Expanding Horizons

Yesterday, several of my dormmates and I took a trip to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Arts (SF MOMA) as part of a grant. People often look at modern art and say, “I could’ve done that,” and our experience was a way of challenging that.

San Francisco is a city with a lot of culture, and it’s always been a good experience going up there. At the SF MOMA, we spent part of the time with a docent, who led us around to look at a variety of works, including a wall painting from Sol LeWitt, one of Marcel DuChamp’s “Fountain“s, Henri Matisse’s “Femme au Chapeau,” and a bunch of Clyfford Still paintings. To be honest, I still think some of it is of questionable worth, but I now know a little more about the actual importance and meaning of pieces. For example, the “Fountain” wasn’t originally meant to necessarily be “art,” but was a challenge to a group who claimed that they would accept any submission (for only a fee) into their exhibition.

We had some time to walk around the rest of the museum by ourselves, and I saw more works, including photography and new media pieces using video cameras. It was very interesting, but I was definitely only there to look. I would hope that some people actually understand this work, though it would be a minority for sure. I remember on a trip to the Houston Fine Arts Museum a long time ago, my sister’s boyfriend said something like, “You’re not supposed to understand it; you just see it.” And now, I’m still only at that point.

Which seems to encompass a lot of experiences I’ve had over my time here in college. There are so many experiences and opportunities around, from cultural festivals to guest speakers, and it seems a waste to miss any of them. Granted, I have no idea what’s going on in a lot of them. Terry Sejnowski, a leading figure in Computational Neuroscience, is currently a visiting fellow here, and I went to a talk entitled “Google Brain.” I don’t think I understood any of it. But I went, and I feel like I can see a little more.

College is a time of tipping points. For many, it’s a time to finally get out of generalized education from required classes in high school, and actually focus on useful classes towards getting a major. It’s a time to become more discerning and set upon a life career. Education and society push us from boundless opportunities towards a singular goal that we can call a life and become a productive person.

Well, after we came back from the museum, we completed the rest of the grant by painting. We had a bunch of real canvases and acrylic paints, and we would actually try to make our own pieces of modern art. In most other circumstances, I probably would’ve skedaddled as quickly as possible, but I tried it out and have now created something that is sitting in the dorm lounge right now. It was surprisingly difficult, partially because of how intimidating a blank canvas looks. But I realize now that I also had many inhibitions that made it particularly difficult to get through the work. And looking at it, what I created honestly looks like a bad version of what I might have drawn in Kindergarten. At least back then, I knew what I was trying for.

Our docent had mentioned while looking at the Still painting that it’s often much more difficult for adults to express what they see than for kids to. I can agree with that. When I was a kid, I wasn’t conditioned or molded in many ways that I am now to have certain blocks that hinder what I do and see. And maybe that’s something that I can partially recover, because it’s definitely something that college can offer, if I can avoid getting locked into a single path.

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