Tim Van Schmidt
Art is food. At least it is to me.
And recently, I was well-fed.
Over the years, I have come to appreciate viewing fine art as an essential cultural pursuit. It’s almost as good as live music — almost.
Everywhere I travel — from Oslo to Mexico City, from Vienna to London, and all over the United States — I try to visit art museums, both big and small. What better way is there to study great art than to see the real thing?
Last year, for example, when visiting Spokane, Washington, I got to experience the modest-sized Jundt Art Museum at Gonzaga University.
This was a rare case where the pandemic actually worked in our favor. Admittance was limited and our small group had the entire museum to ourselves to view pieces by Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Frederic Remington, and Alexander Calder, and a room full of colored glass pieces by Dale Chihuly.
More recently, a 2022 trip to southern California afforded the opportunity to visit some of my favorite art museums in the world — The Huntington in San Marino and the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena.
The Huntington, of course, is so much more than just a museum. The grounds are artworks in themselves — themed botanical gardens bringing together natural beauty from around the world.
The grounds are also full of sculptures and fountains. At the Huntington, I was especially entranced by the big, park-like area — the Shakespeare Garden — with ancient statuary ringing the entire perimeter.
The Huntington offers art galleries too. The famous painting “Blue Boy” was out on loan when I visited recently. However, in the American art gallery, I did see George Washington’s famous portrait by Gilbert Stuart — that would be the one on everybody’s dollar bills.
But more, The Huntington also includes a showcase hall exhibiting precious manuscripts and landmark publications such as a Gutenberg Bible — the first book to be printed. All of them are works of art in themselves.
Visiting The Huntington is an intense blast of beauty, history, and vision, one of the finest overall cultural attractions in the nation.
The Norton Simon Museum, only a few miles away from the Huntington, is all about art and walking through its galleries is like walking through the greatest hits of painting and sculpture.
Outside, you’re immediately greeted by several sculptures by Auguste Rodin. And that’s his famous piece, “The Thinker”, sitting out in front of the museum, facing the busy street.
The galleries inside are a feast of art by the famous names — van Gogh, Degas, Picasso, Rembrandt — one piece after another demonstrating artistic mastery, going all the way back to religious paintings dating back centuries.
What looking at art does for me is it soothes and excites the brain all at once. If you are really looking at a piece and the artist has succeeded in drawing you into the picture, you should be going “somewhere else” if for even a brief moment.
It’s exciting because art can be a window to a new and different way of looking at the world. Art can take you away from the world and it can put you back into it with a different perspective.
The Norton Simon Museum experience rates right up there with The Huntington as a major American cultural destination. Doing both in one day makes even a big art fan like me just stuffed, full to the brim, nourished completely, and totally satisfied — this is the reward for taking time for art.
Of course, you don’t have to travel to California to see great art. Here’s what’s going on right now in the NOCO art scene:
Two new shows have just opened at the Museum of Art Fort Collins — Jim Jacobs’ “Fray” and Jerry Monteith’s “Attractors”.
Jacobs works with wood, finding its properties as a “formerly living organism” fascinating as each piece reacts to the environment. Monteith expresses his “appreciation of the small things in life and in art” with fishing fly-inspired pieces, which portray “strange, insect-like creatures”. Both of these run through July 17.
At the Loveland Museum, see “Audubon’s Quadrupeds: His Last Project” through September 4. Also at the Loveland Museum: “History As Art: Cherry on Top” by Becky Hawley & Dion Weichers through July 10 and Julie Bender’s “Pyrography-Painting with Heat” through September 25.
Visit “Time Capsules by Tim Van Schmidt” on YouTube.