Last week we attended son Mathew’s graduation at Kenyon College in Ohio. It was a wonderful few days with Mat, Jim, Jeremiah and Corinne (Mat’s brother and Jere’s maybe some day wife). An amazing graduation speech by writer Johathan Franzen was one of the highlights. The speech was published in the op/ed section of the New York Times. And of course, we are all so proud of Mathew!

Sandwiched between Mat’s graduation weekend and Jim and Mat’s reunion weekend back at Kenyon was a trip to Chicago (my first).

Besides buying a hat, I spent the whole 3 days at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Immersing myself in beautiful art work is something I love to do. It’s a rare occasion to be able to spend 3 whole days looking at art that I’ve only seen reproduced in books.

Chicago Art Institute lion

Standing in front of the Art Institute of Chicago, anxious to get inside

Everyone knows that art in a book or online doesn’t replace seeing the work in person. The texture and brush strokes are lost. Even the best color reproductions are inaccurate. The scale is difficult to imagine. The power of the work just doesn’t translate. I found that I changed my opinion about some artists as a result of this visit.

Looking up close at Woman in Front of Still Life by Cezanne by Gauguin

Up close to look at the details in "Woman in Front of Still Life by Cezanne" by Gauguin

Van Gogh’s work is so over reproduced on everything from cups to calendars that I have tended to dismiss his work as overrated. That is until I saw a group of his paintings hanging together. It’s impossible to describe the way in which his brush strokes and use of color work together to create an impact that belies the size of the paintings. No photos of me oogling the Van Gogh’s.

Standing In front of Hockney's "American Collectors (Fred and Marcia Weisman)"

Hockney's "American Collectors (Fred and Marcia Weisman)" glows

I love David Hockney’s paintings. I took the opportunity to get up close to study his use of color.

I had no idea how crazy I would be about Chuck Close’s color work. I’d seen several black and white paintings of his in person, but never a large color piece. In this case, the sheer size is part of what is lost in reproduction. The way in which the work changes depending on the viewers distance from it is obvious, but what’s not obvious is just how powerful the effect is in person.

Up close to Chuck Close's large painting "Cindy" with Mathew keeping me under control

Up close to Chuck Close's large painting "Cindy" with Mathew keeping me under control

I found myself able to study the paintings in a way in which I hadn’t experienced before. It almost felt as if I could get into the brain of the artist and dissect their process.

While looking at all this famous stuff was wonderful, I just couldn’t wait to get back to my studio and back to work! And sometimes being a country bumpkin has its advantages. I can’t imagine a sophisticated world traveler experiencing the thrill that I had in visiting these great museums.

Thank you to Jim for the photographs illustrating this post.