I have not always been a fan of contemporary art.
My grandmother first taught me how to paint, and she adored watercolor. Throughout my childhood, I followed suit, articulating pretty summer landscapes or sketching leafy trees. I acknowledged contemporary art but thought it was pretty weird– did people really call a row of metal boxes art? And what was up with these things called "installations"? Video art? Nah, those were just strange movies. And performance art? Hmm.
Enter Ann Hamilton. corpus, 2003-2004. MASS MoCA. I was on a field trip with my high school art class to check out this quirky museum in North Adams, MA when I stumbled upon Hamilton's installation. Thousands of sheets of paper littered the floor and the afternoon light streamed in, tinted pink by the stained glass windows. Occasionally, individual sheets fluttered down from the ceiling, dispensed from machines suspended above. As I walked into the space, paper crunching below my feet, I noticed a faint humming projecting from two rows of speakers, both of which suddenly began to rise toward the ceiling. The noise they emanated sounded human but foreign– an otherworldly autumnal hymn reverberating around the room.
Walking though corpus was transformative. I finally "got" out-of-the-box contemporary art. I felt as if I was undergoing an experience– the work resonated. That excited, "wow this is awesome" feeling that arose when sitting in front of an Impressionist work or when laying down a brushstroke just right existed here. My mind was officially opened and the world of contemporary art now officially my oyster.
The lesson I took away from my MASS MoCA awakening? Explore, explore, explore. Seek out the unordinary and give it a try. Who knows– your world may just become a little bit shaken up (in a very good way).