Table of Contents

Art

Each trip required changing planes somewhere in Europe: London, Paris, Rome, Athens. In the mid-70s I signed up for art appreciation at Florida State. In the 60s I got exposed to art for the first time, painting and especially sculpture. I wanted to get a better grounding in those arts. When I traveled to and from Kenya in the 60s, flights were via Europe. There were no direct flights from the US to Nairobi back then.

I don't remember anything else about the day except I got a headache in the bright sun. In Athens I had an experience that had nothing to do with art, everything to do with addiction. I was hiking with my parents up Lycabettus. It was a bright Grecian day, sunny and hot. I hiked on ahead and was getting thirsty. I saw a man with a pushcart selling drinks and headed over. I was disappointed he only had one drink, which looked like water. But it was cold, and I figured water was better than nothing so I ordered one. He gave me a funny smile but poured me a glass of very cold clear liquid. It was of course ouzo. I went to take a big gulp, but got a whiff of anise in time to sip instead. I still almost dropped my dainty glass. Realizing that I had scored some booze, I sipped away, easily finishing what I now realized was a large serving before my parents caught up.

There was nothing there at all, just a little piece of plastic, an oversized version of one of my green army men. It was in Rome that art reached out and grabbed me. Mom & I were on our way to a new life in Kenya, so it was my first time in Rome and in Europe. We flew to Rome to meet my dad. He'd flown up from Nairobi to finish up details about his job in East Africa and timed it to meet us. We had three days in Rome so we took in the sights. I was delighted by Michelangelo's Moses in Saint Peter in Chains. I got up close to it. We also saw the Pietà. Those sculptures shook me and woke something up in me that I had no words for. I just knew I wanted more. I recalled seeing replicas of his statues spread out on the sidewalk for the tourists. I got excited; I could buy these small versions and take this wonderful feeling home with me. I rushed up to the first vendor I saw and picked one up. It was a moment of bewilderment and deflation, a spontaneous meditation.

Again, I had no words for all this. A few years later I had another memorable encounter with sculpture. I'd stopped over in London to get better acquainted with the city. I stumbled on Rodin's Burghers of Calais. This sculpture moved me a different way. These men weren't bible heroes, they were just men. They looked defeated but still strong. I could relate to them more directly; they lived in a world that was a lot more like my world than Michelangelo's bible times.

The class covered painting, sculpture, and architecture, once over lightly. It was a revelation to me; I didn't study art at all in school. Painting got the lion's share of class time, but I came away with new insights about all three of those fine arts, and a different grounding deep inside of me about art in general. Later on this led to my study of calligraphy.

Now the reproduction outshines the live experience. I have a deep connection with music, thanks to early exposure via my dad. There's a difference between visual arts and music thanks to advances in technology: I can experience the glory and depth of classical music at home; my boyhood dream of taking art home with me has come true. Technology brings images of painting, sculpture and architecture to my desktop, like the image of the Ru ware bowl I use as my FB cover photo. There is still a difference. I've studied works of art on the Internet and then in real life, and there's just no comparison. Being in the room with one of Rembrandt's self portraits is a world-stopper; looking at online images of it is not even close. The reverse is true for music. When I watch a live performance of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony, I have the best seat in the house, way better than any actual seat. They are an example of top notch audio coupled with spot-on camerawork, masterminded by video editing that knows the music inside out. I'll end this with a state of the art example. Here's Beethoven's 12th string quartet, one of the great masterpieces of chamber music.