As a framed rendition of reality, a painting is an approximation of a place and a time that may, or may not, have existed. What I see in a painting is not real. It may represent a place or a person but it is not the place and it proves nothing but the person - the painter, and his skill at the subtle manipulation of pigments and hues. What I see there suspended from these walls are distorted reflections of reflections. I assume that the painter sat before these scenes but I cannot be sure. But it doesn’t matter. I don't turn to art for literal truth or true reflections. The meaning of art, I've found, lies in the prism of my mind. Light filtered through the artist, filtered through the context of the artist, filtered through my subjective prisms and filtered through time. A painting is a careful, methodic rendition of a reality that is built up, that is sculpted, over time. A photograph, my photograph, is an intuitive, instantaneous, accidental composition. It signifies an actual event. I was there. I saw this. Light, travelling from the sun to earth, did bounce off a real woman standing in a real doorway in a real art museum and what you see is what I saw, exactly as it was rendered in that brief moment. A photograph is a frame through which I see something plucked out of the world of light. Before the photograph I am, to quote Roland Barthes "...a bad dreamer who vainly holds out his arms toward the possession of the image...". I cannot own what I see. I cannot keep what I capture. I cannot stockpile memory or experience and I cannot stem the tide of the future by hording a few images from the past. But if I am lucky, if I listen, and divest myself in the illusion that I know, I may just learn a little bit about who I am in relation to this life, this living.
A woman, unknown to me, stares out a window. The world she looks down upon is brightly lit by the sun, yet she wears a raincoat, a hat and boots. She is flanked on both sides by paintings, landscapes, also well-lit. All three of the paintings suggest the presence of a body of water, just as the woman suggests the rain. The polished floor of the gallery behind her is so smooth and reflective that it too suggests water, only in its solid form. It looks like a sheet of ice. Everything about this image is frozen. The rock formations are frozen within their frames. The woman is frozen in her frame - the doorway. And the whole scene, as sparse as it is, is frozen within the compositional frame I placed around it. But what I did was unplanned and pure luck. I had, at best, one full second to make the decision to take this photograph (notice how we say take). I remember looking in the opposite direction when something, some movement, caught my eye and I turned. And there it was. I saw the image in my mind's eye before I raised the camera. And that, for me, is rare.
When I'm in a museum I'm looking for such opportunities. Watching people looking at art is for me more pleasurable than looking at the art itself, and I go to museums specifically to photograph them as they stare transfixed at things that are mostly beyond our understanding. In that moment when the mind of a living human being intersects with the mind of an artist, removed from the scene and often dead, something magical happens. It can be a very intimate moment and even though I am not privy to what is going on inside those two minds, I feel that I can somehow perceive the connection. Art is sacred and intimate and very much an emotional experience, and the quiet, reflective atmosphere of a gallery or a museum seems to pulse with a spiritual energy. The Collective Subconscious, as Carl Jung called the shared realm of dreams, seems to rise and wake so that we may, if we choose to open ourselves, become more attuned to one another when we wander these great galleries of human experience, of human expression. And sometimes, if I am very lucky and very blessed, I can capture it, I capture the light, the light we are all composed of.
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Causes Vincent Carrella Supports