateful to have available for me to humbly accept. It makes life less lonely.
A few years ago I visited a Vuillard retrospective at the National Gallery in D.C., when I left it, my eyes had undergone a revitalization which re-stocked my awe for (& wonderment over & graititude toward) everything I saw. It also caused me to appreciate my eyes a little more. Which must be a good thing.
If I could have had anything other than what this show did for me, it would have been to, just for a second, have my fingers, my hands, my wrists, my arms slip seamlessly into Vuillard's so I might feel just a little what it must have felt like to paint as he painted.
Transformations enacted by choice in art keep art as necessary to us as air or water. All art has to do is fuel our desire to use our brains and it fulfills one of its deepest, most essential qualities. By use I mean use well, by use well I mean with agility, in versatile situations, with one's imagination working, perhaps, working hard.
And I do like as well a difficult to please critic for whom it's second or perhaps first nature to question and examine art with more suspicions or let's just say, from more skeptical angles of approach. (What's in that soup?) (What's under that hood?) (What's keeping this plane aloft?) (What is chilled water for?) And so I'm glad for Peter Scheljdahl's directing me to that little bit of broken pane in the upper left hand corner of "The Milkmaid." That broken pane is brilliance.
And this is why I'll head to New York to visit Vermeer next Friday.
For a look at more about what a critic can do for art see a post by Matthew Zapruder not so long ago: